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State teams not off to a strong start

1/11/2011

Here are some of the major points we’ve learned about state teams so far this college basketball season.

1. Overall, this could be one of the worst seasons ever for the state. Bradley and Illinois State are 0-5 in the Missouri Valley. UIC is 0-4 and Loyola is 1-5 in the Horizon League. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville’s record doesn’t count in the Ohio Valley this season, but it’s 0-4 against conference teams. Chicago State is 0-1 in the Great West. DePaul is 0-3 in the Big East. Northwestern is 1-3 in the Big Ten. Western Illinois is 1-4 in the Summit League. Northern Illinois is 0-1 in the MAC. Eastern Illinois is 2-3 in the Ohio Valley. Illinois and Southern Illinois are the only teams in the state above .500 in their conferences. Illinois is 3-0 in the Big Ten, and Southern Illinois is 3-2 in the Missouri Valley. All together, the state is 11-40 in conference play.

2. Illinois could be the only team in the state to reach the NCAA tournament. The Illini aren’t a lock yet, but they’ve opened the Big Ten season strong and secured a couple of quality non-conference wins. Northwestern is the only other team with a chance, and the Wildcats have some work to do after starting the Big Ten 1-3 with losses to Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois and a win over Indiana.

3. Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey is taking care of the ball better, and the Illini are benefiting from it. While McCamey’s points, assists and shooting percentages are all up from last season, his biggest contribution to the Illini’s success this year may be his lack of turnovers. Last season, he committed five or more turnovers in 10 games, and five of those performances led to Illinois’ losses. He also hit the six-turnover mark five times last season. This season, he’s been more responsible with the ball. He hasn’t had a six-turnover game and has had just three games of five turnovers. His assist-to-turnover ratio is up to 2.58 this season from last year’s 1.99, and he’s averaging 2.8 turnovers a game compared to last year’s 3.4.

4. DePaul’s youngsters can play. Blue Demons freshmen Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young have shined in the Big East. Melvin has averaged 23.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, and Young has averaged 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals in DePaul’s three Big East games. It’s a promising sign for DePaul’s future.

5. Northern Illinois senior guard Xavier Silas' scoring numbers have dipped, but he’s still competing for the national scoring title. Since putting up 20-plus points in seven of his first eight games, Silas has been held to less than 20 points in four of his last five outings. He shot 5 of 31 and scored 19 total points in back-to-back games against Southern Illinois and Missouri in late December. Defenses are keying on Silas, and his field goal and 3-point percentages have dropped. He’s still averaging 23.3 points, which ranks sixth in the country.

6. Loyola is experiencing a bad déjà vu. Last season, the Ramblers got off to a 11-2 start, but lost 14 of their last 17 games. They finished the season 14-16. This season, Loyola was hot again from the start , winning its first seven games. The Ramblers even pushed Butler and Kansas State to the brink. Since then, Loyola’s season has unraveled. It’s currently 10-7 overall and 1-5 in conference. The Ramblers haven’t had a winning season in conference or overall since 2006-07.