VCU advances to Elite Eight in wacky statistical game

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I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s something I’ve had to learn to love as a means of defending arguments and staying abreast of how to best assess teams during the season.

Close throughout, Florida State and Virginia Commonwealth offered one of the wackiest basic and advanced statistic box scores, as both teams clawed their way though 45 minutes of play leveraging entirely different strengths that their players possess. In the end, it was the Rams prevailing in overtime 72-71, meaning Kyle Whelliston is going to bed dreaming of the potential for the most magical of mid-major match-ups in Houston.

As cool as it sounds – Butler against VCU for the right to play in the national championship game – I’m here to quickly shoot that down, as I can confidently say that neither VCU really has a chance against Kansas on Sunday – nor would the Seminoles.

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So let’s dive into this laundry list of strange but true statistics from this Sweet 16 thriller:

  • At the end of the first half, the Seminoles had attempted 19 more field goals than the Rams. They were still down five.
  • Struggling to find any sort of rhythm on offense, only 27 percent of the Seminoles made baskets were assisted on. To put that in perspective, Utah was last in the country in Assist Percentage this season… at 40 percent.
  • Following each of the 21 offensive rebounds the Seminoles pulled down, they shot 8-18 in second chance opportunities. Those extra points were vital.
  • Posting an impressive 56.6 eFG percentage, the Rams were unable to pull away from FSU because of (conversely) a limited second chance opportunities. The Seminoles grabbed 79 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
  • Just a tick under half of VCU’s shots were from beyond the arc. Bradford Burgess converted on 6 of 7 long balls, and he’s now shooting 73 percent (11-15) in the past three games.
  • Derwin Kitchen led all Seminoles with 23 points, but was 0 of 3 in wise decisions made with the clock approaching zero. Kitchen had the ball in his hands at the end of the first half, second half, and OT, all which resulted in fumbled opportunities with no good looks at the basket. Not quite for the KenPom minions, but still noteworthy.

In short, this was a weird game.

I love what Shaka Smart and his club have done for the past two weeks. Shooting the lights out, sticking it to the talking heads, and continuing the trend that the CAA is not just a mid-major, it’s a formidable athletic conference that’s worthy of being a multi-bid league each and every year. I just think a pumpkin awaits them outside of the Alamo Dome on Sunday.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.