Injury Could Help Spartans

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MILWAUKEE -- Marquette guard Jerel McNeal will miss the first round of the NCAA Tournament because of an injured right thumb.

The sophomore has been sidelined for Marquette's last three games and won't play in the Golden Eagles' game against Michigan State on Thursday, associate athletic director Mike Broeker said Tuesday.

McNeal is a second-team all-Big East selection who's averaging 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.6 steals.

Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said Sunday that he was "not holding out great hope" that McNeal would be available for their first-round NCAA Tournament game.

"Would we love it? Would he love it? No question," Crean said. "Are we going to go into the week planning on having him? Probably not. But we'll just wait and see how it turns out, what goes on with it. We'd love to have him. I mean, it's just not there yet. There's no way it's there yet."

Marquette beat Pittsburgh at home without McNeal on March 3, then beat St. John's in the Big East tournament last week before losing to Pittsburgh.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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