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It looks like Nerlens Noel understands John Calipari’s vision at Kentucky

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If there’s one thing we ought to credit Nerlens Noel with at this, the earliest point of his Kentucky career, it’s that he knows what he is walking into with the Wildcats.

He’ll be the centerpiece of Volume IV of John Calipari’s experiment in youth, and, along with that, he recognizes the types of questions that will be floated around all season.

The most prominent of those? The length of his college career.

“I definitely won’t go in there thinking about one-and-done,” Noel told the Charlotte Observer. “The only thing I need to do is go in there and think about getting better and doing what I have to do for my team to win games and get to a national championship.”

Noel will have to deflect as many questions like that as he will have to block shots next season for the Wildcats, and the fact that he seems to know how to handle them is promising for the focus and chemistry that Kentucky will want to build in a run to repeat as national champions.

Call it the cynic in me, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that, even before Noel dons the Kentucky blue for the first time, he will be set on heading to the NBA after one season.

But the fact that he understands the way Calipari builds his teams, especially this 2011-12 Wildcats squad, seems to shatter the so-called “me culture” of high-major athletes.

Five Kentucky underclassmen are headed to the 2012 NBA draft, but that national championship team played differently than some rag-tag collection of some of the most talented young players in the country.

It was about “buying in” and playing defense, though of course, it didn’t hurt that they were supremely talented.

It appears Noel is moving in the direction to continue to build on that kind of foundation. Though a small sample size, it looks promising, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

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.