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Midwest region report

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Editor's note: Our friends at American Sports Analysts hail from Big Ten country in Wisconsin, and they have a monster play on the side of a Ohio Valley Conference game tonight. This is one of ASA's biggest releases of the season, their Small-College Game of the Year! As one of his regular features on VegasInsider.com, Mike Merlet of ASA breaks down the latest news from basketball teams in this Midwest report. For expert picks from ASA, look for its pick packages in our weekly and monthy deals!

Go to BetUSA.com for all your college hoops wagers.

Steve Alford's seat in Iowa City is getting increasingly warm.  
 
Steve Alford's seat in Iowa City is getting increasingly warm. (Getty Images)  
Iowa:
  The Hawkeyes are definitely “backed into a corner” so to speak.  They have played their way from a probable tourney team to a squad that is firmly on the bubble and might be falling off.  The Hawks have four games remaining and probably have to win all four (at least three) to have any chance of making the NCAA Tourney.  The bad part is, Iowa plays three of those last four games on the road.  They are currently winless on the road in the Big Ten.  They do have a shot, however as they play @ Minnesota which will be tough, after that they are at Penn State, host Ohio State and close out the season @ Michigan.  Of course, there is always chance of winning the Big Ten tourney which would give them an automatic berth however they don’t want to hang their hats on that being their only chance.  This is a team that was 12-1 at one point this season and they were talking about getting a high seed in the tourney rather than whether or not they would even make it in.  During their first 13 games, they resume’ was impressive with wins over Louisville, Texas, Iowa State and a 30-point drubbing of Texas Tech.  Their only loss was to North Carolina.  Since that time, Iowa has a record of 4-8 (all Big Ten games) and has lost their leading scorer (Pierre Pierce) for the season.  If this team ends up in the NIT for the fourth straight year, they might be a “go against” as NO ONE on the squad wants anything but an NCAA berth.  In fact, earlier this week, Iowa’s leading scorer Greg Brunner stated he was sick of playing in the NIT and basically didn’t want anything to do with it.  We’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out.

 

UW Green Bay:  The Phoenix are hoping to land their first post season berth since the 1996 season.  Insiders feel that they need to get to 20 wins to be considered for a berth in the NIT.  Right now they are 17-8 SU with just two games remaining in the regular season.  Thus, most likely in order to be even considered for the 40 team NIT field, UWGB will need to win both of their remaining games (vs. Detroit on Wednesday and @ Wright State on Sunday) and also win at least their semi-final game in the Horizon League Tournament which will most likely come against Loyola (Chicago) or Wright State.  That’s why last Saturday’s home loss to Illinois State in the Bracket Buster was so disappointing to the players and coaches.  A win in that game would have given them at least a bit of leeway in their last few games.  Now they are all “must wins” for the Phoenix.  Also, make no mistake about it, this team WANTS to go to the NIT.  Sometimes perennial post season teams aren’t all that excited when they miss the NCAA and the NIT comes calling.  That isn’t the case for this team that hasn’t tasted the post season in almost 10 years.

 

Marquette: Third leading scorer, Dameon Mason, was bothered on Sunday by an ankle injury he suffered in a last second loss to Louisville last week.  Mason, who averages 30 minutes per game and 12 PPG, played 22 minutes and scored seven points in a 10-point win over DePaul on Sunday.  The Golden Eagles have a huge game @ Cincinnati this Thursday.  It is nearly a must win game for Marquette if they want to have a good chance at getting an at large NCAA tourney bid.

 

Michigan:  As the Wolverines continue to play bad basketball and lose (now lost 10 straight games ), they got some more bad news this week when suspended starting point guard, Daniel Horton, was declared out for the rest of the season.  Those in the know at Michigan thought there was a chance that Horton would be back either last week @ Wisconsin or last Sunday vs. Indiana.  In fact, many of his teammates expected Horton to be back on the court when they faced the Hoosiers (and lost 70-63) on Sunday.  He had started practicing with the team last week.  Head coach Tommy Amaker and school officials made the decision to keep him out the remainder of the season.  Horton will be able to continue practicing with his team, he simply will not be able to play in any games.

 

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are struggling through a 1-11 Big Ten campaign so head coach Ed DeChellis decided to shake up is line up last Saturday.  He actually benched three of his starters including leading scorer and rebounder Aaron Johnson (13 PPG, 10 RPG).  He also kept Travis Parker (12 PPG, 6 RPG) and Mike Walker (6 PPG) on the bench to start the game.  DeChellis felt his team didn’t have the “pop” that they needed the last few games.  Johnson ended up playing just 24 minutes scoring only seven points.  Oh by the way, the shake up didn’t really work as Penn State was inept on offense losing 54-39 @ Northwestern.  PSU now travels to another struggling Big Ten team, Michigan, on Wednesday.

