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Key Player Losses Shift Lines

   by Ben Burns - 02/04/2009

The big boys like North Carolina and UConn have a few McDonald’s All-Americans on their bench.

In contrast, mid-major teams like Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech may have a few McDonald’s employees on their benches. (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

The drop off in talent from the starters to the bench is one of the biggest differences between mid-major programs and teams from the bigger conferences.

It’s also why suspensions and injuries take a much bigger toll on smaller schools.

Paying attention to how far the line adjusts to these injuries and suspensions can pay dividends to bettors.

FOUR SHORT-HANDED MID-MAJORS

St. Mary’s: Losing a player the caliber of Patrick Mills would have a huge impact on any team, mid-major or not.

Mills injured his wrist in last week’s loss at Gonzaga. The sophomore point guard, who leads St. Mary’s in scoring and assists, will be out for at least three weeks. Without Mills, the Gaels lost by 18 at Portland on Saturday.

You should be able to get a solid gauge just how much of an impact oddsmakers believe the loss of Mills is to the Gaels by looking at the line for Thursday’s home game against San Francisco.

St. Mary’s was a 9-point favorite at San Francisco on Jan. 11.

Southern Illinois: Senior point guard Bryan Mullins will miss at least the next two to four weeks and possibly the rest of the season with a stress fracture.

Mullins is the school’s all-time assist leader and was on pace to become the all-time steals leader.

Mullins will be replaced in the starting line-up by freshman Justin Bocot, who is averaging four points and .5 assists this season.

Northern Illinois: Coach Ricardo Patton suspended a pair of sophomore guards, including leading scorer Darion “Jakeâ€쳌 Anderson, before Sunday’s game against Bowling Green.

Without Anderson and reserve Jeremy Landers, the Huskies fell 69-61.

Patton says the suspensions are day-to-day.

Northern Illinois is at Ohio Thursday.

Louisiana Tech: Forward Kenny Cooper was dismissed from the team in early January.

The transfer from Oklahoma State was the Bulldogs’ top rebounder and a double-digit scorer.

Without Cooper, Louisiana Tech has lost four of five and three of four against the spread.

* UPDATE: Northern Illinois reinstated Anderson and Landers Wednesday night. Both are expected to play against Ohio.

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