Thursday’s Pregame Shootaround: Arkansas, Oregon with big bubble chances

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Oregon at UCLA, 11:00 p.m.

Prior to these last two games from Arizona, the two most entertaining teams in the Pac-12 have been Oregon and UCLA. The Bruins are loaded with talent, run up and down the floor and are finally starting to win games because they are playing defense. Oregon? You can pretty much say the same thing about them, other than the fact that they don’t play much defense at all. So expect a lot of points in this one. It’s also a key bubble game for the Ducks, who are in the tournament as of now but no where near as comfortable as they would like to be.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Arkansas at No. 17 Kentucky, 7:00 p.m.

The Razorbacks are in an interesting position right now. They’ve won two of their last three road games and five of their last six games overall. They beat Kentucky at home earlier this season. They have found themselves popping up in a couple of brackets recently. This loss won’t hurt their resume, per se, but missing out on a chance to notch a win over one of the two elite teams in the SEC certainly won’t help matters.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 20 Iowa at Indiana, 9:00 p.m.

I just don’t know what to make of Iowa at this point. They have the talent, the depth, the computer profile. On paper, they look like a top ten team. On the court, they can’t close out big wins and have struggled to consistently get stops of late. The good news? Indiana stinks this year.


1) Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 10 St. Louis tonight, a game that will tip at 8:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.

2) No. 22 Ohio State pays a visit to Penn State. The Nittany Lions knocked off the Buckeyes in Columbus earlier this season.

3) There are about five Big East teams currently sitting on or around the bubble and two of them — Georgetown and Marquette — square off tonight. Josh Smith is ineligible to play, however, which means that we won’t get a chance to see him go up against Davante Gardner.

4) Gonzaga (at Pacific), Davidson (vs. UNC-Greensboro), Stephen F. Austin (at New Orleans), North Dakota State (vs. South Dakota), and Georgia State (at UT-Arlington) can all clinch at least a share of a league title tonight.

5) Temple at No. 7 Louisville and No. 21 Memphis at Houston highlights the AAC slate tonight.

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.