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Midwest Hoops Report

   by ASA - 12/07/2006

Each week ASA will take a look at all of the college basketball happenings around the Midwest. We’ll delve into the Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA and the MAC to see what’s going on in our native Midwest.

Big Ten
• Illinois’s battle with Arizona in a rematch of 2005’s classic Elite Eight matchup wasn’t all that it could’ve been as the Illini dressed only 10 players. Starters Jamar Smith, who could return Saturday, and Brian Randle, who is recovering from surgery, were both out with injuries. Freshman Richard Semrau didn’t make the trip due to a chest injury suffered in practice.
• Kelvin Sampson’s scolding of guard A.J. Ratliff seems to have worked as Ratliff responded with a clutch 18 points in Indiana’s 74-57 win over Charlotte.
• Iowa point guard Mike Henderson saw his first playing time of the season against Coppin State following surgery on a broken finger. He played only eight minutes but will see more minutes as his finger improves. Henderson has said his shot is still off but it does not affect his play-making or defense.
• Michigan State freshman and second-leading scorer Raymar Morgan could be on the shelf for 2-3 weeks with a stress fracture. Also, Spartan wide receiver Matt Trannon has decided he will not play basketball this season in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.
• The Gophers won their first game following the buyout of former coach Dan Monson with a 66-63 win over Arizona State. Interim head coach Jim Molinari’s main focus is simply to make Minnesota a better team.
• Freshman standout and consensus 2007 No. 1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden made his debut in an Ohio State uniform Saturday against Valparaiso. Oden’s first game was an impressive one as he tallied 14 points, 10 boards and five blocks, all while using primarily his left hand.
• Junior forward Geary Claxton has worked himself back into the Penn State starting lineup after suffering a broken pinky finger during preseason. His first start of the season saw him tally season-highs of 15 points and eight rebounds.
• Purdue freshman guard Chris Kramer should start to see limited minutes after recovering from a strained knee ligament suffered at the Maui Invitational. Kramer was averaging six points, three assists and three boards in 25 minutes before going down.

Big 12
• Colorado continues to look for a solution to its point guard problem. Senior Dominique Coleman and freshman Kal Bay have both started games but neither has provided consistent play.
• Kansas head coach Bill Self is saying sub-par games and practices can largely be attributed to a lack of on-court leadership. Self says he expects guard Russell Robinson to assume the role of leader by season’s end.
• Kansas State head coach Bob Huggins is saying the Wildcats’ poor offensive production is due to the whole team adjusting to the new system. Huggins feels shots will start falling at a more consistent rate once the team becomes more comfortable within the system.
• As important as new head coach Mike Anderson has been to Missouri’s 8-0 start, Chipola College transfer Stefhon Hannah may be even more important. Hannah leads the Tigers with 13.8 points, 5.9 assists, 4.1 steals and 30.6 minutes per game in becoming the point guard Missouri has sorely lacked in recent years.
• Oklahoma sophomore forward Taylor Griffin has stepped in nicely in place of the departed Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout. Griffin has become the team’s leading rebounder at 7.3 a game while adding 8.3 points per contest.
• Oklahoma State is one of just three teams in the country that stands at 9-0 on the season. Junior guard JamesOn Curry has been the catalyst behind the start and earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after averaging 29.5 points in wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Pepperdine.
• While Texas’ overall talent is certainly obvious, its youth and inexperience has been even more prevalent. That was never more obvious than in its 87-77 loss to Gonzaga. The Longhorns rushed shots, blew numerous defensive assignments and turned the ball over way too much.
• Texas A&M reached the highest ranking in program history with its No. 6 ranking in the most recent AP Poll. The Aggies will face a big test this weekend when they face No. 1 UCLA and No. 9 LSU, marking the first time ever that Texas A&M has faced top-10 foes in back-to-back non-conference contests.
• Texas Tech’s lack of an inside presence was on display in its 70-59 loss to Stanford. The Red Raiders were outscored 38-24 in the paint, outrebounded 45-32 and trailed 17-6 in second-chance points.

Conference USA
• The Memphis Tigers laid early claim on a C-USA title that will almost surely be theirs come season’s end by downing Marshall 78-59 in their C-USA opener. Believe it or not, but the win actually lowered Memphis’ average margin of win to a measly 27 points a game.
• The first month of Rice’s season have not gone as head coach Willis Wilson had planned. Starting point guard Lorenzo Williams has missed three games, forward Patrick Britton has struggled mightily, much-hyped transfer Marius Craciun has left the team for personal reasons and center Matt Hagen is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Thankfully for the Owls, senior guard Morris Almond is averaging more than 29 points a game, while no other player is averaging more than nine.
• Tulane gave No. 9 LSU a good run but it wasn’t enough as the Green Wave eventually lost 74-67. Tulane played its best half of the season in grabbing an 11-point first half lead en route to a 42-36 halftime lead.
• Tulsa has improved dramatically on the offensive end of the floor, as it has reached 78 points four times already this season after reaching it just twice all of last year.
• Depth has become a major concern for UAB head coach Mike Davis. His top three players – Paul Delaney, Wen Mukubu and Lawrence Kinnard – are all averaging over 30 minutes per game while totaling 64 percent of the team’s scoring. No other player is averaging more than 19 minutes a game. Davis is worried Delaney, Mukubu and Kinnard could burn out if they continue at their current pace.
• Central Florida has started the season 5-0 for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
• UTEP guard Stefon Jackson was named the C-USA Player of the Week. Jackson averaged 23 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the week including a career-high 25 points against New Mexico.

Mid-American Conference
• Ball State is living and dying with its defense right now because its offense cannot be counted on. The Cardinals have yet to shoot better than 43 percent from the field in a game and is 11th in the MAC with a miserable 37.9 shooting percentage.
• Erik Marschall, Bowling Green’s primary inside scorer at nearly 12 points a game, left the Falcons’ game with Arkansas State at the end of the first half after landing on his foot. X-rays will be taken Wednesday to determine the damage.
• Senior big men Chris Knaub and Craig Cashen will both be inserted into the Eastern Michigan starting lineup in hope of bringing veteran leadership and interior defense to a team that is currently lacking both.
• Akron transfer Bubba Walther hasn’t wasted time in making an impression on the Ohio basketball team. Walther came off the bench in his Bobcat debut and scored 17 points that were highlighted by five three-pointers. He was quickly promoted to the starting lineup and responded with 14 points in a win over rival Marshall. Walther provides Ohio with a consistent outside threat it didn’t previously have.
• Toledo’s lack of size up-front – it has no players taller than 6-foot-7 – is showing as the Rockets are consistently being beat up on the boards.

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