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Notre Dame looking to senior guard Jerian Grant for leadership in 2014-15

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Notre Dame struggled with consistency in its first season as a member of the ACC, going 15-17 overall with a 6-12 record in conference play. As a result 2013-14 was the first season a Mike Brey-coached team finished below .500 since 1996-97, when his Delaware Blue Hens finished the year with a 15-16 record. The biggest reason for Notre Dame’s issues was the absence of senior guard Jerian Grant, who had to leave the school for the spring semester due to what was described as an “academic misstep.”

Through 12 games Grant, who was a second team All-Big East selection as a junior, averaged 19.0 points, 6.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game and he was shooting 51.8% from the field and 40.8% from three. A player of that caliber is tough for any team to replace, especially when they have to do so in the middle of a season. Now back with the program, Grant’s expected to be a leader for a group that has just two seniors with Pat Connaughton (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.0 apg) being the other.

According to Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune, Grant’s had to step up as a vocal leader with Connaughton playing baseball in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system.

With expected captain-to-be Pat Connaughton playing baseball in the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles, Grant is the lone Irish senior on campus. Despite his absence last winter, Grant had no choice but to embrace the role of the veteran voice of reason.

“I’ve been really impressed with him,” coach Mike Brey said in a radio interview earlier this week on WSBT’s Weekday Sportsbeat. “He’s come back a more mature guy, more equipped to have a great senior year. Probably learned some lessons and has grown up.”

In the article it’s also noted that Brey believes his senior guard to be a better leader now than he was prior to his leaving the program. And given Notre Dame’s youth, with its most productive returnees outside of Connaughton being junior forward Zach Auguste (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (6.0, 2.1), Grant’s ability to lead will be critical as the Fighting Irish look to climb up the ACC standings.

Being productive from a statistical standpoint is fine, but the intangibles are just as important for a player who will be featured as prominently as Grant.

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.