Thursday, February 9, 2007
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Tonight we have a system that has to do with returning starters in conference games and yes deep into conference play it continues to excel. We also have a true defensive dog and another game in which the underdogs’s recent slump has involved a ton of close losses, which we believe the spread clearly overlooks.
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Murray State-Eastern Kentucky
These two teams have been moving in opposite directions the last few weeks as EKU has lost four of its last five games while Murray State has won six straight and 11 of its last 12 contests to move atop of the league standings. The Colonels are looking to stay in the hunt for a first-round home OVC Tournament game, but currently sit tied for sixth with Tennessee State.
EKU next to last in the OVC in field-goal defense (47 percent) and are third to last in assists allowed per game (15.6). The defense — and offense — could get a boost with the likely return of Jason McLeish, who has been out with a hip pointer.
Southeast Missouri State-Morehead State
It has basically been a basketball season to forget for Southeast Missouri State. But perhaps one dubious performance by the Redhawks stands out a bit more than others.
That would be the Jan. 26 contest at the Show Me Center against Morehead State, as the Eagles entered play with a 15-game losing streak and had not beaten a Division I team all season. Not for long, however, as the Eagles stunned the Redhawks 60-55 in what stands as defeat No. 5 in Southeast’s current eight-game losing streak that ties for the program’s longest since moving up to Division I in 1991-92. The Redhawks continue to be down to seven available scholarship players after junior forward Andrais Thornton was indefinitely suspended from the team prior to Saturday’s home game against Tennessee-Martin, which Southeast lost 66-55. Thornton, Southeast’s leading rebounder, was suspended after being arrested last week on felony charges of rape and sexual battery for an alleged incident that took place more than two years ago in Colby, Kan., where he was attending Colby Community College. The suspension came on the heels of junior guard Eric Burtin being sidelined for the season due to a broken leg suffered Jan. 19 at Tennessee State, while junior guard David Johnson played in just three games before being lost for the season due to hernia surgery. MSU junior forward Shaun Williams, the Eagles’ leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, missed Monday’s win over Eastern Kentucky due to a disciplinary suspension. Eagles coach Kyle Macy said he is not sure if Williams — who had 17 points in the earlier victory over Southeast — will play tonight. We continue to add ADVANCED news and notes for upcoming opening lines, free info at www.joeduffy.net.
The 13th-ranked Bruins (19-4, 9-2) try to improve to 5-0 on the road in conference play Thursday when they begin a stretch of three straight contests away from home with a matchup against Washington State (10-9, 3-7). Coach Ben Howland has seen seven players get injured this season and lost starting forward Josh Shipp – who played just four games – for the rest of the season in January. UCLA has rotated five freshmen and four sophomores, but finds itself atop the Pac-10 by two games. That success can be attributed to the Bruins’ play outside of Los Angeles. UCLA has held its four Pac-10 opponents to an average of 60.5 points on their respective home courts, and is now trying to start 5-0 on the road in conference play for the first time since the 1991-92 season – when it won the first six en route to a league title and regional final appearance in the NCAA tournament. Washington State snapped a six-game losing streak with a 77-64 upset of then-No. 16 Washington on Saturday, sweeping the season series from their rivals. Despite the losing Pac-10 record, Washington State’s slow-tempo style of play has given it a chance to win most of its games. Four of the seven conference losses by the Cougars have been by five points or fewer, including a 63-61 defeat to the Bruins on Jan. 12 at Pauley Pavilion.UCLA has won 24 of the last 25 games between the teams, including 12 straight at Washington State since a 67-56 defeat on Feb. 6, 1993.
Michigan was humbled in its last game as it tried to earn a critical victory against Big Ten leader Iowa. The No. 22 Wolverines look to get back on track when they take on 19th-ranked Ohio State on Thursday night in a key matchup in the crowded conference race. Michigan (16-4, 6-3) has made significant strides since last season, when it finished 13-18 and 4-12 in the Big Ten, but the Wolverines suffered a 94-66 blowout at the hands of the then-No. 23 Hawkeyes on Saturday. With a chance to pull closer to first place, the Wolverines shot 32 percent in the second half and 41.5 for the game. Michigan came in as the conference’s best shooting team at 47.9 percent. The loss snapped Michigan’s five-game winning streak, and the 28-point defeat was its most lopsided of the season. The Wolverines will look to put the ugly loss behind them when they take on the Buckeyes (16-3, 5-3), winners of two in a row and four of five. Ohio State is coming off a 67-53 victory over Minnesota on Saturday. The Wolverines may be looking for some revenge after being blown out 72-46 in their last meeting with the Buckeyes on Feb. 5, 2005 at Columbus. Michigan committed a season-high 29 turnovers as Ohio State posted its most lopsided win over its conference rival in 37 years.Ohio State, though, has dropped three of the last four meetings.
