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Midwest Hoops Report

   by ASA - 12/15/2004

Illinois: The Illini continue to be the #1 ranked team in the country but they are admittedly tired. Their most recent stretch of games saw them play five times in just 11 days. Those games were not all at home either. They played host to Wake Forest on 12/1, then went to Arkansas on 12/4 and came home to host Chicago State on 12/6. After that rough stretch, they continue traveling to Georgetown on 12/9 before hosting Oregon on 12/11. Despite the taxing schedule, the Illini won all of those game easily with the closest margin being 12 points @ Arkansas. Now they get to rest. They took a few days off before getting back to work in practice. Their next game is this Sunday vs. Valparaiso. One thing that head coach Bruce Weber is not happy with (as of late) is turnovers. Since committing just 6 turnovers in a blowout win over Wake Forest, the Illini have averaged over 14 giveaways per game. They are working on their half court offense this week to help shore that up.



Wisconsin:
The Badgers really missed the inside presence of senior forward Mike Wilkinson in their loss @ Marquette last Saturday. Wilkinson did play but scored just 2 points in a season low 26 minutes of action. He sat on the bench for the final 8 minutes of play. Wilkinson injured his left leg in last week’s win over UWGB and did not practice last Thursday. On Friday, he practiced in a very limited fashion. After UW’s loss to Marquette, Wilkinson (who is averaging 12 PPG and 6 RPG) had a walking boot on his left leg. Head coach Bo Ryan admitted that he probably shouldn’t have even been on the floor. His status for Wednesday’s game vs. UW Milwaukee is iffy. He may play, but how much and how effective he can be are the key questions. Before the Marquette game, Wilkinson was just starting to get in a good offensive rhythm. His previous two games he scored 26 in a win @ Rutgers and 18 in a win over UWGB.



Michigan:
Talk about a banged up team. The Wolverines are now playing without three of their starters. Forward Lester Abram, who was their best overall players, is now out for the year due to a shoulder injury. Point guard Daniel Horton, who is a three year starter for Michigan, is out for at least the rest of the month due to a knee injury. Finally, starting big man Graham Brown is now out 4 to 6 weeks after his second hernia surgery since January of this year. In Michigan’s nine point home win over South Florida last weekend, three of the nine players that saw court time were either walk ons or former walk ons.



Xavier:
New XU head coach Sean Miller is not happy with his team’s defense. After losing a home game to Creighton on November 30th, Miller really worked his team at the defensive end for the next 12 days leading up to their visit to Tennessee last Saturday. Unfortunately, the extra work didn’t seem to pay off. Despite playing very well on the offensive end, the Musketeers allowed Tennessee to shoot a whopping 58% from the field and an unheard of 70% from behind the three point line in a 71-69 loss. With the game being so close despite those lofty numbers, imagine how easily Xavier would have won had they played even average defense. For the season, the Musketeers are now allowing their opponents to shoot 46% from the field and 42% from behind the arc. Part of that could be because of their tough schedule having already played Miami of Ohio, Creighton and Miami of Florida in addition to Tennessee. It doesn’t get any easier as Xavier now plays host to Mississippi State this Saturday.



UW-Green Bay:
Phoenix head coach Tod Kowalczyk is finally close to getting some help for his thin backcourt. Suspended guard Brandon Morris, who averaged 11 PPG a year ago, is eligible to return after UWGB plays Northern Iowa on Wednesday. Also Utah transfer Ryan Werch, will also be eligible to play following Wednesday’s game. Kowalczyk expects Werch to be one of the best shooters in the Horizon League. Both will take the court for the first time when UWGB hosts the Oneida Bingo and Casino Classic at the end of this month.



Illinois - Chicago:
The Flames got a huge boost a last week when forward Armond Williams became eligible to play the rest of the season. Williams is a hard nosed forward who averaged nearly 12 PPG and 6 RPG last year en route to being named to the Horizon League’s all defensive team. In his two games back, Williams has scored 20 points and picked up 17 rebounds in 60 minutes of play. The results of those two games? A 9-point home loss to UW Milwaukee and an 8-point road win at UNC Wilmington. UIC’s next game is this Tuesday @ Duke followed up by a Saturday tilt DePaul.



Iowa State:
ISU head coach Wayne Morgan is looking for someone, anyone else to step up and score some points besides his three main guys. Starters Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock and Jared Homan are scoring 70% of the team’s points thus far this season. Morgan knows he needs one or two other players to step up and take on a scoring role to complement these three. When playing top notch teams, the problem tends to be more evident. In fact, in last week’s 7-point loss to state rival Iowa, the “big threeâ€쳌 combined for 54 of the starters 56 points. The ISU bench contributed just 7 points. Morgan would like his team to be more balanced and is still waiting for some of his players to help him out.



Cincinnati:
Star forward Eric Hicks did not play in Cincy’s most recent home win vs. Detroit. Hicks, who averages 13 PPG and 9 RPG, was out because of a sprained left knee. Hicks is one of just two effective post players on the Bearcat team this year. The other, Jason Maxiell, scored 15 points and had 6 rebounds in the 61-44 win over the Titans. However, with Hicks out of the line up, Detroit out rebounded Cincinnati 40 to 26. It was the worst that Cincy has been out rebounded in 46 games dating back to the 2003 season.



Memphis:
The Tigers season is spiraling out of control. After getting beat up in NYC by a very good Pitt team, Memphis turned around and got embarrassed at home vs. a mediocre at best Ole Miss squad. Head coach John Calipari said that he has coached some bad teams in his career, but they always played hard no matter what. This team does not. Part of the problem has also been injuries. After losing key guard Jeremy Hunt to an injury before the Pitt game, the Tigers are now down to just three healthy guards. Two of those three are freshman. Now to add fuel to the fire, second leading scorer Sean Banks has been suspended for violating team rules. Not good! They have struggled vs. physical teams that play good defense. In those games (see Pitt and Maryland) the Memphis players constantly settled for poor shots and seemed to back down from the more physical team. That is not a good sign. They definitely have talent, however their mindset is not where it needs to be right now.



Dayton:
Starting center James Cripe, who has been out the last three games because of a hip injury, had an MRI done earlier this week. Cripe still cannot put any weight on his left heel and most likely will miss this Saturday’s game vs. St. Louis. This is also final exam week for the Dayton players which will have an affect on their practice and preparation for this Saturday’s game at St. Louis.

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