Deshawn Stephens, Lawrence Johnson-Danner

2013-2014 SWAC Preview: Texas Southern is ready to run

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source: AP
AP

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Texas Southern was the best team in the SWAC last season, garnering a 16-2 league record and a regular season crown. Coached by former Indiana and UAB leader Mike Davis, and playing behind burly 6-foot-9 senior Kyrie Sutton, the team would have likely grabbed the SWAC’s auto-bid had they been eligible for the postseason, but NCAA issues had them sidelined, and Southern University made the Dance instead, scaring Gonzaga with a 64-58 near-miss.

This year, Davis and his guys are out from under the ban, and they’ve added troubled big man Aaric Murray as a graduate transfer. If off-court issues don’t interfere, the Tigers have the speed and size to run the table.

The Southern Jaguars can be expected to put up a fight to retain their crown. Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff were the only league teams to beat Davis’ squad last year, and they’ll be the ones likely to make a run at it again this season. We’ll have our eye on Grambling as well, watching to see if they can improve on last year’s 0-28 debacle.

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Aaric Murray, Texas Southern

Hey, you know this guy. He wore out his welcome at La Salle, then got into Bob Huggins’ (admittedly crowded) doghouse at West Virginia. His dismissal from the Mountaineers led him to jump at the life preserver offered by Mike Davis, and the big man will play his final season with the Tigers. Murray is a talented player, he’ll be bigger and better than anyone else in the SWAC, and he’ll make a huge difference in Houston if he can stay out of trouble.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Ray Penn, Texas Southern: A 5-foot-9 dynamo who will thrive throwing the ball to Murray on the block.
  • Malcolm Miller, Southern: A rangy 6-foot-6 shooter, Miller is a matchup nightmare in the SWAC.
  • Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M: The league’s leading rebounder returns to lead his team as a senior.
  • Vicktor Arnick, Texas Southern: Mike Davis’ best recruit has the speed and length to make a difference in his first season.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Texas Southern
2. Southern
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
4. Jackson State
5. Alabama A&M
6. Alcorn State
7. Prairie View A&M
8. Alabama State
9. Mississippi Valley State
10. Grambling

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.