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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 01/07/2007

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 head coach Bruce Weber is happy with the way point guard Chester Frazier has succeeded the departed Dee Brown. Frazier has more assists and rebounds and an equal amount of steals and turnovers than what Brown had at the same point last year. He hasn’t scored as much as Brown but he has come up with some key baskets in critical situations.
• With the Big Ten season tipping off, Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson is hoping forward D.J. White can be more consistently aggressive on the offensive end. White has shown the ability to dominate at times this season but doesn’t always play with the same urgency.
• Michigan has proved incapable of beating anyone of any significance this season. The Wolverines boast a 12-3 record but have suffered ugly losses at North Carolina State and UCLA and, most recently, at home against Georgetown. Michigan is just 4-7 ATS this year.
• Michigan State has received little attention this year but still managed to set a program record with 13 non-conference wins. The record-setting 13th win could largely be attributed to the surprisingly strong play of interior players Goran Suton and Marquise Gray. Suton and Gray both set career-highs with 27 and 19 points, respectively, in the Spartans’ 74-61 win over Loyola-Maryland.
• Northwestern’s 85-59 win over Northwestern State gave the Wildcats their 10th win of the year, marking the first time in program history they tallied 10 victories before Jan. 1. Their 10-3 record (5-4 ATS) also marks the best non-conference record of the Bill Carmody era.
• Purdue couldn’t have had a worse finish to its non-conference schedule than its 89-70 road loss to Indiana State. The Boilermakers open their Big Ten slate at Minnesota. They‘ll be looking to snap a 17-game road losing streak in conference action.

Big 12
• Baylor appears to have solved its rebounding problems. Since being outboarded 44-28 Dec. 16 versus Syracuse, the Bears have outrebounded their last three opponents 118-73.
• Colorado could suffer from some major rust when they host Central Florida Wednesday. The Buffs haven’t played a single game since Dec. 9 with contests against UC-Davis and TCU cancelled due to inclement weather.
• Kansas’ first-half defense has been about as good as can be this season as the Jayhawks are allowing only 24.1 first-half points per game. Their defense hasn’t been quite as good in the second stanza as they allow 34 points per game in the second half.
• Nebraska proved it wasn’t a one-man team in its 82-67 win over Miami. Miami played a 2-3 zone for a majority of the game in order to take leading-scorer Aleks Maric out of the game. The other Huskers responded by knocking down a season-high 15 three pointers, with Marcus Perry hitting seven and Paul Verlander four.
• Oklahoma lost freshman forward Keith Clark for the season with torn ligaments in his right knee. His absence will hurt Oklahoma’s depth at the forward position as it is now down to just three scholarship players at the position. Clark had played in all 11 games prior to the injury and was averaging 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in just over 12 minutes per game.
• Oklahoma State, which is already without a handful of players due to injury, may be without another for a brief period. Guard Terrel Harris, who is averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds on the year, suffered a non-sports related injury and his status for the near future is uncertain.
• Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight wasted little time in 2007 setting college basketball’s career wins record, picking up a 70-68 win over New Mexico for No. 880. Getting the win early should bode well for the Red Raiders as it eliminates any potential distraction heading into conference season.

Conference USA
• East Carolina head coach Ricky Stokes has used five different starting lineups in the last five games but none have proven capable of winning. The Pirates have lost seven straight (1-3 ATS) and have fallen by an average of 12 points per game.
• Rice guard Maurice Almond, the nation’s leading scorer at 30.3 points per game, is extremely efficient with his scoring. Hardly a chucker, Almond is averaging just 18 shots per game, making 53 percent of those shots. He is also averaging five three-point attempts and 10 free-throw attempts per game, connecting on 46 and 86 percent, respectively.
• Senior forward Devon Pearson, Southern Methodist’s second-leading scorer, sat out the Mustangs’ 80-76 loss to North Carolina A&T because of a hyper-extended knee. His status remains up in the air.
• Central Florida point guard Mike O’Donnell’s leadership has improved greatly from last season and it showed at the UCF Holiday Classic. O’Donnell led the Knights to the title in their host tourney with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in an 88-62 win over Texas-Pan American.
• The UTEP offense has continued to light up the scoreboard, topping 90 points for the fourth consecutive game in 95-55 win over Cal-Riverside. The Miners will look to carry that momentum over into their C-USA opener against UAB.

Mid-American Conference
• Ball State’s primary focus heading into conference season is to get healthy. Starting center Micah Rollin has sprained both ankles over the course of the last two weeks, backup guard Rashaun McLemore broke two fingers on his dominant hand and third-leading scorer D’Andre Peyton has been deeply affected by the death of both his father and grandfather over the past two weeks.
• Bowling Green matched last season’s nine wins with a 77-69 win over Jacksonville State, its fifth-straight. Although the Falcons saw their winning streak snapped the next night, they have a new found confidence. It took Bowling Green 30 games to win nine times last year but only 12 games this year.
• Eastern Michigan walk-on Jarred Axon has provided head coach Charles Ramsey with another option at both guard positions. Axon came off the bench in relief of starter Carlos Medlock, who was nursing a hip contusion, and poured in 15 points in 36 minutes in a win over Eastern Illinois.
• Free-throw shooting and balanced scoring have been the driving forces behind Ohio’s hot start. The Bobcats have attempted 110 more free throws than their opponents and are connecting at a solid 75 percent clip. Ohio’s 79-66 win over in-state rival Cincinnati marked the sixth straight game that four or more Bobcats posted double-digits in points.
• Western Michigan’s 5-8 record heading into conference season is very misleading as the Broncos played the nation’s fourth-toughest non-conference schedule. The difficult non-conference slate could pay dividends during conference season, though, as the Broncos can use that experience against a West Division that doesn’t have a single team over .500.

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