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Midwest Hoops Report

   by ASA - 12/09/2005

Iowa: Iowa’s fast start to the season (7-2 SU & 1-5 ATS) featured two tournament-resume games and not much else. The Hawks grabbed a win over then No. 7 Kentucky in the Guardians Classic, but suffered a tough loss against No. 2 Texas the next day. Lost in that fast start was the fact that this team simply has trouble scoring at 68 PPG. They shot a putrid 38% in the win over Kentucky and 29% in an ugly win over North Carolina State at home in the Big Ten/Acc Challenge. Hawks leading scorer Greg Brunner is shooting better from three-point range (.467) than he is from the inside the arc (.466), and junior guard Adam Haluska, known for his pure shooting standing still or off the bounce, is shooting a career low 29% from three. Couple that with the fact the Hawkeyes will lose their third leading scorer Jeff Horner for six weeks with a torn PCL and who know where the extra scoring help will come from. After their stunning loss to Northern Iowa on Tuesday, Iowa heads for another rivalry game Friday when they travel to Ames to play an Iowa State (5-2 SU & 2-3 ATS) team that has played a much weaker schedule than the Hawkeyes have.

Marquette: Tom Crean must be thrilled with the production he is getting from his freshman class, particularly point guard Dominic James, who has emerged as the leader of this young Golden Eagle team that has three freshman averaging over 23 minutes per game. After their scintillating tournament win at the Great Alaska Shootout, which served as a coming out party of sorts for sophomore forward Ryan Amoroso (9 PPG, 5 REB), Marquette lost a game at Nebraska in which they were down 19 points at the half and never climbed back in. James is Marquette’s leading scorer at 15.4 PPG and is running the offense well, getting the ball to sharpshooter Steve Novak, who is averaging 15.1 PPG and shooting .45% from beyond the arc. The game at Nebraska served as a litmus test for the Eagles, who will struggle on the road and in hostile environments, especially once they start play in the Big East. Marquette is at archrival Wisconsin Saturday, where they have struggled in the past.

Michigan: The Wolverines are quietly poised to make some noise in the Big Ten this year, led by embattled point guard Daniel Horton and his 16.8 PPG and 4.4 assists. Horton missed the final portion of last season after being suspended by Head Coach Tommy Amaker but has come out strong this year, helped by junior Courtney Sims (13.8 PPG, 7 REB) and junior Dion Harris. Harris helped Michigan to an impressive win last Saturday at Notre Dame with some big baskets down the stretch, and also led five Michigan players in double figures in a thumping of Miami (FL) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Wolverines are at South Florida Saturday, and then have another big test on December 17 when they visit Pauly Pavilion and No. 18 UCLA.

Louisville: Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are in the midst of a stretch where they play 9 of their first 10 games at Freedom Hall, but so far during that stretch the No. 5 Cards have played rather poorly. Leading scorer Taquan Dean (20 PPG, 7.3 REB) is carrying the load on his shoulders and his numbers reflect that burden. The senior guard is shooting only 37% from the field and only 36% from three, compared to 44% last season when he reaped the benefits of Francisco Garcia drawing consistent double-teams. It is a young team that sees Dean as the only senior, and one of only three players averaging in double figures in points. Sophomore Juan Palacios (12 PPG) and junior Brandon Jenkins (10.5 PPG) are the others. Louisville’s schedule is a cupcake-laden schedule, where their first test is their annual date with Kentucky on December 17 at Rupp Arena. The Cardinals host Chicago St. next Tuesday. This team is currently 4-0 SU but they have failed to cover a game this year (0-3 ATS).

