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Midwest Hoops Report

   by ASA - 01/13/2006

Colorado: The Buffs cruised into Big 12 play riding a nine-game winning streak, then were quickly knocked back to reality after a 25-point walloping at the hands of No. 16 Texas last Saturday. Colorado had beaten Texas twice last season, including knocking the Longhorns out of the Big 12 tournament. This performance was completely opposite of their performances against Texas last year, as the Buffs shot a dreadful 31% (22-77) from the field and even worse from three-point range (6-25). Still, Colorado’s season has been an extremely successful one to date, one that has been marked by a dying basketball trait, senior leadership. With eight scholarship seniors, the Buffs easily rank as one of the more experienced teams in the conference. Colorado's lineup includes three seniors (guard Jayson Obazuaye and forwards Chris Copeland and Andy Osborn), junior guard Marcus Hall and sophomore guard Richard Roby, the team's top scorer (15.8 PPG). Another senior, 6-9 center Julius Ashby, could regain his starting job. Ashby sat out the first eight games under academic suspension and still is rounding into form, averaging 7 points and five rebounds in the four games he has played thus far. “Hopefully an experienced team won't get rattled as easily on the road,â€쳌 CU coach Ricardo Patton said. Hopefully they won’t, as Patton’s Buffs, besides the trip to Austin, still face trips to Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma St., Iowa St. and Nebraska, who just upset No. 22 Oklahoma last weekend. To survive that stretch in a conference that many pundits have declared to be “downâ€쳌 this season and still be in the hunt would be a significant accomplishment for Colorado. The Buffs have finished in the upper division of the Big 12 only three times. A second place in 1996-97, a tie for fifth in 2002-03 and fourth place in 2003-04. An upper-division finish in the Big 12 could land CU its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. Colorado, 10-2 SU, 7-3 ATS, is at Missouri Saturday.

Michigan: The Wolverines, who haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998, have stumbled out of the gate in the Big Ten. After losing at Indiana, Michigan struggled mightily against a bad Purdue team that was even more shorthanded than it was early in the year. The Boilermakers lost three starters, including their leading scorer Carl Landry, and with all the injuries facing Purdue, Michigan still was lucky to squeak out a 68-65 win. Compounding problems for Michigan is the loss of senior guard Lester Abram, who has missed the first two Big Ten games for the Wolverines with a sprained big toe on his right foot he suffered in Michigan’s non-conference finale against Chicago State. No one knew about the injury until almost a week later, when Abram said he was unable to participate in the team's shoot around. He was on the bench during both conference games wearing a protective boot on the foot. Michigan will miss Abram more on defense than they will his 12.6 PPG. Abram's defensive assignment in the Indiana game would have been sophomore Robert Vaden, who scored all 17 of his points in the second half to lead No. 16 Indiana to a 70-63 victory. Michigan, 11-2 SU, 5-4 ATS, is at No. 6 Illinois on Saturday.

Purdue: Speaking of those Boilermakers, things probably can’t get any worse for first year head coach Matt Painter, who has already lost leading scorer Carl Landry (15.2 PPG) and guard David Teague to season ending injuries, along with Tarrance Crump to a suspension. Then came Purdue’s Big Ten opener Jan. 4 against Northwestern, when forward Nate Minnoy tore his MCL and, along with fellow starters Landry and Teague, will miss the entire season. Minnoy, a freshman, averaged 11 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during the Boilermakers' first 12 games this year. That means three of Purdue’s starters are gone for the year, leaving senior Matt Kiefer as Painter and Purdue’s only reliable option. Kiefer nearly single-handedly beat Michigan, scoring 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists in the 68-65 loss. Freshman Korey Spates will also do a lot of the scoring for the Boiler’s in the absence of their three starters. Spates scored 17 points in the loss to Michigan after not playing against Northwestern. Purdue, 6-7 SU, 4-7 ATS, hosts Minnesota on Saturday.

