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Conference preview: APR issues thin out the SWAC

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

This season, six teams of the possible 10 are eligible for postseason play in the conference as Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern and Grambling State all received bans for low APR scores and NCAA violations. Southern returns from its own postseason ban as one of the favorites in the conference with second-year coach Roman Banks getting back guard Derick Beltran. Prairie view A&M gets Jourdan DeMuynck and 6-11 Jules Montgomery to anchor the Panthers.

Texas Southern had a one of the most unique situations in the college basketball season with Mike Davis entering the program on an interim basis. Then earlier this month, the Tigers announced Davis was signed to a four-year contract, which they should’ve done in the first place…then they get barred from the NCAA Tournament. He gets back Omar Strong, a sharpshooter who averaged 13.3 points last season. Jackson State managed only seven wins last season but Kelsey Howard is a stud who will ease the loss of Jenirro Bush and they get Ole Miss transfer Dundrecus Nelson at the semester break. Alabama State has to replace four starters after making the NCAA Tournament two of the past four seasons, while Alcorn State gets back guard Marquiz Baker, a solid scorer who missed all but five games last season due to injury. Alabama A&M will have the services of Demarquelle Tabb, who averaged 10.6 points and 7.6 boards last year.

After the best season in school history, Mississippi Valley State will be forced to replace it’s coach (Chico Potts for Sean Woods) and their top five scorers. UAPB has the tools in forward Daniel Broughton and wing Mitchell Anderson but has the postseason ban to face. Grambling State isn’t going to be much better than last season’s four-win team, with Quincy Roberts leaving and having to do all this under a new coach in Joseph Price.

All-Conference Team
G: Omar Strong, Texas Southern*

G: Marquiz Baker, Alcorn State

G: Kelsey Howard, Jackson State

F: Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M

F: Daniel Broughton, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

*-Player of the Year

Predicted Finish
1.) Southern

2.) Prairie View A&M

3.) Texas Southern

4.) Alcorn State

5.) Jackson State

6.) Arkansas-Pine Bluff

7.) Alabama A&M

8.) Alabama State

9.) Mississippi Valley State

10.) Grambling State

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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.