Miami v North Carolina

Miami wins at UNC without Reggie Johnson; Canes for real?

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On Wednesday night, Minnesota staked their claim to being one of the Big Ten’s best teams by going into Champaign and knocking off Illinois.

On Thursday night, it was Miami’s turn to make a statement, as they rolled through the Dean Dome and picked up their third straight win, knocking off the Heels 68-59.

There was quite a bit of concern about Miami’s season and tournament hopes after their starting center, double-double machine Reggie Johnson, went down with a broken thumb a couple of days before Christmas. But after a disappointing showing out in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic, the Canes have come on strong.

They beat a better-than-you-think La Salle team last week and followed that up with a win over in their ACC opener on Saturday. But going into the Dean Dome and knocking off North Carolina — even if this UNC team is closer to being a carbon copy of 2010 than a true ACC title contender — is impressive. Doing it without Johnson is even more so.

How is Miami surviving without their big fella in the middle?

Well, it helps when Kenny Kadji is kicking in 18 points, nine boards, four blocks and three assists. It’s even more helpful when Julian Gamble, who is starting in Johnson’s place, is going for 14 points, six boards and three blocks. More to the point, Miami still have a talented group of individuals that understand their roles. They have a point guard in Shane Larkin that is as underrated as anyone in the ACC. They have a slew of shooters on the perimeter. Kadji and Gamble have enough size and bulk to manage in the paint.

And then there is talented veteran Durand Scott, who does whatever he team needs him to do on a given night.

The bottom-line is this: the only known quantity on the ACC is Duke. Everyone else is entirely beatable. NC State, Maryland, Florida State and North Carolina — obviously — have their flaws. The conference is way down this season, so even without Johnson, Miami will be able to win a lot of games.

What’s more? They already have. They are a top 10 team in the RPI thanks in large part to six top 100 wins.

And now the scary part: they’ve spent less than a month of the season at full strength.

Chew on that.

You can find Rob 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.