There was just one matchup of bubble teams on Friday afternoon, as Alabama took on Tennessee in an SEC tournament quarterfinal. In the case of both teams a win wasn’t going to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament field, but at the very least the winner would remain in control of its own destiny.
Controlling one’s destiny is nothing more than living to play another day, and for Alabama (21-11) their 58-48 victory gives them another shot at SEC regular season champion Florida on Saturday afternoon.
Offensively it wasn’t the prettiest game as both teams failed to shoot at least 40% from the field in the second half. The differences: both teams made five three-pointers, but Alabama did so in 13 fewer attempts (ten, compared to Tennessee’s 23) and the Crimson Tide outscored the Volunteers (20-12) by eight from the foul line.
Levi Randolph (15 points) and Trevor Releford (14) led the way for Alabama, which has just one RPI Top 50 win all season. Tennessee’s resume isn’t the greatest but they at the very least have four such victories. Getting another shot at the Gators, who beat Alabama 64-52 back on March, was critical for Anthony Grant’s team if they were to entertain any thoughts of an NCAA tournament bid.
In Tennessee’s case does the loss automatically relegate them to the NIT? No.
The Volunteers have struggled away from Knoxville this season (2-9 road/neutral record against RPI Top 200 opponents) but with so many moving parts, not to mention other bubble teams failing to take care of business themselves, there’s still a sliver of hope for Cuonzo Martin’s team.
But Tennessee is no longer in control of its own fate, and that’s the worst position for a bubble team to find itself in at this point in the season. Alabama is now faced with not only a challenge but also an opportunity on Saturday when they take on Florida.
Want to go to the tournament? Keep winning.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
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:
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.