Kevin Willard

Seton Hall will face more non-conference challenges in 2014-15

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During the 2013-14 season, Seton Hall and head coach Kevin Willard really didn’t face too many difficult non-conference opponents. The Pirates were 9-4 during the non-conference portion of the schedule last season but lost to both teams, Mercer and Oklahoma, that reached the 2014 NCAA Tournament out of those 13 games.

Seton Hall eventually struggled to a 6-12 record in Big East play before making an unlikely run to the semifinals of the conference tournament to finish the year at 17-17.

But this season, with experienced pieces like Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina returning along with a highly-touted recruiting class, Willard’s team will be tested quite a bit in the early part of the season.

According to a release from the school, Seton Hall will have some tough games before they hit Big East play this season.

Some highlights include a road game at Wichita State on December 9th, a road game at Georgia on December 21st and a trip to the Paradise Jam, which includes an opening game against Nevada and features Clemson, LSU, Old Dominion, Gardner Webb, Illinois State and Weber State.

Atlantic Sun champion Mercer also plays the Pirates again to open the season on November 16th and NEC champion Mount St. Mary’s (December 2nd), George Washington (November 29th) and Rutgers (December 6th) also play games at the Prudential Center as well this season.

Expectations will be high for Seton Hall this season as McDonald’s All-American and guard Isaiah Whitehead joins the roster and other talented newcomers include forward Angel Delgado, forward Mike Nzei and guard Khadeen Carrington. This schedule should test this team quite a bit as Willard’s team hopes to compete for a postseason berth next season.

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.