Jahii Carson

Weekend Preview: Arizona better be ready to play against their in-state rival

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Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 7 Arizona at Arizona State (Sat. 2:30 p.m. FSN)

I know. My first instinct would be to laugh too, but at this point you should know that the Sun Devils have a squad out in Tempe this year. Jahii Carson, the nation’s most-underappreciated point guard, is the real deal. He’s as athletic as anyone in the country, he’s impossible to keep out of the lane and he can score off the bounce and find his teammates if they’re open.

But he’s far from the only option that Herb Sendek has offensively. Carrick Felix has been one of the most improved players in the Pac-12, averaging 15.2 points and 8.2 boards this season, providing a perfect compliment along Arizona State’s front line to shot-blocker Jordan Bachynski, he of the first ever triple-double in Sun Devil history.

As Jon Gasaway spelled out in his Tuesday Truths column this week, Arizona has been a long way from impressive this season. All their meaningful wins have been close games; they’re a team that thrives on the last-minute comeback, which is a dangerous way to play. Especially on the road. Especially against an in-state rival.

Who else is on upset alert?

  • No. 25 Marquette at Cincinnati (Sat. 7:00 p.m. ESPNU): The Golden Eagles have won three games in Big East play this year: two went to overtime, one came when Greg Whittington missed the third of three free throws with 2.3 seconds left on the clock. Cincinnati has been on the losing end of a couple close games. Both teams have a loaded perimeter attack, but the difference is that Marquette has a scoring presence on the block in Davante Gardner. Regardless, if you like tough, physical basketball, this will be the game for you.
  • No. 15 San Diego State at Wyoming (Sat. 7:30 p.m.): Wyoming may be playing without Luke Martinez for an extended period of time, but they still have Leonard Washington on the roster, and they are still going to be hosting the Aztecs in a game that they need to help boost their tournament resume. You see, with how tough the MWC is this year, if a team wants to make the NCAA tournament or compete for a good seed in the MWC tournament, they are going to have to win their home games; there aren’t many easy road trips in that league this year.
  • Oklahoma at No. 16 Kansas State (Sat. 4:00 p.m. ESPN3): Oklahoma is slowly but surely starting to play like the team that many of us thought that had chance to sneak into the NCAA tournament this season. They also have a terrific defender in Buddy Hield to matchup with Rodney McGruder. Road trips aren’t easy, but expect Oklahoma to give K-State a fight.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.