 

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UW Milwaukee
:  The Panthers got a big win @ Hawaii last Saturday, 87-81.  It was a very tough spot for UWM who had just clinched the regular season Horizon League title on Wednesday night beating Butler.  They then had to make the 9 hour trek to the islands for a game on Saturday night after all of the emotion on Wednesday.  UWM won the game on Saturday and then spent all day Sunday celebrating on the islands.  They will return to Milwaukee on Monday and take both Monday and Tuesday off.  Their final game will be at Cleveland State on Saturday before the Horizon League tourney which starts on Tuesday, March 1st.  The opening round is played at the home site of the higher seeded team.  The quarterfinals on out are played in Milwaukee.  The Panthers won’t have to play until the semi-finals on Saturday, March 5th.

 

Ohio State:  Buckeye coach Thad Matta suspended starting forward Matt Sylvester (7 PPG) for allegedly spitting on a Michigan State fan as he left the court in East Lansing back on February 9th.  Sylvester hinted that he was provoked (surprise, surprise) but also admitted that his actions were inappropriate.  It was a one game suspension which was served in last Saturday’s 52-50 loss @ Minnesota.  Sylvester will be back on the court this Sunday when OSU plays host to Wisconsin.

 

Cincinnati:  The Bearcats have had some serious problems at the point guard position as of late.  Starting point guard Jihad Mohammed, who was brought in through the junior college ranks, has been terrible as of late.  After playing well for much of the season, he has “hit a wall” so to speak.  Mohammed committed two turnovers in the first 20 seconds of the Bearcats 72-69 win over UAB last Saturday.  After one minute of play, he had three turnovers.  At the start of the second half, he committed a turnover immediately before being benched by head coach Bob Huggins.  Mohammed played just 14 minutes and had 5 turnovers, 0 points and 0 assists.  Back up PG Chadd Moore had the flu and didn’t play vs. UAB.  Starting 6’8 forward Armein Kirkland actually handled the point guard duties for some of the game.  If Cincy wants to get into the NCAA tourney and make a run, they better straighten out their point guard situation in a hurry.  The Bearcats host Marquette on Thursday.


Akron
:  The Zips “somehow” got a 74-68 home win over Niagara in a Bracket Buster game last Saturday.  The reason we say “somehow” is because they were dominated at the free throw line and in the paint.  The Zips improved their home record to 11-1 with the win.  Akron went to the free throw line just 8 times in the game making only 3.  Niagara hit 21 of 30 free throws and outscored the Zips 17-2 in the paint.  That’s right, Akron scored only ONE basket in the paint.  You normally won’t win many games doing that.  The Zips are on a bit of a roll now winning four of their last five and nine of their last eleven.  As of late, they are playing very close games and winning them.  In their last five games, if you take away their 20-point win @ Ohio, the remaining four have been decided by a total of 13 points with Akron winning three of them.  They are a young team but learning how to win close games.  Akron hosts MAC East leader Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday.

 

Indiana:  Hoosiers leading scorer Bracey Wright was back on the court in Sunday’s seven point win @ Michigan.  Wright, who missed three straight games due to an ankle injury, was not 100% and struggled to score.  He was just 1 of 8 from the field scoring seven points.  IU hosts in-state rival Purdue on Tuesday night.

 

Louisville:  The Cards third leading scorer (14 PPG) and best outside shooter Taquan Dean has mononucleosis.  Dean struggled last week in a 64-61 win @ Marquette scoring just three points on 1 of 7 shooting from the field.  He missed three practices last week and then struggled through a workout on Saturday.  Louisville beat St. Louis on Sunday 84-66 and Dean hit five three pointers for 15 points.  He will continue to try through this, however he will definitely have ups and downs as mono weakens the immune system and really drains a person’s energy.  The Cards have the rest of the week off before traveling to Memphis on Saturday.  Keep in mind, Memphis creamed Louisville on their own court earlier this year winning by 17 points as a 17 point underdogs.

 

Ball State:  The Cards had to face Drexel in last Saturday’s Bracket Buster Saturday with their leading scorer Dennis Trammell (16.6 PPG) on the bench.  BSU lost at home to Drexel 74-70.  Trammell has had a “recurring” achilles tendon problem that will keep his status up in the air for the rest of the year.  It will truly be a game to game situation.  Trammell actually didn’t know if he could go or not until testing it in pre-game warm ups last Saturday.  At that time, he determined that he wasn’t going to be able to go.  Expect that routine from here on out.  Ball State hosts Toledo on Wednesday.

 

Southwest Missouri State:  SMS was on a roll.  Between January 22nd and February 12th, they won seven consecutive games.  Now they seem a bit shaken.  They have since lost two straight to teams they should beat.  They lost by two points at Indiana State before losing a home game last Saturday to Oral Roberts 86-76.  Senior guard Anthony Shavies said, “We are not a focused basketball team right now.  I don’t know what happened.”  It could be due to the absence of starting point guard Tyler Chaney who was injured on February 12th vs. Drake which coincidently was the Bears last win.  Chaney scores just 9 PPG but is the Bears’ best defender.  Chaney’s knee has been improving but he is still questionable for Wednesday’s game @ Wichita State.

  
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