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How have past National Title contenders fared after losing a star player to injury?

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In light of the back injury that will keep Joel Embiid out for the Big 12 tournament and could foreseeably saddle him to the bench for the entirety of the NCAA tournament, we decided to take a look at season-ending injuries to key players on past National Title contenders:

Kenyon Martin: Cincinnati was the No. 1 team in the country and Martin was the National Player of the Year, but he broke his leg in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. The Bearcats were given a two-seed and eventually lost in the second round to Tulsa.

Hank Gathers: We all know the story. Gathers was a star in LMU’s high-powered offense in 1990 that tragically passed away during the WCC tournament. The Lions lost in the Elite 8 to eventual national champion UNLV.

Scott May: May was averaging 18.5 points for Indiana an undefeated Indiana team in 1975 when he broke his arm in a game against Purdue in late-February. The Hoosiers lost in the Elite 8 to Kentucky. Without May’s injury, Bobby Knight may have ended up leading Indiana to back-to-back undefeated seasons.

Kendall Marshall: Everyone talks about how good Kentucky was in 2012, but no one ever seems to remember that North Carolina was considered a legitimate title contender as well … before Marshall, the point guard that was the engine to UNC’s offense, went down with a broken bone in his wrist. North Carolina lost in the Elite 8 to Kansas.

Robbie Hummel: Purdue looked like the best team in the Big Ten and a potential No. 1 seed when Hummel tore his ACL in February. The Boilermakers ended up being a four-seed, losing in the Sweet 16 to No. 1 seed Duke.

Arinze Onuaku: Syracuse lost Onuaku, their starting center, to a leg injury in the Big East tournament in 2010. They still earned a No. 1 seed, but they lost to Butler in the Sweet 16.

Loren Woods: Woods was averaging 15.6 points, 7.5 boards and 4.0 blocks for Arizona, but suffered a back injury that kept him out for the season in mid-February. The Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in the second round.

Derek Anderson: Anderson was averaging 17.7 points as a redshirt senior for Kentucky in 1997 when he tore his ACL in January. Kentucky still managed to make it all the way to the title game, losing to Arizona in overtime, but it’s hard not to wonder whether that injury cost Kentucky a three-peat.

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.