Jimmy V Men's Basketball Classic

Michael Dixon making the trip to the Bahamas, playing status uncertain

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Missouri looks like it’s closer to getting one of their key backcourt players back in the lineup.

CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman tweeted out that Michael Dixon, Jr. will be making the trip to the Bahamas for the Battle for Atlantis this week, but his status for the Stanford game on Thursday is up in the air.

Dixon has yet to play in a regular season game this year due to an indefinite suspension for him and freshman Dominique Bull for a violation of team rules by coach Frank Haith on Oct. 26.

The Tigers haven’t needed Dixon yet, with convincing victories over SIU-Edwardsville (83-69), Alcorn State (91-54) and Nicholls State (74-54) to start the season.

But it’s now time that not having Dixon will start to affect this team. Dixon is the other half of the only players to come back of last season’s active roster — Phil Pressey being the other half — and the Tigers are heading into the most talent-loaded tournament this season and probably the toughest early-season tournament since the early 2000s Maui Invitationals. They’ll need Dixon’s leadership and senior experience against a Johnny Dawkins-coached team that’s led by Chasson Randle, a vastly underrated sophomore for the Cardinal.

I was curious to see whether this suspension was a serious one, or one of those where the player sits out games they aren’t necessarily needed in as “punishment”, then magically get into the coaches’ good graces before the first important game. This is the time where we find that out. Dixon has already sat three games, so to call it either way is totally subjective. Though the only reason I could see Dixon being brought to the Bahamas and not playing is if he’s there to suffer, being ordered to stay in his hotel room while the rest of the team spends their down-time at the beach.

The early games have proven that despite the influx of newcomers — both freshman and transfers — Missouri has seemingly passed the “chemistry” test and all players are cohesive within the system. But that’s easy to do when you’re playing teams you should beat, handily.

Now is the time when, should Dixon remain suspended, we will see how much he really means to that team. Should he come back, then it’s a moot point. But there’s no doubt Dixon’s return would help an already-talented backcourt.

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.