J.L. Lewis, D.J. Brown, Xavier Jones

Louisiana Tech is now autobid or bust after losing to New Mexico State

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Louisiana Tech is the latest in a long line of bubble teams that suffered painful losses over the last week, as New Mexico State trounced them by 18 points in Las Cruces on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs entered the night hanging onto their bubble hopes by the slimmest of margins, celebrating every time a team like Kentucky lost to Georgia, or UMass lost to Butler, or Virginia lost to Boston College. While LTU still has a 26-4 record, they have done so by beating up on a schedule full of teams that, frankly, weren’t all that good.

Their best win?

Southern Miss, who hasn’t beaten team ranked higher than 67th in the RPI this season.

Their other four top 100 wins? Denver and New Mexico State at home as well as a sweep of a Utah State team that has been just devastated by injuries. Worse still, 14 of those 26 wins have come against teams ranked outside the top 200 in the RPI. They’ve also lost to McNeese State, who is 246th in the RPI.

Simply put, the Bulldogs were a borderline bubble team entering the night. While losing on the road to a team ranked in the top 100 isn’t necessarily a killer, missing out on the opportunity to add another top 100 road win to their resume is what hurts more.

Worse still, LTU visits Denver on Saturday, who beat the WAC’s fourth-place team by 29 points at home on Thursday night. Lose to Denver, and not only will the Bulldogs end the regular season by missing out on two top 100 road wins, they’ll lose their grip on the WAC’s outright regular season title; the Pioneers are now sitting just one game behind Mike White’s club.

And while Virginia and Kentucky and UMass still have a chance at an at-large bid, the difference for LTU is that they are the best team in the conference. They won’t have a chance to add wins over the likes of Miami or Florida or St. Louis to their resume.

It’s now auto-bid or bust for the Bulldogs.

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.