Michigan: Forward Brent Petway (eight points per game, six rebounds per game) has not played since injuring his shoulder in a January 8th win over Fairfield. However, there is good news for Michigan fans. Petway participated in practice on Monday for the first time since the injury. He said the shoulder felt fine and that he will be able to go on Wednesday vs. Indiana and on Saturday vs. Wisconsin. Starting forward Chris Hunter also missed the Northwestern game last Wednesday, and the Penn State game on Saturday due to a sprained ankle. Hunter will be re-evaluated this week to see if he can go on Wednesday or Saturday. Also, former starting center Graham Brown (who has been out since undergoing hernia surgery on December 7th) was back on the court last Wednesday unexpectedly. Head coach Tommy Amaker wasn’t sure if he would play Brown, but put him on the court near the midway point of the first half. Brown played 23 minutes and finished with six rebounds. If the Woverines can ever get fully healthy, they will be a very dangerous team.
Iowa: Despite winning last Saturday over Minnesota, 66-60, the Hawkeyes still are not playing like they did early in the season when they beat Louisville and Texas in the Maui Classic. In fact, the Hawkeyes really struggled to score in the second half of last Saturday’s game, going the final 10 minutes 46 seconds of the game WITHOUT a field goal. They did end the Gophers' 10-game winning streak, but we don’t classify the win as all that impressive. Iowa was in a must-win situation, and the Gophs had only played one true road game all season heading into that contest. It had the makings of a potential blowout, yet Iowa just barely squeaked by. This team may get back to playing good basketball, but right now the Hawkeyes are not on their game.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys obviously have one of the best teams in the country this season. They start five seniors, and the average age for their starters is 23 years old. They are deep and experienced. Their one Achilles heel to this point in the season is they have struggled vs. zone defenses. Texas employed a zone on and off throughout the game on Monday and beat the Cowboys by 14 points. During two stints when the Horns switched to zone, they went on a 7-0 run and a 15-0 run. In OSU’s only other loss to Gonzaga, OSU was hit with a zone the entire game. Against Syracuse, who only plays zone, the Cowboys struggled on offense for 33 minutes before catching fire and blowing the game open down the stretch. Finally, last Saturday at home vs. Iowa State (who has lost 27 straight Big 12 road games) the Cyclones employed a zone defense, and OSU was able to hang on for a closely contested 10-point win. You can bet that until the Cowboys start proving they can beat it, the zone defense will be here to stay. It is is a way teams can at least have a chance to stay in the game, or possibly win.
Iowa State: You may want to be wary to looking at the Cyclones when playing on the road. While they are a very solid team at home, they have now lost a Big 12 record 27 consecutive conference road games. They have not won since February of 2001 away from home. Since then, ISU has logged almost 30,000 miles without a win. However, the Cyclones feel that they are getting closer. They lost by "just 10" to a very good Oklahoma State team last weekend. Before that, three of their most previous four Big 12 road games were decided in the closing moments. They lost at Mizzou by three points this year despite leading by 12 with just over four minutes to go in the game. Then dating back to the end of last year, the Cyclones were up by five points at Kansas with just three minutes to play. They went on to lose by a point in overtime. The game previous to that, ISU lost at Nebraska despite leading by one-point with less than 30 seconds remaining. Thus, they are definitely getting closer, but still lose. The Clones next road game is at Kansas State on January 26th.
Southwest Missouri State: Wow, have the Bears had some tough luck. They are currently 1-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference with all but one of those losses coming by five points or less. Last Saturday they nearly knocked off MVC favorite Southern Illinois on the road. In that game, SMS led 60-58 with time running out when USI’s center, Josh Warren, BANKED in a 23 footer at the buzzer to give the Salukis a 61-60 win. In that game, senior guard Trevyor Fisher was ejected for a flagrant technical foul. Fisher and Southern Illinois’ Jamaal Tatum got into it late in the game. Three SMS players left the bench in defense of Fisher and were also ejected. They were Tyler Chaney (10 PPG), Blake Ahearn (seven PPG) and Jeremy Nicholson (two PPG) all GUARDS. The Bears were worried all four players could be suspended, leaving them extremely thin in the backcourt. That is not the case, however as MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin reviewed the tape and there will be no suspensions due to the incident.
