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Midwest region report

Editor's note: Our friends at American Sports Analysts hail from Big Ten country in Wisconsin. As one of his regular features on, Mike Merlet of ASA (53-47, 53%) breaks down the latest news from basketball teams in the Midwest. For expert picks from ASA, look for its pick packages on a daily basis. Or for discount rates, check out ASA's weekly and monthy packs!

The Muskateers could be without one of their key players for the near future.  Forward Brian Thornton, who averages 12 PPG and 7 RPG, is being bothered by tendonitis in his lower leg.  Head coach Sean Miller has decided that until Thornton is back to or at least close to 100% he wants him to rest.  Thus, Thornton was not on the court for Xavier’s 12 point win over LaSalle on Wednesday.  The game previous to that vs. St. Joe’s, he was able to play just 10 minutes scoring two points.  There is no timeline for his return and he will be evaluated on a game by game basis. 


Central Michigan: 
CMU scored just 39 points in last Saturday’s loss to arch rival Western Michigan.  Part of the reason that the Chippewa’s were so inept on offense was because head coach Jay Smith decided to suspended his TWO leading scorers before the game for violations of team rules.  Junior guard Kevin Nelson (17.5 PPG) and sophomore guard Sefton Barrett (10 PPG) have been “suspended indefinitely” and missed the WMU 84-39 blowout loss.  CMU shot just 13% in the second half and were outscored 47-12.  Because Smith decided to use the ever popular “suspended indefinitely” term, we are not sure as to when these two will return.  Even though the two players returned to practice on Wednesday, they will not play on Thursday at home vs. Ball State.  After that their status is up in the air.  We’ll try and stay on top of this situation.


In last week’s edition of our Midwest News and Notes, we mentioned that Marquette point guard Travis Diener had an ankle injury and was not at 100%.  We also stated that if he couldn’t play, the Golden Eagles were going to be in big trouble.  Well, Diener sat out Marquette’s last three games and they were blown out twice and squeaked by a poor opponent in the other.  Louisville blasted the Golden Eagles 99-52 last week with Diener on the bench.  Last weekend, took two overtimes to get by a St. Louis team (5-14) that has struggled all season.  On Wednesday, Marquette lost at home to UAB by 23 points.  The bad part is that Diener’s injury is worse than originally expected.  They have discovered a stress fracture in his foot and a timeline for his return has not been set.  He will most likely miss Saturday’s home game against Southern Miss.  Diener has not practiced since the Charlotte game back on January 22nd and is currently wearing an immobilizing boot.  Making matters worse for the Eagles, the new starting PG, Joe Chapman injured his knee vs. UAB with just over 7 minutes to go in the game.  He had to be helped from the court and did not return.  Chapman was having the best game of his career to that point with 18 points.  If he can’t go on Saturday, guard/forward Dameon Mason will be asked to handle the point guard duties.   


UT’s leading scorer Keith Triplett (16 PPG), played only half of the game when the Rockets were beaten by Ohio on Wednesday, January 26th.  He was bothered by a hip injury and scored just 7 points.  Since that game, the Rockets have played two home games and won them both over Kent and Western Michigan.  Triplett was back to his normal self in those games logging over 30 minutes in both and scoring 12 points vs. Kent and 21 points vs. WMU.


The Badgers played without forward Alando Tucker in last Saturday’s 76-50 win @ Penn State.  Tucker continues to be bothered by a foot injury (we hear it’s his toe) and hasn’t been practicing much since the problem occurred.  He did not practice on Monday but he did take part in shooting drills for the second half of practice.  He did not play in Wednesday’s win over Northwestern.  This will probably be an ongoing situation with Tucker as the injury needs rest to get better.  Rather than sit him for weeks at a time, coach Bo Ryan will limit him in practice and play him when available in games.  Tucker can still be very effective as he scored 16 points playing on his injured foot vs. Illinois last Tuesday. 


Head coach Bill Carmody has been upset with his team’s aggressiveness this season.  He said he is bothered by his players’ “lifelessness” this season and he can’t put his finger on it.  Last Saturday, NU led Ohio State by 8 points with just seven minutes remaining in the game.  At that point, the Buckeyes went on a 22-1 run to end the game and won 65-52.  That’s right, the Wildcats scored just ONE point in the final seven minutes.  Carmody said that he was concerned when the his team trailed by just one point with three minutes to play but lacked an aggressive attitude to go out and get the job done.  NU then lost @ Wisconsin in Wednesday night.  The Wildcats top inside player, Mike Thompson, is back in the line up after being suspended for missing some classes.  Thompson played 31 minutes and scored 7 points vs. Wisconsin.


Iowa leading scorer Pierre Pierce (18 PPG) has been released from the team.  In 2002, Pierce was arrested for 3rd degree sexual assault and pled guilty to a lesser charge.  He is now the target of an investigation that could lead to first degree burglary, criminal mischief and assault with intent to injure.  The apparent crimes took place last Thursday sometime after 11:00 PM at a West Des Moines apartment complex.  Apparently a search warrant has been issue for Pierce’s Iowa City residence and it has been confirmed that he is the target of the investigation.  As of Wednesday, some of his teammates were trying to contact Pierce but had been unsuccessful to that point.  The loss not only hurts on the offensive end, but also on the other end of the court where Pierce was Iowa’s best defender.


Northern Iowa: 
Watch for UNI to start taking the ball inside.  This season, they have lived and died with the three pointer and head coach Greg McDermott wants to start establishing an inside presence rather than just bomb away.  It showed in Wednesday’s 18-point win over Evansville as the Panthers scored in the paint.  Sophomore center Grant Stout had a career high 24 points and UNI went to the free throw line a season high 40 times.  Their previous high was just 27.  Not only that, they attempted just 12 shots from behind the arc which is well below their conference average of nearly 21 attempts.  While McDermott admits the deep ball will still be a big part of their arsenal, he felt he had to do something after his team launched a whopping 33 shots up from behind the arc in a loss to Drake last Saturday.  Thus, look for Northern Iowa to try and establish an inside game from here on out.


The Hoosiers lost their leading scorer for nearly the entire second half in Wednesday’s 68-63 win over Penn State.  Junior guard Bracey Wright, was helped from the floor with 15:30 remaining in the game after injuring his left ankle.  He did not return.  His status for Sunday’s game @ #1 Illinois is in doubt.  Wright leads the Hoosiers in scoring at nearly 19 PPG. 


With Gene Keady at home with the flu, the Boilers traveled to Columbus to take on Ohio State.  Matt Painter took over in Keady’s absence.  Painter, who was the head coach at Southern Illinois last year before joining the PU staff, is set to become the head coach next year when Keady retires.  Painter and his Boilermakers didn’t fare so well losing 75-65.  It was the first game that Keady has missed in his ENTIRE career as a head coach.  That includes stops at Western Kentucky and Purdue, spans 27 years and a whopping 830 games.  We expect Keady to be back on the bench this Saturday when the Boilers travel to Northwestern.


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