Midwest Hoops Report
January 16, 2013
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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. A number of things caught our attention as professional handicappers this week. We’d like to share some of our insight…
Wisconsin Badgers: Wisconsin has won seven straight games after a mediocre 7-4 start and the Badgers currently find themselves alone atop the Big Ten. They’ve won two consecutive games in impressive fashion, beating Illinois at home by 23 points, and winning at #2 Indiana. This was supposed to be a down year for Bo Ryan’s crew, and they don’t have the talent and firepower of the Michigan’s and Indiana’s. But with their slow-down efficient offense and stifling defense (7th nationally in points allowed), the Badgers will compete all season in the best conference in College Basketball.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: The Gophers are 11-1 in their last 12 games. They’ve covered their first four games in the Big Ten and they have one of the most balanced and efficient offenses in the Big Ten. Minnesota ranks 40th in points per game and 35th in field goal percentage (47%). No player averages more than 15 points per game but five players are averaging 9.5 points per game or more. They are also one of the best “intangible” teams in the league. They rank first in blocked shots, first in steals, and second in rebounding margin.
Nebraska Huskers: Nebraska is, by no means, a hot team right now. The Huskers have dropped their first four conference games by an average of 15 points per game. But they are getting undervalued by the oddsmakers. They’ve covered three straight, all as an underdog. Look for them to continue to be a large underdog as the season goes on, especially now that forward Brandon Ubel will miss time with an elbow injury. Ubel is third on the team averaging 12.1 points per game and he is the team’s leading rebounder.
Iowa State Cyclones: The 11-4 Cyclones are trending up after a strong start to conference play. They took Kansas to the brink on the road – where NO ONE beats the Jayhawks – before losing in overtime. They bounced back with a 20-point win at home over Texas. They’re only four losses this season were all on the away from home against strong teams: Kansas, Iowa, UNLV, and Cincinnati. Look for the high-scoring Cyclones (7th in points per game) to continue to ascend.
Marquette Golden Eagles: The Golden Eagles have started out 3-0 in conference play with three notable wins over UConn, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh. The offense is really picking up as they’ve scored 74+ points in four of the last five games.
Wright State Raiders: Wright State has won seven of the past eight games overall and is 6-1 ATS in the process. WSU has taken an early lead in the Horizon league standings and looks to be a prime contender for the league title. Defensively the Raiders have allowed 60+ points just twice in the past 10 games and this unit ranks 12th in points per game allowed and 74th in opponents’ field goal percentage.
Evansville Aces: The Aces are 11-6, but their most recent four losses are to Creighton, Murray State, Butler, and Colorado State – teams with a combined record of 56-10 (.850 winning percentage). They’ve won four straight conference games and are 3-1 ATS over that span. With back-to-back wins over Northern Iowa and Wichita State, the Aces have shown they will be a major player in the Missouri Valley Conference race.
Missouri State Bears: The 5-12 Bears appear to have some life. They’ve won three of their first five conference games, only losing to Evansville in overtime, and against 17-1 Creighton. They’ve covered four of those five games and are trending up after getting beaten up in a brutal early season schedule.
Illinois Illini: Illinois has dropped four of its last six games after its impressive 12-0 start to the season. The Illini have lost back-to-back games in blowout fashion (L by 17 at home to Minnesota and L @Wisconsin by 23 points) and they are just 1-6 ATS in the past seven games. The offense is scoring 9.2 fewer points per game over the previous six games than it averaged through the first 12 games of the season.
Indiana Hoosiers: Don’t get us wrong, Indiana is still one of the better teams in the nation, and the Hoosiers will likely be a prime contender for a national title; but the oddsmakers have been overvaluing the Hoosiers as of late. They are just 1-4 ATS in their last five, the latest being a SU loss at home as a 10.5 point favorite over Wisconsin. There aren’t going to be many “easy” wins in the Big Ten this season, so be weary of large favorites – which Indiana will be many times this season.
