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Baylor should no longer be mentioned as an elite team

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source: Reuters

Twenty-three days after Kansas handed Baylor their first loss of the season, Bill Self’s team entered the Ferrell Center in Waco, TX on Wednesday night and did it again.

After falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes, the Jayhawks, behind 25 points from center Jeff Withey and 19 from guard Tyshawn Taylor, were in control by the 16-minute mark of the second half, winning by a final of 68-54.

It didn’t start as a game that looked on its way to a 14-point Kansas win. In fact, questions about Baylor’s defense looked to be answered, to some extent.

Working mostly in the zone, the Bears denied Thomas Robinson the basketball and collapsed on him when he found space in the paint. He had just four points before sitting for the final four and a half minutes of the first half.

But it wasn’t the Player of the Year candidate Robinson that turned out to be the biggest problem on the block for Baylor. It was Withey, the 7-footer who posted a double-double in the first meeting of these teams, who made the difference.

With all the attention on Robinson, Withey’s ability to find openings on the interior deteriorated the Baylor defense and negated much of the athleticism that typically makes the Bears so effective.

As Rob Dauster has pointed out, it’s not an isolated problem. West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, a team effort from BYU, and Robinson, in their first matchup, have all had big nights against Baylor.

In addition to those defensive problems, offensive problems from their stars buried them against Kansas.

Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III, two future lottery picks playing in front of scouts from 17 NBA teams, were both rendered ineffective, shooting a combined 2-of-12 from the floor and finishing with eight points between them.

Jones III has had some difficulties against teams that can pressure him on the interior. Against No. 14 Mississippi State, he had eight points. Against West Virginia he had four points on 2-of-9 shooting. Against No. 5 Missouri, he had eight points.

Baylor was 2-1 in those games, winning by a combined margin of four points.

So what does it mean? We talked about North Carolina’s inclusion in the “elite teams” in the nation and it is now clear: Baylor is not in that group. Top 10 team? Yes. But not belonging in the same tier as Kentucky, Syracuse, UNC, and a few others.

Scott Drew’s team is now 0-3 against Top 10 teams, which makes it difficult to say with confidence that the Bears have the firepower to make it to the Final Four in New Orleans.

A shaky defense, which is many times reluctant to break from the zone, paired with an absent Perry Jones III in some big spots, and Kansas and Missouri look like better contenders for the Big 12 crown and more likely to make a run in March.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.