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College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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When it’s late-February, you play in the ACC and you’re undefeated, you’re the No. 1 team in the country.

That’s just the way that it works.

But does that mean that Syracuse is the best team in the country? Well, that’s a different story.

I hate using the term “luck” when it comes to sports. There’s nothing lucky about the fact that Tyler Ennis has been absolutely dominant in crunch-time. There’s nothing lucky about the fact that he’s a terrific basketball player with the mental toughness to handle the pressure that comes with the final minutes of close games. The numbers that he was putting up weren’t sustainable — against N.C. State, he missed just his second shot and committed his first turnover in the last five minutes of a one-possession game — but calling that kind of execution “lucky” is wrong.

What is “lucky”, however, is winning a game because you hit a running 35-footer, as Syracuse did at Pitt. It might also be considered lucky when you beat N.C. State at home thanks to the refs deciding against giving T.J. Warren an and-one and the Wolfpack turning the ball over on the ensuing possession.

The last three bigs wins for the Orange have come by a combined five points. That’s not exactly sustainable.

THE TOP 25

1. Syracuse (25-0, LW: No. 1): The Orange stay in the top spot thanks to a pair of one possession wins. Given the number of games that Tyler “Ennions” Ennis has won for the Orange down the stretch, he’s vaulted himself into the conversation for National Player of the Year.

2. Florida (23-2, LW: No. 3): For my money, right now, I think Florida is the best team in the country. They can give you so many different looks defensively and Scottie Wilbekin has spent the last month doing his best Tyler Ennis impression in close game.

3. Wichita State (27-0, LW: No. 6): The Shockers are that much closer to finishing the regular season undefeated. They beat Southern Illinois and Evansville this week.

4. Duke (20-5, LW: No. 10): We’re going to find out just how good the Blue Devils are next week. They pay a visit to North Carolina, a game that was snowed out last week, on Thursday before hosting Syracuse on Saturday.

5. Arizona (23-2, LW: No. 2): The Wildcats lost at Arizona State on Friday night, a game where they scored just 66 points in double-overtime. This team has some serious question marks offensively without Brandon Ashley.

6. Kansas (19-6, LW: No. 5): The Jayhawks bounced back from a loss to Kansas State by blowing out TCU. Joel Embiid’s scheduled to play on Tuesday as well.

7. San Diego State (22-2, LW: No. 4): SDSU lost at Wyoming, which is always a tough road trip to make given that Laramie is in the middle of nowhere and the elevation there is problematic for the sea level-bound Aztecs. But that doesn’t change the fact that this team relies too heavily on Xavier Thames for offense.

8. Cincinnati (23-3, LW: No. 9): The Bearcats handled Houston on Saturday thanks to another ridiculous performance from Sean Kilpatrick.

9. Creighton (21-4, LW: No. 19): The Bluejays now own a pair of wins over Villanova by a combined 49 points. That’s … ridiculous.

10. Michigan State (21-5, LW: No. 7): The Spartans still are not healthy, but that doesn’t exactly excuse them from a home loss to Nebraska on Sunday.

11. Kentucky (19-6, LW: No. 11)
12. Villanova (22-3, LW: No. 8)
13. Saint Louis (23-2, LW: No. 13)
14. Virginia (21-5, LW: No. 14)
15. Louisville (21-4, LW: No. 15)
16. Iowa State (19-5, LW: No. 12)
17. Wisconsin (21-5, LW: UR)
18. Iowa (19-6, LW: No. 16)
19. Texas (20-5, LW: No. 18)
20. UConn (20-5, LW: No. 22)
21. Memphis (19-6, LW: No. 21)
22. Ohio State (20-6, LW: No. 25)
23. Michigan (18-7, LW: No. 17)
24. North Carolina (17-7, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (20-5, LW: UR)

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.