Northwestern Wildcats: Northwestern is 1-3 SU & ATS in its first four conference games. Two of their best players, JerShon Cobb and Drew Crawford, are out for the remainder of the season and the Wildcats have struggled to find scoring in their absence. They’ve shot just 38.5 percent field goals in their first four conference games. They are also making a living from the three point line, attempting 99 threes through the past four games, making just 31 percent.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: After a surprising 10-1 start, the young Cowboys are coming down a bit. They’ve dropped three of their last four overall and have failed to cover four straight games. The defense has allowed 10.5 PPG more in the last four games than it did during the first 11 games of the season.
Cincinnati Bearcats: Cincy is just 3-3 in the last six games with all three of those losses at home. The Bearcats are also getting a bit overvalued by the oddsmakers, as they have failed to cover five of their last seven games. Second leading scorer, Cashmere Wright (15.1 PPG), suffered a knee injury on Tuesday against DePaul. He is questionable for Cincy’s next game; a home date with Marquette on Saturday.
Detroit Titans: Detroit is 4-1 straight up in its last five games, but is 1-4 ATS over that span. The Titans were favored in all five games, proving that the oddsmakers are overvaluing them just a little bit too much.
The offense can score with the best of them, averaging 80 points per game over the previous five. But the defense is holding them back. They rank 252nd in opponents’ points per game and 312th in opponents’
field goal percentage.
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers: After a strong conference opening win at Valparaiso as an eight point underdog, Loyola-Chicago has dropped three consecutive games and is 0-3 ATS over that span. Two of those losses were at home as a favorite and the one road game was an ugly 13-point defeat.
Illinois State Redbirds: The Redbirds have dropped their first five conference games of the season and are 0-5 ATS over that span. The bad news doesn’t stop there, as second leading scorer Tyler Brown (15.1 PPG) was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
Michigan State Spartans: Branden Dawson twisted his surgically-repaired left knee in Sunday's win against Nebraska. Coach Tom Izzo said he spoke with Dawson on Monday morning and confirmed that there was "nothing wrong in any way, shape or form" following the event that caused him to clutch his knee and leave the game briefly. Izzo also said there were no plans to shut down freshman guard Gary Harris for surgery after his left shoulder popped out against Iowa on Thursday for at least the second time this season. Harris went 1-for-11 shooting against Nebraska on Sunday.
Kansas Jayhawks: Leading scorer Ben McLemore was “sore” on Tuesday morning because of his sprained right ankle, yet has suffered no structural damage and is listed “day-to-day,” Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self stated on Tuesday morning. McLemore gingerly limped off the court after spraining his ankle, but may not even miss the Jayhawks’ next game on Saturday at Texas.
Butler Bulldogs: Rotnei Clarke, the Bulldogs' top scorer, has already been ruled out of the next two games, both at home: Wednesday against Richmond and Saturday against No. 8 Gonzaga. He was fouled from behind against Dayton and plunged head first into the padded support. He was hospitalized with a neck-injury but was able to walk out under his own power. Guards Alex Barlow (2.5 PPG) and Chase Stigall (1.9 PPG) will be counted-on to pick up some of the scoring load.
Xavier Musketeers: Guard Dee Davis missed Xavier’s last game against George Washington with a sprained wrist and will miss Wednesday’s game against St. Bonaventure as well. Davis is the third leading scorer, averaging 9.5 points per game.
Bradley Braves: Starting center Will Egolf is back in the lineup for the Braves. Egolf, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound senior center, started 12 of 13 games before getting suspended after he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. He is averaging 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and gives the Braves dramatically more physicality inside, even off the bench. Egolf played 25 minutes and scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the win over SIU last night.
Southern Illinois Salukis: The Salukis took the suspended shirt off junior guard Diamond Taylor and they also get sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels back for a second game last night. Daniels, SIU’s 6-5, 230-pound starter, missed three games after spraining his right ankle at Missouri State. Taylor was eligible but did not play last night while Daniels played 30 minutes and scored seven points in the loss at Bradley.
Wichita State Shockers: Wichita State forward Carl Hall has fully recovered from thumb surgery and is available to play on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-8 Hall is the team’s second leading scorer at 13.9 points per game and is also the team’s leading rebounder. The Shockers went 6-1 in his absence.