Pitino Boeheim

Syracuse and Louisville provide a reminder of what we messed up

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It would be real easy for me to sit down and pen a column about the fact that the Big East has sent to ACC teams, Syracuse (who leaves after the season) and Louisville (who will spend one more year in the league before bouncing) to the Final Four.

I could write that in my sleep.

I’ve done it already, right before the Big East tournament.

But the more I think about it, the happier that I am that the Big East finally blew up, because what it had become was a bloated, watered down disaster. Georgetown and SMU? Providence and Central Florida? Seton Hall and Houston? Who has any desire to see those teams play?

Hell, I wouldn’t be all that upset if they traded DePaul for someone like St. Joseph’s or La Salle or VCU.

The bottom line is that this season’s version of the conference — the one that still counted Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and Rutgers as members — still isn’t what the Big East was in it’s glory days. Not when UConn plays Syracuse, Pitt, Villanova and Georgetown once in a season while drawing home-and-homes with South Florida and DePaul. That’s the Big East basketball we all reminisce about? St. John’s looking to get revenge for an early-season loss at home to Tulsa?

But that’s the beauty of Louisville and Syracuse both making the Final Four this season.

You see, one day, I think the new Big East will eventually have a chance to be as relevant as the Big East was in its glory days. It’s loaded with schools that value and invest money in basketball. Butler, Xavier, Georgetown, St. Louis, Creighton, Marquette, Villanova. Those are all really good basketball programs that will make annual pushes deep into the tournament. And, once they start playing each other two or three times in a season, rivalries will emerge. Butler and Marquette already seem to have a healthy dislike for each other after playing a couple of classics recently. You don’t think Georgetown and Xavier or St. Louis and Villanova can do the same? All it takes is one shoving match or one hard foul or one buzzer-beater.

Hell, the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry, one of the best in college basketball, grew out of John Thompson Jr. saying “Manley Fieldhouse is now closed.”

So I don’t think Big East basketball is dead. It’s going to be different, but it’s not dead.

But Syracuse and Louisville playing on the season’s final weekend is a not-so-subtle reminder that we screwed up an awesome thing with realignment.

I, for one, take a bit of happiness out of 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.