photo courtesy Atlantic 10 Conference

A-10 turns to Richmond Coliseum for women’s hoops tourney

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For years, the annual choice to hold the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament at Richmond Coliseum came under fire from fans of schools outside the borders of Virginia, who felt the location essentially gave teams like VCU, Old Dominion and George Mason a home court advantage.

Anecdotal evidence would seem to have borne that argument out: UNCW is the only team from outside the state borders to win a CAA title since 2000, and James Madison’s auto-bid last year was the first to come from outside the Mason/ODU/VCU triumvirate since 2005.

Of course, that’s largely because none of those three schools will play in the CAA in the future. With the Virginia-based heart of the CAA cut out by realignment, the league tournament has moved to Baltimore, leaving the concrete starship of Richmond Coliseum sadly empty in March.

Then again, the A-10 seems to like the idea of finding a permanent home for the league’s women’s tournament, which has been played at several venues over the past several seasons. The new deal aims to keep the A-10’s women’s teams in Richmond for three years, and possibly beyond. The league’s press release gave a little history behind the move:

When the championship tips off in Richmond, it will mark just the third time in its 32-year history that it will take place at a neutral site. Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass., played host in 2011, while Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., served as host in 2010. The Atlantic 10 is one of only eight conferences (out of 31 league) where the women’s basketball championship will be played at a neutral site, separate from the men’s championship.

I can hear the bitter laughter coming from old-school CAA partisans even now. “Neutral” was only uttered with a wry twist during the CAA’s reign in Richmond, as VCU players and fans didn’t even really have to find parking to make the trek to the Coliseum. In the A-10, that distinction will belong to the Rams and the Richmond Spiders. And Mason will be there, too. Still, the Coliseum provides a nice downtown location and plenty of seating for fans who choose to make the trek.

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.