Injury-riddled Gophers short on backcourt depth

by C.J. Spang

This young season can be summed up in one word for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team ” injuries.

With four guards missing significant time this season due to a variety of injuries, five players have already set new career highs for minutes played in a game.

But the injuries haven’t created just a lack of depth; they’ve left the Gophers without much of their offensive firepower.

Senior Vincent Grier averaged 17.9 points per game last season, but has missed the past four games with a broken shooting hand.

With Grier out, the offensive load fell to senior guard Maurice Hargrow, who scored 24 and 21 points in the two games without Grier.

But Minnesota’s bad luck compounded as Hargrow suffered a leg injury against Maryland, forcing him to sit out most of that game and the entire game against Coastal Carolina.

Those injuries have made it difficult for the Gophers to gauge where they stand against the rest of the Big Ten.

Michigan State rebounds

After starting the season ranked fourth in the country, No. 13 Michigan State started the season with an 84-62 loss to Hawaii.

The Spartans fell for the second time in three games when they lost 109-106 to sixth-ranked Gonzaga in triple overtime.

Since the loss to the Bulldogs, Michigan State has won four games in a row, much in part to the play of senior center Paul Davis.

Davis is averaging a double-double with 21.0 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game.

The Spartans’ offensive production doesn’t end there.

Senior guard Maurice Ager is averaging 21.7 points per game and junior guard Shannon Brown is chipping in an average of 15.1 points per game.

Hot start for Illini

Some people expected the Illinois men’s basketball team to have a “down” season after losing three key starters from last year’s Big Ten champion team.

With the loss of Luther Head, Deron Williams and Roger Powell, it was unclear whether the Illini would have a chance to repeat as Big Ten champions.

No. 12 Illinois is 7-0, including a 68-64 win over North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Senior forward/center James Augustine is averaging 16.1 points per game and 9.1 rebounds a game to lead the Illini and senior guard Dee Brown, the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year is averaging 15 points per contest.

Big season for Indiana

There has been plenty of talk about Mike Davis’ future at Indiana if he cannot bring Indiana back to glory this season.

Indiana has missed the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.

But it’s looking good so far for Davis, as the 17th ranked Hoosiers are 4-1. Indiana’s only loss came at the hands of No.1 Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Hoosiers are averaging 89.4 points per game, despite losing sophomore forward D.J. White to a broken left foot in early November.

White, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, averaged 13.3 points per game in his inaugural campaign and was expected to be an integral part of this year’s team.

Even without White, Indiana has four players averaging double-figure scoring this season.

That group is led by senior forward Marco Killingsworth, who is averaging 21.6 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Killingsworth proved himself in the game against Duke, in which he matched up well with preseason All-American Shelden Williams.

The transfer from Auburn scored 34 points and grabbed 10 boards in the loss while Williams scored 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds.

Hopeful Hawkeyes

With five starters returning from last year’s squad, which finished 21-12, expectations are high in Iowa City.

Senior forward Greg Brunner and senior guard Jeff Horner both entered the season with more than 1,000 career points and are adding to their totals this season, averaging 13.8 and 12.3 points, respectively.

Junior guard Adam Haluska is averaging 14.5 points per game to lead the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes.

Iowa is 7-1 and on a four-game win streak after a nine-point loss to No. 2 Texas on Nov. 22.