Mason Plumlee, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins

Duke beats Minnesota, becomes the nation’s No. 1 team?

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The knock on Duke coming into the season was that Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry were quality pieces, but that they weren’t be good enough to be the feature players on a team that would legitimately be able to contend for a national title.

The two seniors are making that line of thinking seem foolish early on this season.

Just nine days after No.5 Duke knocked off Kentucky in the Champions Classic behind 41 combined points from Curry and Plumlee, the Blue Devils rolled over Minnesota 89-71 in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis out in the Bahamas.

Curry had 25. Plumlee had 20 and added 17 boards and three assists. Perhaps most importantly for Plumlee, he was 8-10 from the charity stripe. That’s been the place he’s struggled the most throughout his career.

It’s too early to make the claim that Duke is “for real”. The Kentucky team that they beat is incredibly young and struggled to handle Morehead State in Rupp Arena. This Minnesota team was predicted by almost everyone to be a potential tournament team, but that was with the understanding that Trevor Mbakwe would be back to 100%. He’s not, and the Gophers don’t have the depth to overcome an all-american turning into a role player.

In other words, I’m not yet convinced that Duke is worlds better than we thought, and I’m definitely not ready to drink whatever it is Ken Pomeroy cracked open on Thanksgiving simply because Duke beating Kentucky in November isn’t much more impressive than Indiana beating Georgetown. And I also don’t think that beating down a Minnesota team that is playing a long way from 100% on a night they happen to shoot 8-10 from three is the best game to base your opinion of this team around.

I will say this, however: after watching Duke through the first two weeks of the season, I’m really glad that I wrote their preview with the theme that the Blue Devils are better than they were given credit for.

The Blue Devils get VCU (*not Missouri, my bad) tomorrow. If all goes to plan, they’ll get Louisville in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

If Duke wins both of those games, than I may be asking Kenpom to pour me a glass.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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.