Jesse Morgan, Sidiki Johnson, Brice Kofane

Report: UMass guard Jesse Morgan may not return next season

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UMass had the look of a team capable of challenging for a bid to the NCAA tournament until January 10, when junior guard Jesse Morgan was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in a road loss to Saint Louis.

According to Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette that may be the last time the Philadelphia native suits up for the Minutemen, as Morgan was reportedly forced to withdraw voluntarily from the school for disciplinary reasons.

According to Vautour’s report, the decision stems from an undisclosed incident that resulted in Morgan being suspended for UMass’ November 3 exhibition against American International.

Morgan returned to the floor following the suspension and was a key cog in the attack for Derek Kellogg, averaging 13.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

Morgan combined with electric point guard Chaz Williams to form one of the Atlantic 10’s best perimeter tandems, but that all changed when he injured his knee just minutes into UMass’ conference opener against Saint Louis.

UMass finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 21 wins and 12 losses (9-7 Atlantic 10), falling just short of their goal to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. The Minutemen dropped their Postseason NIT opener against Stony Brook.

UMass has to account for the loss of four key contributors from last season: guards Morgan and Freddie Riley (8.8 ppg) and forwards Sampson Carter (6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Terrell Vinson (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Also there’s a chance that wing Javorn Farrell, who did not play last season due to an ankle injury, may look to finish his career at another school (Farrell has graduated and would be eligible immediately).

But the Minutemen will still have talent on the perimeter due to the return of Williams and the addition of Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon. Gordon was one of the Sun Belt’s best newcomers in his one season at WKU, playing an instrumental role in the Hilltoppers’ surprising run to the 2012 Sun Belt tournament crown.

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.