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Midwest college hoops report

Editor's note: Our friends at American Sports Analysts hail from Big Ten country in the Midwest. They stay on top of all the latest news from this area and you can read regular Big Ten reports from ASA on VI. As usual, they are strong out of the gate in college hoops with a 13-9 record (59.1%). Check out ASA's season pack now!

Wisconsin: The Badgers really missed the inside presence of senior forward Mike Wilkinson in their loss at Marquette last Saturday. Wilkinson did play, but scored just two points in a season-low 26 minutes of action. He sat on the bench for the final eight minutes of play. Wilkinson injured his left leg in last week’s win over Wisconsin-Green Bay, and did not practice last Thursday. On Friday, he practiced in a very limited fashion. After UW’s loss to Marquette, Wilkinson (who is averaging 12 points per game and six rebounds per game) had a walking boot on his left leg. Head coach Bo Ryan admitted that he probably shouldn’t have even been on the floor. His status for Wednesday’s game versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee is iffy. He may play, but how much and how effective he can be are the key questions. Before the Marquette game, Wilkinson was just starting to get in a good offensive rhythm. His previous two games, he scored 26 points in a win at Rutgers and 18 in a win over UWGB.

: Talk about a banged up team. The Wolverines are now playing without three of their starters. Forward Lester Abram, who was their best overall player, is now out for the year due to a shoulder injury. Point guard Daniel Horton, who is a three-year starter for Michigan, is out for at least the rest of the month due to a knee injury. Finally, starting big man Graham Brown is now out four-to-six weeks after his second hernia surgery since January of this year. In Michigan’s nine-point home win over South Florida last weekend, three of the nine players that saw court time were either walk ons or former walk ons.

Xavier: New Xavier head coach Sean Miller is not happy with his team’s defense. After losing a home game to Creighton on November 30th, Miller really worked his team at the defensive end for the next 12 days.  Unfortunately, the extra work didn’t seem to pay off for last Saturday's visit to Tennessee. Despite playing very well on the offensive end, the Musketeers allowed Tennessee to shoot a whopping 58 percent from the field and an unheard of 70 percent from behind the three-point line in a 71-69 loss. With the game being so close despite those lofty numbers, imagine how easily Xavier would have won had they played even average defense. For the season, the Musketeers are now allowing their opponents to shoot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc. Part of that could be because of their tough schedule having already played Miami of Ohio, Creighton and Miami of Florida in addition to Tennessee. It doesn’t get any easier, as Xavier now plays host to Mississippi State this Saturday.

UW-Green Bay: Phoenix head coach Tod Kowalczyk is finally close to getting some help for his thin backcourt. Suspended guard Brandon Morris, who averaged 11 PPG a year ago, is eligible to return after UWGB plays Northern Iowa on Wednesday. Also Utah transfer Ryan Werch, will also be eligible to play following Wednesday’s game. Kowalczyk expects Werch to be one of the best shooters in the Horizon League. Both will take the court for the first time when UWGB hosts the Oneida Bingo and Casino Classic at the end of this month.

Illinois - Chicago: The Flames got a huge boost a last week when forward Armond Williams became eligible to play the rest of the season. Williams is a hard-nosed forward who averaged nearly 12 PPG and six RPG last year en route to being named to the Horizon League’s all-defensive team. In his two games back, Williams has scored 20 points and picked up 17 rebounds in 60 minutes of play. The results of those two games? A nine-point home loss to UW Milwaukee, and an eight-point road win at UNC Wilmington. UIC’s next game is this Tuesday at Duke followed up by a Saturday tilt versus DePaul.

Iowa State: ISU head coach Wayne Morgan is looking for someone, anyone else to step up and score some points besides his three main guys. Starters Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock and Jared Homan are scoring 70 percent of the team’s points thus far this season. Morgan knows he needs one or two other players to step up and take on a scoring role to complement these three. When playing top-notch teams, the problem tends to be more evident. In fact, in last week’s seven-point loss to state rival Iowa, the "big three" combined for 54 of the starters' 56 points. The ISU bench contributed just seven points. Morgan would like his team to be more balanced, and is still waiting for some of his players to help him out.

Cincinnati: Star forward Eric Hicks did not play in Cincy’s most recent home win against Detroit. Hicks, who averages 13 PPG and nine RPG, was out because of a sprained left knee. Hicks is one of just two effective post players on the Bearcat team this year. The other, Jason Maxiell, scored 15 points and had six rebounds in the 61-44 win over the Titans. However, with Hicks out of the line-up, Detroit out-rebounded Cincinnati, 40-26. It was the worst that Cincy has been out-rebounded in 46 games dating back to the 2003 season.

Memphis: The Tigers season is spiraling out of control. After getting beat-up in New York City by a very good Pittsburgh team, Memphis turned around and got embarrassed at home versus a mediocre at best Ole Miss squad. Head coach John Calipari said that he has coached some bad teams in his career, but they always played hard no matter what. This team does not. Part of the problem has also been injuries. After losing key guard Jeremy Hunt to an injury before the Pitt game, the Tigers are now down to just three healthy guards. Two of those three are freshman. Second-leading scorer Sean Banks (16 PPG) has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. They have also struggled against physical teams that play good defense. In those games (see Pitt and Maryland), the Memphis players constantly settled for poor shots and seemed to back down from the more physical team. That is not a good sign. They definitely have talent, however their mindset is not where it needs to be right now.

Dayton: Starting center James Cripe, who has been out the last three games because of a hip injury, had an MRI done earlier this week. Cripe still cannot put any weight on his left heel, and most likely will miss this Saturday’s game versus St. Louis. This is also final exam week for the Dayton players, which will have an affect on the practice and preparation for this Saturday’s game at St. Louis.

Illinois: The Illini continue to be the top-ranked team in the country, but they are admittedly tired. Their most recent stretch of games saw them play five times in just 11 days. Those games were not all at home either. They played host to Wake Forest on 12/1, then went to Arkansas on 12/4 and came home to host Chicago State on 12/6. After that rough stretch, they continue traveling to Georgetown on 12/9 before hosting Oregon on 12/11. Despite the taxing schedule, the Illini won all of those game easily with the closest margin being 12 points at Arkansas. Now they get to rest. They took a few days off before getting back to work in practice. Their next game is this Sunday versus Valparaiso. One thing that head coach Bruce Weber is not happy with (as of late) is turnovers. Since committing just six turnovers in a blowout win over Wake Forest, the Illini have averaged over 14 giveaways per game. They are working on their half court offense this week to help shore that up.



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