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Midwest Basketball Report

   by ASA - 12/22/2005

Creighton: Injuries could not have come at a worse time for the Blue Jays, who start Missouri Valley Conference play next week and will most likely do it without two starters and their first option off the bench. Leading scorer Nate Funk (19.3 PPG) has missed the last four games for the Blue Jays nursing a shoulder injury, and his starting backcourt mate sophomore Pierce Hibma (1.5 PPG) has also missed the last four games with a knee injury. Worse for the Blue Jays is the fact that their key reserve Jimmy Motz (9.4 PPG), who would normally pick up the scoring slack in the absence of Funk, has missed the last three games with an injury. Still, Creighton has started the season 6-2 and has won by an average of 14 points in those six wins, including a blowout win over Nebraska and a nice win over Xavier last Sunday led by junior forward Anthony Tolliver’s 26 points and 10 rebounds. The Blue Jays hope to have Funk and Hibma back sooner than later, as they play four of their first seven MVC games on the road and are averaging only 64 points a night on the road compared to 77 points per game at home. Creighton hosts Missouri St. (formerly known as Southwest Missouri State) in their MVC opener next Wednesday. The Blue Jays are 5-2 SU and 3-3 ATS.

Xavier: Sean Miller’s young Musketeers team, one that sees only three seniors on the roster, has gotten some balanced scoring over the first month of the season. Sophomore Stanley Burrell (13.4 PPG) leads four scorers averaging in double figures and this Xavier team appears to be deeper than ever, with eight regulars averaging at least 13 minutes per game. Xavier looks to get even deeper with the addition of 7-foot junior center Adam Simons, who is now eligible after transferring from North Carolina State during the middle of last season. Simons has practiced with the Musketeers all season but wasn't eligible to play until the end of fall semester. Simons, who played all of 27 minutes in six games in ’03-04, will not be thrown into the rotation immediately. In fact, Xavier fans might not see him at all according to Miller. “Adam is going to have a hard time playing,â€쳌 Miller told the Cincinnati Post. “Brian Thornton (13.1 PPG) and Will Caudle (6.4 PPG) are playing very good basketball. Justin Doellman and Josh Duncan are both solid in their roles. It's going to be very difficult for Adam to get minutes. It's not a reflection of Adam as much it is who's already playing.â€쳌 Simons saw no action in the loss to Creighton last Sunday. Xavier, 5-2 SU, 4-1 ATS, hosts Troy on Thursday.

Indiana State: The Sycamores two-man show of senior David Moss (18.5 PPG, 6 REB, 4 AST) and Tyson Schnitker (12.7 PPG) has reminded Indiana State fans what it feels like to win on a consistent basis. After going 20-39 the past two seasons, the Sycamores have started 6-0, including a win over Big Ten power and chief rival Indiana. Moss is shooting nearly 50% from the field and Schnitker shoots nearly 47% from three-point rang (15-32). The most intriguing aspect of the Sycamores start is their ability to win close games. Minus Indiana State’s season opening blowout of Central State (OH), the Sycamores have won their last five games by a total of 21 points, including two-straight one point wins at Butler and home against Ball St. The tight affairs will likely continue Thursday when Indiana State hosts Illinois St. to open Missouri Valley Conference play, a team Indiana State lost to twice last season by a combined five points.
Saint Louis: The Billikens 5-4 start is more impressive than the record would indicate. A decidedly tough schedule that had five of their first nine games on the road, including a visit to Chapel Hill and the No. 24 Tar Heels earlier in the month and a trip to perennial mid-major power Wisconsin-Milwaukee (both losses), highlighted a stretch in which the Billikens alternated wins and losses for eight straight games. Junior center Ian Vouyoukas is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds in only 29 minutes of work, and freshman Tommie Liddell is averaging 13.7 PPG and just fewer than six rebounds per night. Vouyoukas is shooting almost 60% from the floor for the Billikens, but has been limited due to a tendency to get into early foul trouble. Against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he played seven minutes in the first half, against Jackson State he played only eight minutes in the first half, and against Oakland he played only seven. In those three games, Vouyoukas hasn’t played more than 26 minutes. St. Louis will not win if their primary scorer and rebounder continues to battle foul trouble, especially when they start play in the Atlantic 10. The Billikens, 5-4 SU, 3-3 ATS, continue their play against ranked opponents when they host No. 11 Gonzaga on Thursday.

