SEC Basketball Tournament - Second Round-LSU-Georgia

Johnny O’Bryant III’s decision to return a step in the right direction for LSU

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Tuesday featured two college basketball players announcing their intentions to remain in school for one more season, Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson and LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant III.

O’Bryant III’s decision to return to Baton Rouge puts head coach Johnny Jones’ program (19-12, 9-9 in 2012-13) in prime position to at the very least return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, with the Second Team All-SEC selection being just one reason why.

In 29 games this season the 6-9 O’Bryant III averaged 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, leading the Tigers in both statistical categories. But on a team that boasted five double-digit scorers, he was the lone interior scoring option.

That will change in 2013-14.

LSU welcomes two highly-touted front court players in McDonald’s All-American Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and wing Tim Quarterman is no slouch himself.

Add in junior college transfers John Odo (6-10, 230; practiced with the team during the spring semester) and Deng Deng (6-8, 215) and 7-foot freshman Darcy Malone and LSU will have the interior depth they lacked a season ago.

And you can’t mention LSU without considering their returnees on the perimeter as well, with guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer and wing Shavon Coleman being the headliners. All of these pieces factored into O’Bryant III’s decision to return to school.

“I definitely thought about the team next year. We will have a great team next year,” O’Bryant III said during his press conference Tuesday. “I think me coming back will help the guys. I think I have to be a leader to get that team rolling.”

Much of the focus in the SEC entering next season will be focused on Kentucky and Florida, and rightfully so. The Wildcats have the best incoming recruiting class in the country and the Gators return some key pieces and add freshmen Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.

But for the conference to improve its national standing after a rough 2012-13 other programs will need to step up. And in his second season in charge of his alma mater, Johnny Jones has a team that appears capable of doing so.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.