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Pregame Shootaround: Can Friday match Thursday’s excitement?

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FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET)

12:15 p.m.: No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer (CBS)
12:30 p.m.: No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska (Tru TV)
1:30 p.m.: No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford (TBS)
2:00 p.m.: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State (TNT)
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2:30 p.m.: No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Tennessee (CBS)
3:00 p.m.: No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette (Tru TV)
4:00 p.m.: No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky (TBS)
4:30 p.m.: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State (TNT)
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6:55 p.m.: No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington (TBS)
7:00 p.m.: No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 16 Cal Poly (CBS)
7:15 p:m.: No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence (TNT)
7:25 p.m.: No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin (Tru-TV)
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9:15 p.m.: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina (TBS)
9:30 p.m.: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (CBS)
9:45 p.m.: No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 North Carolina Central (TNT)
9:55 p.m.: No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa (Tru-TV)

RECAP: Catch up on all of Thursday’s NCAA tournament action

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford

The game itself is all kinds of intriguing. Stanford actually has the kind of size and versatility up front that could give the Lobos all kinds of problems, which Chasson Randle will be a tough cover for Kendall Williams. But there is also a lot riding on this game. You see, New Mexico, if they can get past the Cardinal, look like a team that could beat No. 2 seed Kansas in the Round of 32.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart has been playing some of the best basketball of his collegiate career since he got back from his suspension. When he plays this way — not forcing shots, not turning the ball over, within the framework of the offense, etc. — the Cowboys are a dangerous, and Gonzaga doesn’t really have anyone that can guard him and Markel Brown. The problem? Gonzaga has a big, physical front line, which is their strength this season, and Oklahoma State’s front court depth is non-existent. Foul trouble for Le’Bryan Nash will be the key.

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AP Photo

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Tennessee

I love Chaz Williams, but I’m not sure the top of the Atlantic 10 is quite as good as we made them out to be. Antonio Barton will have his work cut out slowing Williams down, but if he can, the Minutemen are going to have a nightmares about the physicality of Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes. Look for a big day from Jordan McRae.

WHO ELSE IS GETTING UPSET?: No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

Stephen F. Austin has been a trendy pick all week long, and I don’t blame anyone that went with them in their bracket. It looks all the more likely now that Melvin Johnson is out for VCU. He’s their best shooter, and where the Rams struggle is when you can bog them down in the half court. No Johnson makes them that much less effective in a slow-paced game.

WATCH: Cameron Ridley’s buzzer-beater | Vee Sanford’s game-winner

FOUR KEY INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS

  • No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence: Marcus Paige vs. Bryce Cotton, two of the nation’s most underappreciated point guards. It won’t get much better than that.
  • No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer: Two matchups here that will be fun to watch: how Mercer tries to slow down Jabari Parker, and how Duke matches up with Langston Hall.
  • No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State: Julius Randle is usually bothered by length more than strength. Kansas State has a ton of strength up front, but they’re not all that big.
  • No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette: With the obvious acknowledgement that Doug McDermott and Elfrid Payton are the two stars, I think the matchup between Ethan Wragge and Shawn Long will be the key. Long is a big and burly post, Wragge is not. But Wragge has range out to 30 feet, and Long isn’t going to want to chase him all over the floor.

YOU CAN IGNORE THESE (UNLESS THEY’RE CLOSE LATE!):

  • No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State
  • No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
  • No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 16 Cal Poly
  • No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina

NOTABLES

  • No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have one of the nation’s most clutch shooters and best bad shot makers in Terran Petteway. How will he do against Baylor’s zone defense?
  • No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington: Perhaps the most intriguing tactical matchup of the day: how will the Tigers handle GW’s 1-3-1 zone?
  • No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 North Carolina Central: NCCU’s head coach LeVelle Moton’s one-year old son is in the hospital after having hot coffee spilled on him. The good news? LeVelle Jr. should be fine.
  • No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa: Danny Manning’s Golden Hurricane better find a way to slow down UCLA’s run-and-gun game.

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.