Idaho State-Northern Arizona
Idaho State, fresh off a 95-70 win over the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday, head to the road for their final two conference road games, starting on Thursday at Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks, who had their 10-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, lead the league with an 8-1 conference record. Idaho State excised a few demons with their strong 95-70 win over previous Mid Major #9 Montana on Saturday. The Bengals are currently in seventh place, one game out of the Big Sky playoff hunt, trailing 3-6 Weber State. Northern Arizona is 16-7 overall and 8-1 in the Big Sky, good for first place, although they saw the nation’s longest winning streak at 10 snapped on Saturday with their 74-61 loss to Eastern Washington. Mike Adras (UC Santa Barbara, 1983) is 107-89 overall in his seventh year with the Lumberjacks. He is 10-5 against the Bengals, and 5-1 in Flagstaff.
New Mexico Stat-Nevada
Nevada has won four straight games and returns to Lawlor Events Center after playing three of the team’s last four contests away from home. The Wolf Pack holds a 9-1 record at Lawlor Events Center this year, last defeating Hawai’i there on Jan. 28. With last week’s road wins over the Bulldogs and the Aggies, Nevada has moved into a three-way tie for first place in the WAC with Louisiana Tech and Utah State with a 7-3 league mark. Thursday night’s game against NMSU marks the beginning of a three-game homestand for the Wolf Pack, which played six of its first 10 WAC games away from home. Under the direction of first-year head coach Reggie Theus, New Mexico State brings a 9-11 overall record into Thursday night’s back-to-back meeting with the Wolf Pack. The Aggies are fifth in the WAC standings with a 5-4 league mark. Last week’s 90-81 loss to Nevada snapped New Mexico State’s two-game winning streak, which included a 93-86 victory over Utah State on Feb. 2. The Aggies returned two starters from last year’s 6-24 team and were picked to finish seventh and eighth in the preseason WAC media and coaches’ polls, respectively. New Mexico State holds a 13-6 advantage over Nevada in the series between the two former members of the Big West Conference. The Wolf Pack snapped a four-game losing streak to the Aggies with the team’s 90-81 victory on Saturday night in Las Cruces, N.M.
Georgetown played its way onto the national scene with an upset of then-No. 1 Duke last month, and played its way into the Big East title picture by defeating then-No. 9 Pittsburgh last week. The 15th-ranked Hoyas (16-4, 7-2) continue their push for the top spot in the conference Thursday when they go for their seventh straight victory in a matchup with St. John’s (10-10, 3-6). Thursday’s game comes in between contests against ranked opponents Pitt and West Virginia, which Georgetown faces Sunday in a critical contest. The Hoyas’ 61-58 victory over the Panthers last weekend moved them into fourth place in the Big East, 1 1/2 games behind the first-place and ninth-ranked Mountaineers. Georgetown’s winning streak is its longest since starting the 2003-04 season with 10 victories, and the Hoyas have beaten two top 10 teams for the first time since 1995-96.
To keep its win streak intact, the Hoyas will have to guard against looking past upset-minded St. John’s, which knocked off then-No. 17 Louisville and then-No. 9 Pitt in back-to-back games last month. Since those victories, however, the Red Storm have dropped four straight. St. John’s is shooting 27.5 percent from 3-point range, third-worst in Division I. The Red Storm have lost 14 consecutive road games to ranked opponents since a 64-57 win at then-No. 22 Boston College on Jan. 17, 2002.
West Virginia is off to one of the best starts in Big East history. Keeping it going over the next 10 days will be very difficult. The ninth-ranked Mountaineers look to keep their perfect conference record intact as they open a tough stretch of the schedule, facing No. 14 Pittsburgh on Thursday in the first of three straight road games. West Virginia (17-4, 8-0 Big East) beat Cincinnati 66-57 on Saturday for its 15th win in 16 games – the only loss came to in-state rival Marshall on Jan. 25. After facing the Panthers, West Virginia plays at No. 15 Georgetown on Sunday and at Seton Hall on Tuesday before heading home to meet top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 18. We continue to add ADVANCED news and notes for upcoming opening lines, free info at www.joeduffy.net. Five of West Virginia’s eight remaining conference games will be on the road. This contest closes an equally brutal stretch for Pittsburgh (17-3, 6-3), which lost 61-58 to Georgetown on Sunday following an 80-76 defeat to Connecticut on Jan. 31. The Panthers have lost three of five games after opening the season with 15 straight wins. All three defeats have come on the road for the Panthers, who have won 13 straight at home.
DU owns the nation’s fourth-longest home winning streak. Denver has won 16 consecutive (13 straight in conference play) and 20 of its last 21 home games dating back to last season. Denver’s only loss was to Stanford, 56-52 on Dec. 13, 2004. Denver is riding a two-game losing streak, falling at New Orleans, 64-54 and at Louisiana-Lafayette, 49-38. WKU is riding a four-game winning streak, defeating South Alabama, 74-73, ULL, 94-81, UNO, 72-57 and Florida International, 66-61.
William & Mary-Old Dominion
The Tribe is on a bit of a roll, having won two of its last three gamesThe Tribe has lost five straight to the Monarchs and fell 65-56 in Williamsburg last month. ODU Senior guard Isaiah Hunter (14.8 ppg) will likely dress out for this one but may play sparingly as he continues to nurse a stress fracture in his right foot.
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