NCAA Weekly Plate – 01/28/06

With the college basketball season in full swing, Matt Fargo takes a look at three great games you can’t miss this Saturday.

Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines 2:30 pm ET

Wisconsin is the lowest of the Big Ten’s five ranked teams, but the Badgers are alone in first place. With a win, they can knock down one of the five teams following them one game lower in the rankings. Michigan is one of those teams and the Wolverines have been quietly dealing this season with a 14-3 record, including a 4-2 record in conference. Surprisingly, they are not classified.

Wisconsin bounced back in excellent fashion after a loss last Saturday at home to North Dakota St., taking out its frustrations at Penn St. on Wednesday with a 29-point victory. The Badgers improved to 5-1 in the Big Ten, but four of those wins came at home and Wisconsin is just 1-3 on the road this season. The only victory came in a nail bite in Minnesota that the Badgers won with a field goal.

Michigan is coming off a win over rival Michigan St. on Wednesday and has now won three straight games. Both conference losses came on the road in Iowa and Illinois, who are 23-0 combined at home, for a total of 12 points. The Wolverines are 10-1 at home this season with the only loss to UCLA in 17th place. After finishing last season with 12 losses in their last 13 games, Michigan is looking to avoid a similar ending.

Wisconsin has dominated this series by winning four of the last five meetings, including an 11-point victory at Ann Arbor last season. However, the home team has won seven of the last eight meetings and Michigan is poised to continue that trend on Saturday. However, Wisconsin will focus once again, as last Saturday’s loss woke it up and the Badgers want to maintain the lead of the Big Ten.

Old Dominion Monarchs at George Mason Patriots 2:00 pm ET

First place will be up for grabs at Fairfax on Saturday as the two preseason favorites live up to their expectations. Both teams have just one loss in the month of January and both sit atop the Colonial with conference records of 8-2. A game and a half separates the top six teams in the league, so every game at this stage of the season is important and teams that can win on the road will benefit when it comes time for the conference tournament.

Old Dominion overcame a halftime deficit at home against Drexel on Thursday and now must hit the road where the Monarchs are 4-3 on the season. They have won three straight from home, all in a dominant fashion, but this will be CAA’s toughest road test hands down. The road games against Georgia, Wisconsin and UAB have helped in the preparation, but those first two were on a neutral floor.

The Patriots are hot, having won seven of eight games and their last three losses have been by a total of nine points. George Mason lost his second league game of the season last Saturday at NC-Wilmington, but recovered Thursday with a 23-point victory over William & Mary. The Patriots are 7-1 at home this season, losing only to Creighton in November in their first home game.

The first meeting was won by the Monarchs in dramatic fashion when they hit a triple from 25 feet to claim the victory by one point. George Mason kept the Monarchs to just 32.2 percent shooting, but the difference was at the free throw line, as the Patriots only had eight attempts on the night. These teams have traded wins in the last eight meetings, which means the Patriots are next, but it certainly won’t be easy.

Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma Sooners 9:00 pm ET

Surprisingly, these are the only two teams qualified in the Big XII, but Oklahoma is starting to make noise once again. These were the two preseason favorites and while Texas is not far behind yet, the Longhorns are doing everything they can to show they are the team to beat. His five victories in the Big XII have been by an average of 26.4 points per game. The parity is evident as a game and a half separate nine teams between second and 10th place.

Back-to-back blowout losses to Duke and Tennessee have recharged the Longhorns as they have won nine straight games and only one of them is decided by single digits. They are 4-0 perfect on the road, including big wins at Iowa St. and Memphis, and all four wins have been by at least 11 points. On Monday, Texas beat a very good Oklahoma St. team by 34 points and is peaking, but it could be coming too soon.

The Sooners have won three straight games and six of eight, those two three-point losses being combined against Nebraska and Missouri. Missouri’s loss was their only home loss this year, where they are 8-1 on the season and have won 25 of their last 27 home games and 73 of their last 79. The Sooners held at least a seven-point lead. points in all four. losses further proving that they have had bad luck on the road.

Texas had won five straight games until the Sooners swept the season series last year, including a 16-point win at Austin. The Longhorns remember that loss, as it was one of only two losses on their home floor. ESPN College GameDay will be in Norman for this game and is billed as the “WhiteOUt the Lloyd Noble Center” game, so this contest is obviously taking on special meaning for the home team.

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