Wolters Adams

Summit League Conference Tournament Preview

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The Summit League was one of the more exciting conference races to follow throughout the season.

South Dakota State entered the new year as the favorite to win the conference in large part due to the fact that a) they won the automatic bid last season and b) they have a kid by the name of Nate Wolters that everybody was in love with. But the Jackrabbits came out and lost two of their first three games in conference play, digging themselves a hole that needed 12 wins over the course of the next 13 games to get out of.

Western Illinois finished tied with SDSU atop the league, but since SDSU swept WIU this season, the Leathernecks were forced into being the No. 2 seed. North Dakota State looked like they might be the best team in the conference early in the season, but a broken foot sidelined Taylor Braun for a long time, costing them valuable league games. Braun scored 22 in the regular season finale, just his second game back from injury.

Of note: Wolters (53 points) and Oakland’s Travis Bader (47 points) have the two highest scoring totals for one player in any games this season.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Sioux Falls, SD (Sioux Falls Arena)

When: March 9-12

Final: March 12th, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Favorite: South Dakota State

Not only are the Jackrabbits the No. 1 seed, but the tournament is being hosted in Sioux Falls, SD, which is just a quick drive down I-29 from Brookings, where SDSU is located. Throw in that the Jackrabbits are the league champs, they have the league’s Player of the Year and went to the tournament a season ago, I think it’s fair to call them the favorite.

And if they lose?: Here’s the thing to remember about North Dakota State: they went 2-4 against the top four teams in the Summit League they beat SDSU and Oakland in their only games with Braun, a 6-foot-7 wing and their leading scorer, in the lineup and 0-4 without him. They were the best team in the conference before he got injured, and Kenpom likes them to win the tournament with Braun back in the lineup.

Western Illinois is good as well, but they are one of the most boring teams in the country to watch. Think Wisconsin, but without the dunking from Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker. Winning is winning, but I want to see wins with points.

Sleepers: Oakland is a dangerous team. They don’t defend all that much, but they have a talented roster — Travis Bader is as good of a shooter as you’ll find in the country when he gets hot and Duke Mondy is a transfer from Providence — that can put up points in a hurry.

Studs: 

– Travis Bader, Oakland: He scored 47 points in a game and averaged 22.0 points on the season. Do. Not. Let. Him. Get. Hot.

– Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright, North Dakota State: Braun is the guy that gets all the attention for the Bison, but Bjorklund and Wright kept them relevant while he was injured.

– Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Duh.

CBT Prediction: I’m taking North Dakota State. Braun scored 22 in his second game back. He looks healthy, and when he’s healthy, NDSU is the best team in the league.

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.