Indiana: What a difference a week makes for the Hoosiers. After pushing Duke for 40 minutes on the last day of November, they lay an egg on the road and lose to Indiana State after committing 22 turnovers. Through its first seven games, Indiana is averaging 15 turnovers a game due in part to a young backcourt that includes sophomore Robert Vaden and junior Roderick Wilmont. Marco Killingsworth went out of his mind and thoroughly outplayed reigning defensive player of the year Shelden Williams in that contest against Duke, pouring in a career high 34 points in 34 minutes of action. The Auburn transfer also grabbed 10 rebounds and kept Williams in foul trouble and off the floor for the majority of the night. Killingsworth and injured sophomore D.J. White will surely dominate smaller and younger teams in the Big Ten, but unfortunately for Mike Davis and Hoosier fans, White will be sidelined until January with a broken foot. White led the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding a season ago, and his absence now forces senior Marshall Strickland (14.8 PPG) to stop defenses from collapsing on Killingsworth. Strickland’s 55% 3-point field goal percentage should certainly do that. The Indiana State game was the first of a five-game stretch on the road for Indiana, with the biggie coming Saturday when they visit No. 15 Kentucky.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes are yet another Big Ten team enjoying the friendly confines of their home arena, as they play nine of their first 11 games at home. Senior forward and leader Terence Dials has been dominant on the glass averaging 7 caroms and chipping in 15 points a night. The Buckeyes clobbered a Virginia Tech team that nearly upset the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils by hoisting up a barrage of three’s, 22 to be exact. Senior guard Je’Kel Foster leads that attack shooting 57% from down town. Ohio State actually fires up an average of 17 three’s a night, which will surely haunt them on certain nights on the road when they fall behind. The Bucks face an intriguing non-conference test when they travel to Philadelphia on Saturday to face a Saint Joseph’s squad that just beat Kansas.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ perimeter defense was exposed in a loss to Memphis last Saturday as they surrendered 11 three’s to the Tigers. Memphis ended up shooting a sizzling 11-21 from beyond the arc. Cincinnati is actually hoisting up three’s as frequently as their opponents, the difference being the Bearcats are shooting a dismal 25% in their two losses compared to 39% (21-55) in their three wins. They are a combined 10-39 from down town in those losses, early proof that this edition of Cincinnati basketball is going to live and die by the three. Interim head coach Andy Kennedy has his team struggling to an 0-4 mark ATS this season.

Michigan State: A somewhat strange beginning to the season for the Spartans, who suffered a shocking 22-point opening game loss at Hawaii and have since won six of their last seven. During that stretch, State has beaten then No. 8 Arizona in Maui 18-hours after their thrilling 3-overtime loss to No. 9 Gonzaga, and on Tuesday the Spartans beat No. 6 Boston College after beating Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Their brutal early season schedule fizzles dramatically from here until their Big Ten opener at Illinois in January, as they host Wichita State Saturday (whose only loss is by 1-point to Illinois), followed by some cupcake home games with Cleveland St., Florida International, Tennessee Tech and Coppin St. Fifth-year senior Paul Davis is off to a fast start averaging 20 PPG and 10 rebounds and Maurice Ager is averaging over 21 PPG and shooting 35% from beyond the arc. This is another team that will win a lot of games by controlling the boards and the paint. With Davis, senior Matt Trannon, and freshmen Marquise Gray and Goran Suton, Michigan State has five legitimate post players who will wear down and physically beat down smaller teams, which bodes well for them in the coming weeks.

Dayton: The Flyers passed a big test with their road win at Cincinnati two weeks ago. Sophomore Brian Roberts has emerged as Dayton’s leading scorer shooting nearly 50% from the floor and senior Monty Scott is shooting 43% on thee-point field goals. Dayton has started the season 5-0 at home (also undefeated ATS at home) and will play six of their next seven at home, including date with DePaul on Saturday.

Memphis: The seventh-ranked Tigers look poised for a deep run come March led by an incredibly young team that, barring any departures for the NBA, will be a staple in the top-10 for the foreseeable future. This team is currently 6-1 but a perfect 5-0 vs. the Vegas number. John Calipari’s squad will play in a decidedly weak Conference USA and could very well run the table, but a strong non-conference schedule that includes Duke, Texas, UCLA, Gonzaga, and Alabama will surely get this team familiar to the big game atmosphere. Sophomore Darius Washington is off to a great start, as is freshman Shawne Williams, who leads the Tigers in scoring (17.4) through the first month of the season. Not only can this team shoot the three, their defense showed in the game against Duke that they can put the clamps on a prolific perimeter scorer such as J.J. Redick. Their young big men such as Williams and sophomore Joey Dorsey need to get tough inside, as does senior leader Rodney Carney who incidentally failed to tally a point in the win at Cincy, as Shelden Williams torched Memphis in the paint scoring 30 points on 11-13 shooting. The Tigers face two straight road games, this Saturday at Providence and a week later at Ole Miss, followed by six straight home games that include dates with Gonzaga and Texas.

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