Arizona Athletics

Thursday’s Pregame Shootaround: Late night West Coast hoops worth waiting for

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 6 Arizona at San Diego State, 10:05 p.m. (CBS Sports)

The Wildcats will get their biggest test of the season tonight when they face off with Steve Fisher’s Aztecs. Both teams are still trying to figure out their rotations and the best lineups to work with. Sean Miller has started Aaron Gordon at the four, with three guards and Kaleb Tarczewski on the bench, and at the three. He even had the uber-athletic big man playing the two at one point on Monday night.

SDSU is in a tougher situation, as they are replacing so many important pieces from a season ago, most notably Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. Is Winston Shepard ready to take on a bigger role this season? Will he be able to shoot the ball at all? The highlight of this one may be the matchup between Josh Davis and Aaron Gordon.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Texas Southern at Miami, 7:00 p.m.

Mike Davis has himself some talent at Texas Southern this season. Aaric Murray ended up enrolling at the school after flaming out at both La Salle and West Virginia. Ray Penn, who started at Oklahoma State, is on the roster as well. And Miami? They lost to St. Francis NY and got taken to overtime by Eric Ferguson-less Georgia Southern

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: North Dakota State at St. Mary’s, 11:30 p.m.

This is about as good as it gets at the mid-major level this time of the year. NDSU is the favorite to win the Summit this season, as they bring back essentially their entire team from last season, including potential Player of the Year Taylor Braun. But the Gaels are the Gaels, and if there is anything we know about St. Mary’s, it’s that they keep winning even when they lose their star. Ask Omar Samhan and Mickey McConnell is Matthew Dellavedova’s loss will kill this team. They’ve already beaten Akron and Louisiana Tech at home.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1) The No. 13 Memphis Tigers kick their inaugural season members of the American off tonight at 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3) against Austin Peay. This will be the debut of Missouri transfer Michael Dixon.

2) Boston College is good enough to make it back to the NCAA tournament this season, but it’s not going on that well this far. They’re 0-2 on the season with losses to both Providence and UMass. It doesn’t get much easier on Thursday night as the Eagles will take on Toledo at 7:00 p.m.

3) Northwestern heads out to Palo Alto to take on Stanford at 11:00 p.m. tonight on ESPN2 in a battle of former Duke assistant coaches. The Cardinal are coming off of a loss to BYU at home.

4) You want another upset pick? How about UC-Irvine at Washington. The Huskies will be without another big man as Jernard Jarreau tore his ACL, and the Anteaters are a favorite to win the Big West.

5) Texas Tech plays at Alabama at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN2 in a game that would probably be better if the football teams were playing basketball. I kid, I kid.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Detroit at No. 19 UConn, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • William & Mary at No. 16 Wichita State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

NOTABLES

  • UMES at Iowa, 7:00 p.m. (BTN)
  • Yale at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Temple at Towson, 7:30 p.m.
  • Indiana State at Belmont, 8:00 p.m.

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.