Indiana: Bad news struck the Hoosiers two days after their thrilling 17-point comeback win over Ohio State Saturday when they learned that DJ White, who broke his left foot in Indiana’s exhibition opener Nov. 4 and missed seven games, will be out indefinitely after re-injuring the same foot Saturday against the Buckeyes. According to White and Indiana head coach Mike Davis, the injury occurred when White fell to the floor, and another player stepped on his foot. According to Indiana sources, the injury is not in the same place where he broke it before. Instead, it’s on the other side. This second break in White’s foot might cost him the season, but for now sources are only saying that he is “out indefinitely.â€쳌 White, who was averaging 9 points and six rebounds in the five games he played in (all Indiana wins), was limited to 6 minutes in the second half against the Buckeyes and 17 for the game. He scored six points and had seven rebounds. “It is really disappointing, because DJ's previous injury had healed, and he was really coming on strong,â€쳌 IU coach Mike Davis said in a release from the university’s media relations. “This is a totally different situation than his previous injury, and it is unfortunate for any player to have to suffer two separate yet significant injuries through the course of the season.â€쳌 White returned from his initial injury on Dec. 18 and played against Charlotte Dec. 19. Without White the Hoosiers were 5-2. With him, they were 5-0, and took a six-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game at Michigan State, a game in which the Hoosiers were trounced by an angry Spartans team. The Hoosiers, 10-2 SU, 4-5 ATS, host No. 6 Illinois next Tuesday.

Northwestern: It’s no secret that during Big Ten media day this summer many picked the Wildcats to finish near the bottom of what is the top-ranked conference in the nation. But Northwestern has jumped out to a 2-1 start in the Big Ten and is playing extremely well this season, despite the ugly loss at Penn State Wednesday. The Wildcats are led by Big Ten leading scorer Vedran Vukusic (21.8 PPG) and a zone defense that is holding opponents to only 54 points a game. That zone completely shut down Vincent Grier and Minnesota last weekend, and though many feel that was an upset, the feeling here is that the Wildcats, led by Vukusic and sharp-shooting freshman Craig Moore (5-7 on 3FG against Minnesota), will finish much higher than most expected. The only bad news for Northwestern is on the injury front, where senior forward Mohamed Hachad has missed the last three games following an emergency appendectomy. Hachad is averaging almost 10 points and six rebounds per game. Northwestern, 9-3 SU, 2-4 ATS, is at No. 21 Wisconsin Saturday.

Indiana State: A five-game losing streak and a 1-4 start in Missouri Valley Conference play has quickly overshadowed the Sycamores blazing and impressive 8-0 start to the season. Even worse for the Sycamores is the loss of star guard David Moss, who went down with a hamstring strain on Dec. 30 and is now out 2-4 weeks. Moss, who was leading the Sycamores to their best season in recent memory, was averaging 17.8 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. Indiana State will have a tough time getting on track as they play five of their next eight Missouri Valley Conference games on the road, including trips to Southern Illinois Feb. 1 and Northern Iowa Feb. 4, teams who are a combined 8-1 in MVC play. The Sycamores, 8-5 SU, 6-4 ATS, host Creighton on Sunday.

Creighton: The Blue Jays received a devastating blow last week when it was learned that their leading scorer and senior leader Nate Funk would miss the rest of the season after injuring his left shoulder. Funk was averaging 17 points and five rebounds in only six games this season. Funk, a third-team preseason All-America pick, will apply for a medical redshirt to regain his final year of eligibility. Creighton, 9-4 SU, 6-5 ATS, hosts Indiana State Sunday.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys picked up their first Big 12 win on Tuesday with a 69-67 win over a surprisingly good Texas A&M team that has started 11-2. The problems for the Cowboys, however, have come on defense, where they have been significantly hampered and shorthanded due to the loss of two key players. Defensive stopper Marcus Dove went down three weeks ago with a hairline fracture near his pelvis, and since then the Cowboys have been less than fantastic on the defensive end, allowing 70 points a night in the five games Dove has sat out compared to just 62 points in the games in which he appeared. The Cowboys have also had to go without leading rebounder David Monds, who has been hampered the last three games with a severely bruised knee cap. The injury limited Monds to just eight minutes in Oklahoma State’s 69-61 loss at Missouri. The Cowboys, 10-5 SU, 6-5 ATS, visit Baylor on Saturday.

DePaul: The Blue Demons scored their first ever Big East win last Saturday when they beat a struggling Notre Dame team in Chicago. DePaul got some more good news when 6-9 sophomore center Wesley Green was able to resume practicing despite a fracture in his right foot. The injury, which has sidelined Green for the last five games, is healing, though Green's status will be evaluated on a game-by-game basis. Green, who was averaging 14 points and more than five rebounds when he got hurt, will wear a protective boot on his right foot when he is not practicing while the injury continues to heal. Head coach Jerry Wainwright said he would use Green according to how he responds in practices. The Blue Demons, 8-5 SU, 7-5 ATS, are at No. 11 Pittsburgh Thursday and host Rutgers Sunday.

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