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College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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I spent the morning arguing with Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com for his decision to include SMU in his Top 25.

You can see it here. SMU is sitting right there at No. 25 despite the fact that, just six days ago, the Mustangs lost to South Florida at South Florida.

His justification, more or less, is that the Mustangs have (mostly) beaten who they’re supposed to beat, and they also have wins over two teams that are all-but locks for the NCAA tournament in UConn and Memphis, both of who can be found in both my top 25 and his top 25.

And at this point, that’s actually a resume that’s worth consideration for being ranked, because once you get past the top 22 or 23 teams, there is a whole lot of mediocrity out there. Me? I have New Mexico ranked 24th mostly because they beat Cincinnati back in December and because they have been steam-rolling the Mountain West despite missing starting center Alex Kirk of late.

The MWC is down this year and UNM might be better without Kirk because it forces them to actually defend.

I have Pitt ranked 25th despite the fact that they’ve beaten absolutely no one of note — unless you are enamored with Penn State or Stanford — simply because I think that they are better than some of the other teams in consideration. You want to put UMass or Gonzaga or Wisconsin there? It’s not all that crazy.

Neither is ranking SMU.

Because, as ridiculous as this sounds, whipping up on this Memphis team — at home, nonetheless — is enough to set SMU apart from some of the other dreck that will find its way into the ‘others receiving votes’ pile, even if it came four days after a loss to South Florida.

THE TOP 25

1. Syracuse (21-0, LW: No. 2): If C.J. Fair is going to play like a superstar, like he did on Saturday, Syracuse really is one of the best teams in the country.

2. Arizona (20-1, LW: No. 1): I’m leaving Arizona at No. 2 for now, but I think that this injury to Brandon Ashley is really going to hurt the Wildcats.

3. Florida (19-2, LW: No. 3): Wanna talk defense? Florida has given up 128 points in their last three games.

4. San Diego State (19-1, LW: No. 8): SDSU is one of nine teams in the last nine-plus seasons to win at Phog Allen, and their only loss came by single-digits at Arizona. That’s strong.

5. Kansas (16-5, LW: No. 4): Kansas got embarrassed at Texas, but the Longhorns are a tough matchup for this group. I’m still buying the Jayhawks.

6. Wichita State (22-0, LW: No. 7): Big week for the Shockers: at Indiana State and at Northern Iowa. Win these two, and they might actually go undefeated in the regular season.

7. Michigan State (18-2, LW: No. 6): A banged up team lost a non-conference game at Madison Square Garden in February. I’ll put more stick in the win at Iowa five days earlier.

8. Cincinnati (19-2, LW: No. 12): The Bearcats are legit. Winning at Louisville should convince you. This team can really, really defend.

9. Villanova (19-2, LW: No. 9): I’m not ready to bump Villanova up past anyone of the teams in front of them, but rest assured, three road wins in their last three games didn’t go unnoticed.

10. Michigan (16-5, LW: No. 5): Indiana was able to stop Nik Stauskas. Was that just the result of a great performance from Yogi Ferrell, or is it a blueprint for the rest of the Big Ten?

11. Duke (17-5, LW: No. 19)
12. Texas (17-4, LW: UR)
13. Creighton (18-3, LW: No. 20)
14. Kentucky (16-5, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa (17-5, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (16-4, LW: No. 15)
17. Saint Louis (20-2, LW: No. 18)
18. Virginia (17-5, LW: UR)
19. Louisville (18-4, LW: No. 17)
20. Oklahoma (17-5, LW: No. 24)
21. UConn (17-4, LW: No. 21)
22. Memphis (16-5, LW: No. 22)
23. Oklahoma State (16-5, LW: No. 11)
24. New Mexico (17-4, LW: UR)
25. Pitt (18-4, LW: No. 16)

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.