pitino

Louisville awaits eligibility news on one of its newcomers

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With Luke Hancock and Russ Smith out of eligibility, the Louisville Cardinals have some key contributions to account for in their debut season as a member of the ACC. The return of guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier and forward Montrezl Harrell will certainly help matter for head coach, as will the arrival of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

Pitino and his staff have reeled in six players, with guard Quentin Snider, small forward Shaqquan Aaron and center Chinanu Onuaku among that group. Another newcomer is 6-foot-9 forward Jaylen Johnson, a four-star prospect who some pundits believe is capable of cracking the rotation as a freshman. However there’s an issue: Johnson has yet to be cleared academically by the NCAA Eligibility Center, which has prevented him from enrolling with Monday’s deadline right around the corner.

According to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, one issue for Johnson is that the high school he attended was consolidated with a neighboring school district and that has made the task of evaluating his academic credentials more difficult for the eligibility center.

Johnson graduated from Ypsilanti High School, which was part of a consolidation with a neighboring school district’s high school. That transition led to a paperwork “mess,” a source familiar with Johnson’s situation said.

Eligibility officers are having trouble sifting through Johnson’s coursework and figuring out if it meets the NCAA’s core academic credit requirements, the source added.

Louisville’s front court newcomers are of great importance entering 2014-15, as beyond Harrell the Cardinals don’t have any other proven (at the college level) commodities at this time. Mangok Mathiang made strides as a freshman, starting 14 games and averaging 3.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest, and he’ll be asked to do even more in 2014-15. The Cardinals also have Akoy Agau, who played sparingly as a freshman and is still recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery.

With that being the case the freshmen will have opportunities to compete for playing time, and with that being the case this academic uncertainty is doing Johnson no favors at all.

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.