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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 01/17/2007

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 has gotten off to a very inauspicious start to the conference season. The Illini dropped the conference opener to Michigan than suffered their worst home beating in 31 years in falling 62-44 to Ohio State. They followed with two more ATS losses to Iowa and Michigan State but did pick up a SU win over the Hawkeyes. Overall, Illinois is a brutal 2-12 ATS on the season.
• Indiana forward D.J. White had the best game of his collegiate career with career-highs of 23 points and 12 rebounds in a 71-64 win over Iowa. The double-double was his second straight, perhaps pointing to more consistency from the junior forward. Continued strong play from White will make the Hoosiers a much more dangerous team.
• Michigan is defending the rim better than any other Big Ten team with a conference-best 6.7 blocks per game. Ekpe Udoh (2.4 blocks per game), Brent Petway (1.5) and Courtney Sims (1.4) are all in the top six in the Big Ten in blocks per game.
• Spartan point guard Drew Neitzel is seeing increased attention on the offensive end of the floor and his shooting percentages are starting to fall as a result. Neitzel still leads the team at 18 points a game but has shot just 36 percent over his last five games.
• Freshman Kevin Coble, Northwestern’s leading scorer, could be sidelined for Wednesday’s game with Ohio State and potentially into the weekend with an ankle injury. He wasn’t near full strength at Tuesday’s practice but head coach Bill Carmody won’t hesitate to play Coble if he can still make shots.
• Poor defensive rotations from the Purdue guards have led the Boilermakers toward having the worst three-point field goal percentage in the Big Ten. Purdue is allowing foes to hit 54 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.
• The Badgers climbed to No. 2 in the AP college basketball poll, achieving the program’s highest ever ranking for the third time this season. Their stay at No. 2 could be short-lived though as they travel to Illinois this weekend, where they haven’t won since 1997.

Big 12
• Much of Colorado’s problems this season (4-9 SU, 3-9 ATS) can be traced back to top-scorer Richard Roby. He was selected to the preseason Big 12 all-conference team but disappears for large stretches at a time. Roby is averaging a team-best 18.5 points per contest but is shooting just 36 percent and fails to provide much defense.
• More close games this season could bode well for Kansas’ post-season success. The Jayhawks have three single-digit wins already this year after just two last year. Kansas’ lack of close game experience hurt it in a four-point loss to Bradley in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. More close games could hurt bettors, though. The Jayhawks’ 23 double-digit wins last year propelled them to a 19-12 ATS record last year. Kansa is just 7-9 ATS in more closely-contested battles this year.
• Missouri has found the Big 12 to be much tougher competition than its non-conference schedule. The Tigers got off to a strong start with an 11-2 mark prior to conference games but have lost their first four contests of the Big 12 season.
• Nebraska’s 6-foot-11 center Aleks Maric should have a major advantage Wednesday night when the Huskers take on Oklahoma. Maric, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder at 18.2 and 7.9 per game, respectively, will face a Sooner front line that has no starter standing taller than 6-foot-7.
• Oklahoma faces a major matchup problem when it takes on Nebraska Wednesday night. Longar Longar, a 6-foot-11 center, is serving a two-game suspension and Keith Clark, a 6-foot-8 freshman, is out with a knee injury leaving only 6-foot-7 Taylor Griffin to guard 6-foot-11 Nebraska star Aleks Maric.
• Texas freshman stud Kevin Durant is making a major case to be not only the nation’s freshman player of the year but the player of the year in all of college basketball. Durant is averaging 24.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals, all while shooting 49 percent, in leading the young Longhorns to a 13-4 SU record.

Conference USA
• Houston guard Robert McKiver was named the Conference USA player of the week following a week in which he averaged 26 points per game on 51 percent shooting. McKiver was especially dangerous from deep as 14 of his 18 made baskets for the week were of the three-point variety.
• Marshall starting center Robbie Jackson is suffering from a bad case of plantar fascitis and is being monitored on a day-to-day basis. Jackson has yet to miss any action because of the injury but the pain has been getting progressively worse.
• Memphis showed its depth in an easy 79-54 home win over UAB. Leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts was injured just a minute into the game but that didn’t deter the rest of the Tigers from dominating a Blazer team that was supposed to be one of the best in the conference. Douglas-Roberts’ status is uncertain after suffering a flare-up of ankle injury.
• Rice’s 2-0 SU and ATS start to the C-USA season has been largely due to top scorer Morris Almond finally receiving some support. The return to health of staring point guard Lorenzo Williams has been the primary factor as Williams has averaged 16 points and five assists in the last two games.
• Southern Methodist has struggled since a 9-1 start to the season. The Mustangs have lost four of their last six SU and five straight ATS and are failing to cover by an average of nearly 10 points per game during that stretch.
• Tulane is the top defensive team in C-USA – it is holding its opponents to just 38 percent shooting – but the Green Wave will need more offense if they want to win consistently. They rank 11th in the conference in scoring and that lack of offensive punch is what has led the team to three consecutive SU and ATS losses.
• UTEP’s 0-3 road record is slightly deceiving. All three losses were close and came against Syracuse, New Mexico State and Tulsa teams that are a combined 33-3 at home this season. The Miners went 2-1 ATS in those three games.

Mid-American Conference
• Bowling Green walk-on point guard Brian Guerin has made head coach Dan Dakich look good. Guerin made the move from second team into the staring lineup once conference season started and promptly averaged nine points and six assists in his first two games.
• Quade Milum’s versatility has proved extremely useful for Kent State head coach Keith Dambrot. Milum is equally as productive as a starter or off the bench and can score from inside and out as well as being a strong interior defender.
• Ohio has developed a potent frontcourt attack with junior Leon Williams and sophomore Jerome Tillman. Williams and Tillman combine for nearly 30 points and 18 rebounds per game with each shooting at least 59.4 percent. They have been especially effective off the offensive glass as they hold down the top two spots in the conference in offensive rebounds per game with each pulling down at least 3.69 per game.

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