Wisconsin: The Badgers will struggle with athletic, pressure type teams early in the season. Their guards are young and inexperienced. They are also prone to turnovers (22 in a loss @ Pepperdine). They will improve and be solid by mid-season, however vs. teams like Pepperdine, Maryland (they play tonight) and Alabama, they could struggle. Also, one player who was supposed to make a big impact is Penn State transfer Shariff Chambliss. He is a sharp shooter who led PSU in scoring. Chambliss blew out his knee late last season in practice and while he is playing, he is not even close to 100%. He still runs will a bit of a limp and looks like he has lost confidence. The Badgers hope he can get back to where he was but it could take a while.
Michigan: The Wolverines really need Lester Abram in the line up. He is currently nursing a sore shoulder injured in the Wolverines win over Colorado earlier this year. He will most likely miss his fourth consecutive game on Tuesday night vs. Georgia Tech. They hope he will be ready for this Saturday’s home game vs. Notre Dame. Abram had been Tommy Amaker’s most consistent player. Abram, who is Michigan’s leading scorer, missed three games last season because of the same shoulder.
UW-Green Bay: The strength of the Phoenix’s team this year was supposed to be their experienced backcourt. Three players returned that all averaged around 10 PPG and received a ton of court time in 2003. Unfortunately, two of those three players are now out for UWGB. Guard Brandon Morris, who averaged 11 PPG and 5 RPG a year ago, is academically ineligible. Guard Javier Mendiburu, sprained his ankle earlier this year and has missed their last two games vs. Michigan State and SE Missouri. Mendiburu averaged 9 PPG and 4.5 RPG a year ago. His left ankle is severely sprained and Phoenix coach Tod Kowalczyk thinks it will take some time before he can get back on the court.
Purdue: The Boilers got a big boost last week when top-returning scorer David Teague returned from a broken hand he suffered on November 1st. At first, the Boilers thought it might be mid December or so when they got him back. He returned last Saturday to play vs. Cincinnati. Teague averaged 11.5 PPG last year, however he clearly isn’t back to form. In his two games back vs. Cincy and NC State, Teague has shot a combined 3 for 25 (12% from the field). He says he is still trying to work his way back into game shape and that his legs aren’t quite there yet. It also can’t help that his broken hand is heavily wrapped. Also, reserve forward Ije Nwankwo has left the Purdue program. Nwankwo, who played 14 minutes vs. Miami (Oh) and 14 minutes vs. Detroit this season, practiced on Thanksgiving Day with the team and then informed coach Keady he was leaving the team. His loss will definitely affect Purdue’s depth in the frontcourt.
Northwestern: The Wildcats have gotten off to a disappointing start at just 1-3. The main reason has been their poor shooting. The Cats as a team are shooting just 41% from the field and a paltry 26% from behind the arc. It isn’t as if the Cats aren’t getting good looks either as after their recent loss to New Mexico State, head coach Bill Carmody said “We had so many open shots it was just incredible.” Because of their poor outside shooting, Carmody is now making a concerted effort to change some things they do on offense in an attempt to get the ball inside more often.
Indiana: The Hoosiers have been less than impressive thus far this season. They are 2-0, however they have beaten Indiana State by just 4 points and followed that up with a win on Monday over Western Illinois by just 4 points. Hoosier coach Mike Davis actually kept star Bracey Wright on the bench for 13 minutes in the second half vs. Western Illinois because he didn’t think Wright bring enough energy to the court. Wright finished with just 4 points. Expect him to respond with a much better effort on Wednesday vs. North Carolina. IU will have to play much better than they have to simply stay in this game. The one thing they do have going for them, UNC is tired. They played and won the Maui Invitational in Hawaii last week. They then came home and whipped USC on Sunday night but most of the players admitted to being tired and not having their legs for that game. Now two days later they are again on the road to Indiana. That is the one thing that could catch up to them and keep IU in this one.
St. Louis: The Billikens have not started the season the way they had hoped. They are currently 1-3 including losses @ Austin Peay and at home vs. Oral Roberts, clearly games they expected to win coming into the season. As with our Northwestern report, the problem has been shooting woes. The Billikens are currently shooting a horrible 36% as a team for the season. However, while Northwestern has struggled from the outside, while St. Louis has thrown up bricks from point blank range. In fact in their games vs. Austin Peay and Oral Roberts, SLU was a combined 21 of 61 (34%) from INSIDE five feet. That’s right, their shots taken within five feet of the basket were breaking backboards. 34% from inside five feet is flat out terrible. You won’t win games doing that no matter whom you’re playing.