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Midwest Hoops Report

   by ASA - 01/19/2006

Wisconsin: The Badgers were really short handed in their 77-67 loss @ Ohio State on Wednesday Night. Two of their key reserves did not make the trip. Center Greg Stiemsma who is a defensive force inside averaging 1.5 blocks per game has taken a leave of absence for a medical issue. Academics may also be involved here. Also, back up forward Marcus Landry, who averages 6 PPG and 3 RPG, had an academic issue. As of now, it looks like it has been straightened out and he could return. The Stiemsma issue is much tougher to get information on and that situation is completely up in the air right now. Wisconsin has a relatively easy go of it the next week as they host North Dakota State in a non-conference match up on Saturday before hosting Penn State next Wednesday.

Louisville: The struggling Cardinals have suddenly become ravaged with injuries. Already sporting an unimpressive 0-2 record against teams in the RPI top 50 and having never led in both of those losses (Kentucky, Villanova), the Cards are now relinquishing home court advantage, having lost two of three at famed Freedom Hall with the loss to undefeated Pittsburgh Sunday. Leading scorer and Captain Taquan Dean re-aggravated an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the month, relegating him to only 3 points in only 12 minutes in their game against Pitt. The injury was same one that forced Dean to miss Louisville’s win over UC Davis Jan. 9 and their 12 point loss @ St. Johns this week. Before the injury, Dean had been already been struggling mightily over the previous few weeks. Over the past eight games he has shot a putrid 26 percent from three-point range. Over the past five games he's committed nearly as many turnovers (18) as made baskets (22). Dean also had back-to-back off games to open Big East Conference play, as he was not a factor in a home-court loss to Villanova, getting into early foul trouble and playing only 18 minutes. At Providence he committed six turnovers but also had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Louisville, 13-3 SU, 3-9 ATS, host No. 4 Connecticut on Saturday and Cincinnati next Wednesday.

Oklahoma: The Sooners started Big 12 play losing two games by a total of three points (Missouri, at Nebraska), and nearly started 0-3 in conference play before beating Texas A&M 45-44 last Saturday, handing the Aggies their first home loss of the year in the process. A big problem for the Sooners has been the absence of junior guard Michael Neal, who missed the first two Big 12 games with an injury that limited him to only 22 minutes and only 3 points in the win at A&M. Without Neal, the team’s best shooter, the Sooners have shot just 22 percent (8-for-35) from behind the arc in the two games he has missed. Because of this, opponents have been able to collapse on big men Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray down low and as a result, the two have had trouble putting a solid game together at the same time. Bookout had eight points against Nebraska and 14 points versus Missouri, while Grey had 19 points and eight points in those two games. Neal’s return didn’t cure Oklahoma’s shooting woes, as they shot only 37% from the field and 31% from three-point range at A&M, and Bookout (6 points) and Grey (13 points) combined to take only nine shots from the floor. Oklahoma, 10-4 SU, 2-7 ATS, hosts Texas Tech on Saturday and is at Baylor next Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks suffered one of the worst defeats the program has endured in a long time as they fell to in-state rival Kansas State last Saturday, a loss that snapped a 31-game winning streak over the Wildcats. Making matters worse was the fact that the Jayhawks blew a 12-point second half lead against a K-State team that was coming off a 15-point home loss to Nebraska, a game in which the Cornhuskers only made 11 field goals. “I underestimated them a little bit, seeing how they lost to Nebraska,â€쳌 Kansas freshman guard Brandon Rush said of K-State. “But that won't happen again. We won't underestimate anybody any more.â€쳌 The Jayhawks then proceeded to blow another late lead Monday at Missouri, holding the Tigers without a field goal for the last 8 minutes and 30 seconds of the game and then missing two free throws to win with 0.4 seconds left before losing in overtime. Rush is Kansas’ leading scorer at 13 points per game, but was involved in some controversy with the NCAA last week after some believed benefits violations. Rush was actually suspended last Thursday after the NCAA determined that he had improperly received benefits from an agent after applying for the 2005 NBA draft. Rush later withdrew his application and signed with the Jayhawks. Kansas then appealed the suspension, and Rush was reinstated before the game against Kansas State. The school said the violation occurred when another player's agent assisted in arranging tryouts for Rush with professional teams. The NCAA found that Rush did not know about the agent's actions. Rush scored 12 points in 38 minutes of action last Saturday and scored 14 Monday. Kansas, 10-5 SI, 6-6 ATS, hosts those same Cornhuskers Saturday and then travels to Texas A&M next Wednesday.