Wichita State: The Shockers have actually played a decent schedule to go along with their 9-2 record. Their two losses came at No. 6 Illinois and at No. 11 Michigan State, and the Shockers nearly upset the Illini, but a layup with 1.3 seconds denied them of one of the biggest wins in school history. Senior Paul Miller leads the Shockers in scoring (13.9 PPG) shooting an astounding 61% from the field and also leads them in rebounding (7.1 RPG). The Shockers, with only one senior contributing significantly, have looked to their young talent to score. They have two Junior College transfers in guards Ryan Martin and Jared Young that have starred on previous teams and are trying to make an impact on head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad. Martin has showed the most of the two, establishing himself as one of Wichita State’s best reserves averaging six points and five rebounds to date, including a performance in November when he scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The Shockers host Indiana State next Wednesday after a seven-day lay off.

Notre Dame: The Irish have been somewhat of a disappointment thus far, with their one quality win being a road victory over an Alabama team that isn’t ranked anymore. Mike Brey has laid out a nice cupcake schedule for the Irish mixed in with three tournament resume games against North Carolina State, Michigan and the game against Alabama. Notre Dame lost two of those three, and both losses came on their home floor. The Irish resume their soft schedule with home dates with Niagara, Columbia, Fordham and Wofford before they begin Big East play Jan. 4 at Pittsburgh. Torin Francis has been tremendous in his senior season, averaging 15.3 PPG and over 10 rebounds a night. Fellow senior Chris Quinn, who leads the Irish in scoring at 15.8 PPG, missed Notre Dame’s last game against IPFW on Dec. 18 with a bone bruise but should be back when the Irish, 5-2 SU, 3-2 ATS, host Columbia on Friday.

Okalahoma State: The Cowboys 7-3 start to the season has been overshadowed somewhat by the inconsistent shooting of sophomore sensation JamesOn Curry. Curry was held scoreless in Oklahoma State’s crushing loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 5, and went into Tuesday’s game against Mercer shooting only 36% from the field and averaging only 11 PPG. Curry seemed to break out of that shooting slump Tuesday, going 11-15 from the field and 6-8 from beyond the arc in scoring a game-high 30 points. With Curry struggling and the Cowboys desperate to find any scoring during the three games prior to Tuesday (they averaged only 63 points per game in those contests compared to 79 in their previous six), it has been their defense that has been keeping them in games by holding every opponent this season below their scoring average. Oklahoma State, 7-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, hosts Tennessee Thursday and then visits Alabama-Birmingham next Wednesday.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are no doubt feeling the wrath of head coach Bob Knight after their sluggish 6-6 start, which includes a recent 1-5 stretch and losses to Louisiana Tech and at UNLV. A young club that has not one senior on its roster and six freshmen, Tech is relying on junior guard Jarrius Jackson (18.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.3 APG) and sophomore Martin Zeno (16.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG) to do everything on the floor. Jackson and Zeno shoot the ball an average of 28 times a game for Knight compared to just 31 shots a game from everyone else. Jackson and Zeno are still playing and shooting remarkably well with the emphasis and offensive load squarely on their shoulders. Jackson is shooting 43% from the floor and 45% from three, and Zeno is shooting a shade under 50% from the field. Look for defenses to start keying on Tech’s two-headed scoring machine, making someone else beat them. Teams will surely look at what Syracuse did to Jackson and Zeno, when Jim Boeheim’s famous zone forced the two into a combined 7- 28 shooting in a 35-point blowout loss for Tech. The Red Raiders, 6-5 SU, 3-7 ATS, are at New Mexico St. next Thursday.

DePaul: A nice win on Tuesday at California for the Blue Demons, who have now won four of their last five, including some impressive wins on the road at Dayton and at No. 22 Wake Forest. Especially impressive was the fact that won three of the four games on their recent road stretch battling injuries. Center Marlon Brumfield, one of only two seniors on the roster, has missed a lot of practice with a sprained ankle. Sophomore forward Karron Clarke, averaging 10.6 points a game and five rebounds, missed the Wake Forest game and saw limited minutes against Old Dominion, also with a sprained ankle. Freshman Wilson Chandler (6.7 PPG, 7.1 RBG) had the flu and a sore leg. Compounding the Blue Demon injury problems is the sudden foot injury to 6’9â€쳌 sophomore center Wesley Green (5.3 PPG), who was emerging as a force in the paint, shooting nearly 46% from the field. Green, after scoring 13 points at Wake Forest, sat out the Old Dominion game and did not make the trip to California. Team doctors are trying to determine the extent of Green’s injury. DePaul, 6-4 SU, 6-3 ATS, hosts Florida International next Saturday

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