Shaka Smart

Christmas Wish List: Everything centers around “Havoc” for Virginia Commonwealth

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Better Shooting with Help from “Havoc”

Virginia Commonwealth’s ability to shoot well from the floor is typically tied to the effectiveness of the “Havoc” defense that they play. If the Rams are able to force turnovers, that allows them to work in transition and score when the defense is scattered. In VCU’s three losses, they have shot 34.7, 33.3, and 41.5 percent from the floor against Wichita State, Duke, and Missouri, respectively. In those games, the Rams only averaged close to 10 turnovers forced per game.

Compare that to a win over Alabama, when VCU forced 16 turnovers and shot 47 percent from the floor. Or when they forced 25 turnovers vs. Longwood and shot 51 percent from the floor. It’s not a foolproof correlation, but it naturally follows that if VCU is able to force turnovers, it allows Smart’s team to get high-percentage baskets in transition

Stocking stuffer:  Rebounding

Aside from Juvonte Reddic’s 7.3 rebounds per game, the Ram do not feature any other big-time rebounders. Treveon Graham has a solid 5.2 rebounds per game as a guard, but the patchwork on the boards has VCU ranked 178th in the country in that category. VCU actually out-rebounded Duke in its loss, but was severely beaten on the glass by Missouri, which could have been the deciding factor in that close loss. With “Havoc” in place, rebounding becomes less of a priority, but it never hurts against larger teams.

Planning on re-gifting: Doubts About the A-10

What a better thing to regift than something you don’t need anymore? With Virginia Commonwealth beating Alabama and Memphis, then challenging Duke and Missouri, there should be little doubt about this team’s ability to step up from the CAA and compete in the A-10. Its counterpart, Butler, is also likely to regift these doubts after its win over then-No. 1 and undefeated Indiana. Defense will be the engine behind this VCU attack and, though there are some strong teams in the league, the Rams will be right up there.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.