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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 12/20/2006

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
• Iowa head coach Steve Alford has been the recipient of some harsh words from the locals following losses to in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Drake, dropping the Hawkeyes to 5-6. Alford claims a tough schedule and point guard Mike Henderson’s early-season injury has led to the struggles.
• The Wolverines have gotten off to a great 11-1 start but none of those 11 wins could be considered a quality one. Games against UCLA and Georgetown over the next two weeks will prove if Michigan is for real.
• Injuries to Raymar Morgan and Maurice Joseph have given Michigan State freshman wing player Isaiah Dahlman some unexpected minutes. He has responded nicely with 10 points and 3.5 assists per game in 34.5 minutes over the last two contests. Continued strong play from Dahlman would go a long way toward the Spartans staying competitive until Morgan and Joseph return.
• Ohio State has seen a dramatic improvement in its defense since Greg Oden’s debut three games ago versus Valparaiso. The Buckeyes have allowed their last three opponents to shoot a combined 34 percent from the field, including holding in-state rival Cincinnati to just 26 percent shooting Saturday.
• Purdue head coach Matt Painter has stated that he will not alter his starting lineup despite backup guard Chris Kramer outplaying starter Chris Lutz. Painter said Kramer will continue to come off the bench because he doesn’t like to juggle lineups during winning streaks, even though the Boilermakers fell to Butler Saturday.
• The Badgers reached the highest ranking in program history when they climbed to No. 4 following a win over then No. 2 Pittsburgh. Alando Tucker and Brian Butch were the catalysts, going for a combined 59 points and 21 rebounds on 18-of-28 shooting.

Big 12
• Baylor’s rebounding woes were never more evident than in the Bears’ 94-71 loss to Syracuse. Baylor was outrebounded 44-28 with its top three interior players – center Mamadou Diene and forwards Tim Bush and Kevin Rodgers – combining for just eight rebounds.
• Iowa State starting center Ross Marsden is still recovering from mononucleosis and may miss Tuesday’s game with Ohio State. His absence would make defending Buckeye phenom Greg Odem even more difficult for the Cyclones.
• Highly-touted freshman Bill Walker made his long-awaited debut for Kansas State Saturday, tallying 15 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench against Kennesaw State. Wildcat fans will get to see a lot more of Walker over the next week as Kansas State plays four games in the next seven days.
• Missouri will look to stop its losing streak to Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights rivalry at six Tuesday. First-year head coach Mike Anderson has been made well-aware of the importance of this game and has marked this game as one of the biggest on the calendar.
• Chronic hip problems could sideline Nebraska leading scorer and rebounder Alecs Maric for an extended period. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging 19.4 points and 7.4 boards through seven games but sat out Sunday’s contest with Alabama A&M. Maric’s status will continue to be evaluated and his availability will be determined on a day-to-day basis.
• Oklahoma State freshman guard Obi Muonelo is likely lost for the season with a broken fibula, dropping the Cowboys to just eight healthy scholarship players. Muonelo’s absence was evident in Oklahoma State’s loss to Tennessee, its first of the season. The Vols pressed the Cowboys into 23 turnovers and Muonelo, who is an excellent ball-handler, would’ve played a valuable role in breaking the press.
• Texas Tech’s road win over Arkansas Saturday sets up Bobby Knight to break Dean Smith’s all-time wins record at home. A win over Bucknell Saturday would tie the mark and a victory over UNLV Dec. 28 would eclipse it.

Conference USA
• East Carolina freshman forward John Fields could miss an extended period with an injured shoulder that forced him to leave the Pirates’ game against Morgan State Monday night. Fields, who is third on the team in scoring at more than 10 points a game and first with more than three blocks per game, is being evaluated Tuesday and could miss Thursday’s game against Winthrop.
• Memphis gets one of its last chances to pick up a big non-conference win when it travels to play Arizona Wednesday. The Tigers downed Oklahoma and Kentucky earlier this year but lost to Georgia Tech and Tennessee. A soft conference slate means Memphis needs as many important non-conference wins as possible in order to get a better seeding come tourney time.
• Southern Mississippi’s 77-64 loss Saturday to No. 9 Alabama was its first of the season, but the Golden Eagles (7-1) are still enjoying their best start since the 2000-01 season.
• UAB’s recent poor shooting stretch continued in Monday night’s loss to Old Dominion as the Blazers shot just 30 percent from the field. The effort marked the third straight game that UAB shot less than 32 percent.
• Sophomore Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida’s leading scorer at more than 18 points a game, credits an improved outside shot for his jump in scoring this year. Last year, Taylor averaged just four points a game with most of his baskets coming on highlight-reel dunks.

Mid-American Conference
• Akron junior Jeremiah Wood is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday night against St. Francis after a near two-year recovery from an ACL tear. Wood made the MAC All-Freshman team two years ago but struggled to come back. Now that he is healthy, Wood provides Akron some much needed rebounding and interior depth.
• Buffalo leading scorer and rebounder Yassin Idbihi could miss his second consecutive game Thursday night with a bursa sac injury to his right elbow. Idbihi, who saw his 102 consecutive game streak end Monday, is being evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
• Kent State will play its third team ranked in the top 20 when it travels to play Duke Tuesday. The Golden Flashes lost the first two – to Ohio State and Butler – but head coach Jim Christian believes the experience will be good come conference season.

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