Texas Tech: Red Raiders Head Coach Bob Knight has endured arguably his toughest season in Lubbock, though a 2-1 start in the Big 12 makes things a little easier to swallow. Tech has gone through some inner turmoil as of late, losing two players off their roster for various reasons. One of Texas Tech's seven freshmen left the team Jan 9., becoming the second player in a month to fall off Bob Knight's roster. After Tech fell to Texas A&M a little over a week ago, Knight said guard Terry Martin and Tech's coaching staff had come “to a mutual agreement.â€쳌 “We agreed that this is not the right program for him and we wish him well in wherever he goes,â€쳌 Knight said. Martin, whose performance Knight has criticized at times this season, was not on the bench for Tech in their game against A&M. He played in 14 games and averaged 7.4 points, 1.9 assists and 2.8 turnovers. Martin was part of the largest recruiting class in Knight's 40 years of coaching, seven freshmen and one junior college transfer. The other player to leave Tech this season was junior guard Drew Coffman who told Tech coaches after Christmas that he wouldn't be back. In 11 games this season, Coffman averaged nearly 15 minutes a game, scoring 5 points to go along with nearly 3 assists. Texas Tech, 10-7 SI, 5-11 ATS, is at No. 22 Oklahoma Saturday.

Buffalo: The Bulls have lost two of their last four games after winning nine games in a row, and got more bad news when junior forward Parnell Smith (11.1 PPG) was forced to miss the last three games with a high ankle sprain he suffered in a loss at Northern Illinois. He sat out games vs. Toledo, Western Michigan and Wednesday night vs. Ball State. The Bulls turned to sophomore forward Andrew Atman to fill Smith’s scoring vacancy, and Atman actually filled in nicely chipping in nine points in a win over Western Michigan. The seven-foot Atman is an interesting story, a medical redshirt two years ago and a kid who only played four minutes in two games all of last year. So far this year, Atman had played just 16 minutes before being called on to fill the role vacated by Smith, and he has showed signs of improvement. Atman finished 4 for 5 from the field against Western Michigan, grabbed two rebounds, and added an assist, a block and a steal in 11 minutes. He then struggled in the Bulls win on Wednesday over Ball State playing just 12 minutes. Finding scoring in unexpected places is a welcomed sight for the Bulls, who have five starters averaging in double figures but don’t have a bench player averaging over 2.6 points per game. Buffalo, 12-3 SU, 8-3 ATS, hosts Central Michigan Saturday and is at Bowling Green next Tuesday.

Miami (OH): A 3-5 start to the season has turned into a 5-0 burst in Mid-American Conference play, aided by senior guard William Hatcher’s 13.8 points per game, five assists, and incredible durability. He played his second straight 40-minute game against Ball State and the fourth of his season, and tied a career high for minutes with 45 against Eastern Michigan in an overtime win on Jan. 7. Hatcher is averaging a team-leading 36.8 minutes per game. The RedHawks have actually alternated four-game winning and losing streaks for the past two months, and have won 12 straight Mid-American Conference home games. It is no coincidence that the RedHawks started their second four-game winning streak in January, a month they have historically had success in. Under head coach Charlie Coles, Miami has posted a 54-26 mark during the month of January, including a 16-3 mark over the past three years. Miami, 8-5 SU, 7-5 ATS, continues its seven-game stretch against MAC West Division teams when it hits the road for a battle at Western Michigan on Saturday, followed by a return home to host Kent State at next Tuesday.

Kent State: The Golden Flashes have also come out of the gate rolling in the MAC, jumping out to a 4-0 start, led by senior guard Jay Youngblood’s 15 points per game and five 20-point plus outputs this season. The Golden Flashes are also getting it done where the fundamentals are concerned, most notably the glass, where the Flashes lead the MAC in rebounding margin at +6.5 and also average an astounding 13 offensive rebounds a night, which leads the MAC. The Flashes are spreading the rebounding wealth, as eight players average at least two rebounds a night. The Golden Flashes, who have posted a 97-18 record at home over the last seven seasons, go for their first 6-0 start in MAC play in school history when they play at Northern Illinois Saturday.

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