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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 01/04/2012

Each week we will take an inside look at the pulse of College Basketball around the Big Ten and other schools around the Midwest. We will highlight certain trends, hot streaks, cold streaks, and injury updates. Conference play got underway this week and there are a bevy of things that caught our attention as professional handicappers. We’d like to share some…

Illinois Fighting Illini: Illinois has dropped three of its last five games after starting the season 10-0, and has also failed to cover five of its last seven games. Looking back, the Illini skated through an easy early season schedule and have struggled against the last three strong opponents they’ve faced. They lost to Purdue, Missouri, and UNLV by an average of 11.6 points per game and needed overtime to beat Minnesota at home. Starting guard Sam Moniscalo (9.9 points per game) injured his ankle in the last game against Purdue and is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Northwestern.

Indiana Hoosiers: Indiana proved it’s for real by bouncing back from its first loss of the season (@Michigan State) with a big win over Ohio State last Saturday. The Hoosiers now have quality wins over Ohio State, Notre Dame, Kentucky, and NC State. Five players average double-digit points and this offense ranks 8th in scoring and 2nd in three-point percentage. Indiana will be a force in the Big Ten race and expect the oddsmakers to value them a lot stronger moving forward (already 8-1 ATS this season).

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Nebraska’s had a rough start in its inaugural season as a member of the Big Ten. The Huskers have dropped their first three conference games to Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State by 24, 13, and 31 points, respectively. They shot just 32% field goals and 21% from beyond the arc in those three losses. Center Jorge Brian Diaz (10.9 PPG) and guard Dylan Talley (9.1 PPG) remain out for an extended period of time. The immediate future doesn’t look good for Nebraska.

Wisconsin Badgers: Wisconsin held a 170-11 home record under current head coach Bo Ryan heading into the season. The Badgers have already dropped three home games this season after back-to-back Big Ten losses to Iowa and Michigan State. The Badgers made just 34% field goals in those two losses and an astonishingly-low 16% from three point range (8-of-50). The most recent loss to MSU saw the refs take the game-tying basket away in overtime as the clock had expired before forward Ryan Evans got off the shot. Keep an eye on Wisconsin now as they difficult road tests at Michigan and Purdue coming up. It will be difficult for players to bounce back after two deflating home losses, especially if their shooting woes continue.

Cincinnati Bearcats: Cincinnati gets three players – Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Octavious Ellis – back after each served a six-game suspension for being involved in a fight with Xavier players on December 10th. Surprisingly, the Bearcats are 6-0 since the fight and have back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. Without their best big man, Gates, in the lineup, Cincy has been going with a four-guard system. Sean Kilpatrick (17.5 PPG) and Cashmere Wright (14.5 PPG & 6.3 APG) have picked up the slack. With Gates and Mbodj back in the mix, it will be interesting how Cincinnati rotates after being so successful without them.

Xavier Musketeers: After starting the season 8-0, Xavier has now dropped four of its last five games. It all started after the brawl against Cincinnati. In their recent skid, the Musketeers have bad losses against Oral Roberts, Long Beach State, and Hawaii. They open up A10 conference play on Wednesday an an 0-5 ATS skid against La Salle.

Cleveland State Vikings: Starting guard Trevon Harmon suffered a concussion in Cleveland State’s last game against Youngstown State. The Vikings lost a halftime lead after Harmon was injured and lost the game by eight points despite being favored by 13.5. Harmon is the Vikings’ second leading scorer with 10.9 points per game and is second in both assists and steals and it’s evident that Cleveland State is much better off with him in the lineup. Harmon will for sure miss Thursday’s game against Illinois-Chicago and is uncertain for Saturday.

Dayton Flyers: The 10-4 Flyers will open up Atlantic 10 play tonight against Saint Louis without Josh Benson. Benson was having a breakout campaign before his season was ended by a knee injury sustained in the win last week over Ole Miss. He led the team in blocked shots and field goal percentage, and was second in points and rebounds. The injury is certainly devastating for him, and it puts the already thin Flyers in a tough spot going forward. At least they have an experienced senior, Luke Fabrizius (5.5 PPG), to start in place of Benson going forward.

Iowa State Cyclones: Star player Royce White played just three minutes in the last game as he was suffering from the flu. He is back and reportedly 100% for Wednesday’s game against Texas. White is Iowa State’s leader in points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage.

Memphis Tigers: Joe Jackson and Wesley Witherspoon both missed last Saturday’s game. Jackson (personal reasons) is expected to play on Wednesday night while Witherspoon (knee) remains questionable. The Tigers play Tennessee tonight and open up conference play against UAB on Saturday and could use both Jackson (11.8 PPG) and Witherspoon (5.7 PPG) in the lineup.

Missouri State Bears: Starting center Caleb Patterson suffered a concussion in Missouri State’s last game against Drake. Patterson is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.9 points per game. More importantly, however, is his presence on the interior. He’s a big reason why Missouri State ranks 30th nationally in opponents field goal percentage. The Bears are already 2-0 in the MVC after strong wins over Creighton and Drake. Patterson is out for their next game against Illinois State and it is uncertain when he’ll return after that.

Oklahoma State Cowboys: OK State has dropped four of its last five games (2-3 ATS), with the only victory coming in overtime over SMU. It only gets worse for the Cowboys as starting guard Jean-Paul Olukemi suffered a knee injury in their last game and will miss the remainder of the season. The junior guard was third on the team in points, rebounds, and steals. Fellow starting guard Markel Brown injured his hip in the same game and is doubtful for Wednesday’s game against Texas Tech. Brown is the team leader in assists and steals and fourth in points.

UW Milwaukee Panthers: UWM is 2-5 its last seven games. Five of those games were on the road, including the last four overall. The Panthers return to Milwaukee to open up conference play on Saturday in the first of three straight home games. In other good news they could have guard Ja’Rob McCallum back after McCallum missed the previous 10 games with a wrist injury. The junior was averaging 10 points per game and 1.6 steals per game.

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