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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 02/03/2007

Each week ASA will take a look at the major college basketball happenings around the Midwest. We’ll check in on the team making the most waves in the Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Horizon, and Mid-American conferences to see what’s going on in our native Midwest.

Big Ten
• Indiana more than likely cemented itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament with last night’s win over No. 2 Wisconsin. With no more than five Big Ten teams – possibly even four – likely to be extended an invitation to the big dance, the Hoosiers joined Wisconsin and Ohio State as locks. At 6-2 in conference action and only one game behind the Badgers and Buckeyes for the top spot in the Big Ten, Indiana could make a run for the regular season conference title. The Hoosiers don’t have any games left against Big Ten squads with above .500 conference records with road games at Michigan and Michigan State providing the only road blocks. Meanwhile, both Wisconsin and Ohio State have road games at Michigan State along with a Feb. 25 meeting that will hand one of the those teams an additional Big Ten loss.

Big 12
• Look for the Kansas Jayhawks to put together a big run heading into the conference and NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks are tied atop the Big 12 standings with Texas A&M at 6-1 but have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the conference. They play only two ranked teams – Texas A&M and Texas – for the rest of the conference slate and get both teams at home, where they are 14-1 SU on the season. The only possible road pothole would be Kansas’ Feb. 19 contest at in-state rival Kansas State. The Jayhawks have been a horribly inconsistent team over the past couple of years but look for a young roster – their five leading scorers are either sophomores or freshmen – to round into form heading into tournament season.

Conference USA
• A brutal non-conference schedule will more than likely keep Houston out of the NCAA Tournament but that hasn’t stopped the Cougars from putting together a nice run in Conference USA action. They are 2.5 games behind Memphis – which will, in all probability, be the lone C-USA representative in the big dance – with a 5-2 conference mark and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. A large portion of Houston’s success can be attributed to its outside shooting. The Cougars top the conference and are second in the country with 11.2 three-pointers made per game with guard Rob McKiver doing a majority of the damage. He is first in C-USA and third in the nation with 3.9 made trifectas per game and rarely ventures inside the three-point arc. Of McKiver’s 311 field-goal attempts, 209, or 67 percent, have come from beyond the arc, an average of over 10 per game.

Missouri Valley
• Wichita State has fought its way back into the MVC title and NCAA Tournament hunt with a three-game winning streak. The Shockers, who were ranked as high as No. 8 earlier this year, went through a midseason rough patch in which they lost six of seven contests. They stood at just 3-6 in conference play and on their way out of postseason contention before embarking on their current three-game stretch. Wichita finishes the regular season with five of its final seven games at home and have a major opportunity to make a dent in the MVC landscape with a home win over conference-leading Southern Illinois this weekend.

• No. 11 Butler is running away with its conference more than any other team in any other conference. The Bulldogs are 9-1 in conference play and 21-2 overall. Wright State is the only other team in the Horizon with an above .500 conference record and Butler beat it 73-42 early in the conference season. The Bulldogs have won six consecutive contests SU and, more importantly, have covered each contest and by an average of seven points per game. Butler’s only real roadblock from here on out will be a non-conference battle with MVC-leader Southern Illinois.

Mid-American Conference
• A veteran Akron team is blazing through its MAC schedule with seven straight victories following a conference season-opening road loss to Ohio. The Zips, who have won by an average of more than 15 points during their streak, feature a lineup in which their six leading scorers are all of junior or senior status. Akron is 7-1 in MAC action and 16-4 overall and can build on that record with four of its next five games at home. An important contest to monitor will be the Feb. 13 meeting with Ohio, when the Zips will look to exact some revenge for their lone conference loss. Akron has been solid on both ends of the floor this season as it is the only team in the MAC to be ranked in the top 50 nationally in both scoring offense and defense.

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