Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)

2014 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region: Instant Analysis

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No. 3 Wichita State played 34 games and won all 34, but there were still plenty of skeptics across the nation. Gregg Marshall’s Shockers will have ample opportunities to prove people wrong, because the selection committee handed them a region that is littered with tough match-ups.

The first possible matchup: eight-seed Kentucky, provided the Wildcats get past nine-seed Kansas State. And the rest of the region is loaded, with a Louisville team that’s rolling getting the four-seed by virtue of their non-conference strength of schedule. Rounding out the top four seed lines are two-seed Michigan, the Big Ten regular season champion, and three-seed Duke.

MORERead through all of our bracket analysis here

Michigan, Duke and Louisville all drew interesting opening match-ups. The Wolverines will face a deliberate Wofford team, with Duke drawing Atlantic Sun champ Mercer and Louisville meeting up with Rick Pitino protege Steve Masiello’s Manhattan Jaspers. Also of note in this region is the fact that three First Four games will feed into this region, including Iowa and Tennessee meeting with the winner getting six-seed UMass.

Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes flamed out down the stretch, going from a team playing for a protected seed to one that will need to win seven games to win a nation title. Add in N.C. State grabbing an at-large, and this region is full of surprises. Even with the Shockers going undefeated there are many who don’t believe. If Wichita State can navigate this region and get to Dallas, let there be no further doubt as this is an incredibly tough region.

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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.