UNC Charlotte: The 49ers lost a key player on Saturday when starting point guard Mitchell Baldwin dislocated his shoulder diving for a loose ball. Baldwin, who averages 10 PPG and nearly four assists per game, will miss Wednesday’s game at Cincinnati. With head coach Bobby Lutz at the helm, UNC Charlotte has not done well when traveling to Cincinnati. The 49ers are just 1-6 SU in that spot. Charlotte travels to Marquette this Saturday and it is also unlikely that Baldwin will be ready for that game. The 49ers are 12-2 overall and a perfect 3-0 in Conference USA.
Wisconsin: The Badgers really needed some time off after playing three games in just eight days and they got it. After coming from eight points down in the last three minutes to beat Michigan State, Wisconsin now has off until Saturday when they travel to Michigan. This is a VERY dangerous game for the Badgers, who are coming off an extremely emotional game vs. Michigan State and they play host to #1 Illinois next Tuesday. Michigan, as you can see above, is really beat up, giving Wisconsin a break here. We’re not saying the Badgers will win because they very well may not given the situation, however if Michigan was at full strength, Wisconsin’s chances of winning would be very slim. Forward Alando Tucker (16 PPG) sat out last Wednesday’s win over Ohio State but did make a go of it on Sunday. Tucker, who has an injury to his foot, was noticeably limping late in the game vs. MSU. He finished with eight points and six rebounds. Head coach Bo Ryan believes with nearly a full week off, Tucker should be OK by Saturday. Ryan is giving his team a bit of a break as they won’t practice again until Wednesday.
St. Louis: Billikens starting center Tom Frericks college career is over. At the end of December, Frericks suffered his third concussion this season and was warned that his career could be in jeopardy. Frericks, who has not played since December 29th, has now been advised by doctors to give it up. His symptoms still have not subsided including a nearly constant headache. Frericks was averaging four PPG and four RPG this year. A year ago, he put up eight PPG and six RPG while leading Conference USA in field goal percentage. St. Louis will now start sophomore Ian Vouyoukas, a native of Greece, at center.
Eastern Michigan: Junior forward John Bowler (14 PPG and six RPG) EMU’s second leading scorer and rebounder sat out the Eagles home loss to Bowling Green last Wednesday due to an injured back. BG beat the Eagles by 16 points. Bowler then came off the bench in last Saturday’s eight-point loss at Akron. In that game, Bowler played 23 minutes but scored just four points and fouled out. The eight-point margin in that game was a bit deceiving as Akron led by 25 points midway through the second half before Eastern Michigan went on a late run.
Western Michigan: It’s really tough to win on the road in the MAC. That is unless you are the Western Michigan Broncos. WMU won its third straight MAC road game last Saturday when the team went into Bowling Green and won 70-61 as a 3 1/2-point underdog. The Broncos also won at Buffalo by 17 points, and at Northern Illinois by three. Thus, they are 3-0 on the road in the MAC. To put that in perspective, the other 12 teams in the MAC have a combined conference road record of just 6-26 SU.
Kansas: KU All-American forward Wayne Simien is back in the lineup. After injuring his thumb a few weeks back, Simien has been forced to play with a cast on his non-shooting hand. That hasn’t seemed to bother him as he has tallied 36 points and 26 boards in his two games back. He has had some problems grasping the ball, especially in traffic. Before each game the head official checks the protective cast and can ask for more padding to be applied if needed. So far so good as both officials have "ok’d" his cast.
Wichita State: The Shockers came up with a huge performance on Monday night beating Evansville, 81-65. That score didn’t even touch the surface as to how badly Wichita State dominated the game. Evansville, playing its fifth game in just 11 days, looked tired and lethargic. WSU, fueled by their embarrassing loss on Saturday at Indiana State, looked great. In fact, Shocker head coach Mark Turgeon called the first half the best 20 minutes of basketball his team has played since he became the head man back in 2000. The Shockers and Aces were tied at seven when WSU went on an incredible 33-3 run to lead 40-10 at half. This Wichita State team (12-2 overall) is deep, experienced and very good. Keep a close eye on the Shockers. If they are a small favorite or getting points on the road, they are probably worth a look.