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It’s too early to write off Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State

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Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com wrote a column today on Marcus Smart, the gist of which I agree with.

Doyel’s point?

“Bad guy does something bad, victim responds in a way we don’t like … we blame the victim. … All [Marcus Smart] did was shove a guy who yelled something horrible right into his face. It was a mistake, but the punishment continues to be meted out, and it will never fit the crime.”

There’s a lot more to it than that, but generally speaking, that’s what he’s saying.

And to a point, I think he’s right. If Smart isn’t careful, that shove could end up defining his career as a basketball player, and that would be sad. And unfair. He’s 19-year old frustrating by losing reacting to what he thought was someone using a racial slur. Anyone worth knowing would be able to forgive Smart for that, even the guy that got pushed.

Here’s where I disagree with Doyel: he’s already written Oklahoma State and Smart off, and that’s wildly premature.

Remember, Oklahoma State’s RPI is currently 47. They have wins over Memphis, Texas and Colorado, which came on a neutral court. They have just one bad loss on the season, and that was a road game in conference. The 4-9 league record and seven-game losing streak? That certainly doesn’t help, but it can be quickly forgotten with games remaining against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State, not to mention the Big 12 tournament.

The Pokes aren’t in an ideal spot, but they A) aren’t all that far from the (admittedly weak) bubble’s cut line, and B) they have plenty of time and a number of chances to turn this around.

I think they will.

I think this will be a wakeup call for Smart. I think the exaggerated flopping and the whining to officials will stop. I think he’ll play just as hard as his teammates did the last two games, when they lost to Oklahoma by three and at Baylor in overtime. I think they’ll do enough to make the NCAA tournament, and I think they could even end up winning a game there.

And as far as the idea of his draft stock tumbling? That’s true, but it has a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that the can’t hit a jumper than the fact that he shoved a fan.

This season is far from over for Oklahoma State.

Let’s not act like it is yet.

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.