Bill Self

Are we overlooking Kansas this preseason?

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Unless you write for Lindy’s, the general consensus seems to be that Kentucky should be the nation’s No. 1 team in the preseason.

And that’s fair, considering the fact that they are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes of all-time, they have eight guys that could one day be picked in the first round of the NBA Draft and they have a coach that has excelled at convincing teams with an overload of talent to buy into their roles.

Lindy’s had Michigan State ranked No. 1, a team that seems to join with Louisville to complete a consensus top three.

Arizona has gotten plenty of preseason hype as well, in large part due to landing Aaron Gordon, and with Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood joining Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke has been crowned as the favorite in the ACC, the best league in the land.

It may just be me, but it seems like one of the nation’s best programs has been overlooked throughout much of the summer: the Kansas Jayhawks.

Now, when calling Kansas overlooked, we have to keep it in perspective. But the fact of the matter is that, given the talent on their roster and the head coach they have stalking the sidelines, doesn’t it make sense that the Jayhawks be in the conversation with Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville as a title favorite?

Think about it like this: the guy that everyone expects to be the best player in the country and the No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, is a Jayhawk. There are quite a few people that expect him to have the impact that Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant did in their one season on campus, and I count myself among them.

But he’s not alone. In Draft Express’ latest 2014 mock draft, Kansas is projected to have two of the top six picks (Joel Embiid) and three of the top 14 picks (Wayne Selden), which is more than anyone else in the country.

Yes, Kansas does have question marks. The point guard spot could end up being an issue all season long, and youth isn’t guaranteed to be good immediately at the college level. Perry Ellis’ development will be critical as well, and it will be interesting to see just how good the Jayhawks end up being from a defensive standpoint.

But while everyone has spent the summer lauding Kentucky’s recruiting class, it seems like the talent that Bill Self has amassed has managed to somehow slide a bit under the radar.

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.