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Saturday's Showdowns

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With less than a month to go in this year's men's college basketball regular season, the top teams in the nation's thoughts are quickly turning towards positioning themselves for a long run in the postseason this March. This Saturday's slate offers a number of key matchups that will have an impact on this starting with No. 3 Michigan vs. Wisconsin. The following is a brief handicapping guide for this Big Ten clash along with one for a couple other conference showdowns this Saturday.

Game of the Day

No. 3 Michigan Wolverines vs. Wisconsin Badgers (12 p.m. ESPN)

Michigan rallied from an tough 81-73 loss to No. 1 Indiana last Saturday as a 5 ½-point underdog on the road with a crucial 76-74 overtime victory over No. 10 Ohio State as a seven-point home favorite this past Tuesday. The win over the Buckeyes raised its overall record to 21-2 straight-up to keep its hopes of locking-up one of four No. 1 seeds for this year's NCAA Tournament very much alive. The Wolverines are 3-2-1 against the spread in their last six games and 12-8-1 ATS overall. The total went OVER in both of these games after staying UNDER in their previous three.

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Behind Trey Burke (18.1 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr.(16.1 points) Michigan is averaging 77.7 points a game while shooting an impressive 50.3 percent from the field, which just so happens to be the fifth-best percentage in Division I. The Wolverines are holding opponents to 60.2 points while pulling down an average of 36.2 rebounds a game.

The Badgers have gone just 3-3 SU and 1-5 ATS ever since upsetting Indiana 64-59 as 10 ½-point road underdogs on January 15. Overall, they are 16-7 SU and 12-2 SU at home, but costly to wager on with a 7-14 record ATS. The total has stayed UNDER in seven of their last 10 games. Heading into this matchup, Wisconsin is coming off back-to-back victories over Illinois and Iowa to improve to 7-3 in conference play. A win on Saturday would go a long way towards keeping the Badgers right in the thick of the Big Ten regular season title race despite the recent slide.

If they are going to have any shot at pulling off the upset as likely home underdogs, it will be behind a defense that is holding opponents to 56.1 points a game and 40 percent shooting from the floor. This is because offensively, the Badgers are averaging 67.5 points a game while shooting 42.7 percent from the field which is a far cry from Michigan's numbers in these categories. Wisconsin has a trio of players scoring in double figures led by Jared Berggren's 11.8 points a game.

The underdog in this matchup is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meeting and the total has stayed UNDER in the last six games. Wisconsin is 9-1 SU in the last 10 meetings but the series is tied 5-5 ATS.

The Best of the Rest

No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks vs. Oklahoma Sooners (4 p.m. ESPN)

Kansas was on cruise control in the Big 12 with seven-straight conference wins before a disastrous pair of losses not only derailed its run to the No.1 ranking in the nation but possibly a shot at a No.1 seed in the Big Dance. First, the Jayhawks lost to Oklahoma State 85-80 last Saturday as 9 ½-point home favorites. Next, they were humiliated in a 62-55 loss to lowly TCU this past Thursday night as prohibitive 17-point road favorites. Overall Kansas is 19-3 SU but 9-12 ATS after going 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games. The total has stayed UNDER in seven of its last eight games.

The Sooners come into this conference clash looking to avenge an earlier 67-54 loss to Kansas as 12 ½-point road underdogs. Unfortunately they have had some issues of their own with three SU losses in their last four games. Oklahoma is now 14-7 SU on the year and 10-7 ATS. It is 5-4 SU in conference play and 7-2 SU at home this season. The total has gone OVER in five of its last seven games. Romero Osby is a player to watch for the Sooners. He leads the team in scoring with 13.8 points game while hitting 49.2 percent of his shots from the floor. He is also averaging a team-high 6.5 rebounds a game.

No. 11 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9 p.m. ESPN)

The former No. 1-ranked Cardinals are back on the winning trail. They followed up three-straight losses that sent them tumbling in the national polls with SU victories over Pittsburgh, Marquette and Rutgers to remain just one game in back of Syracuse and the Golden Eagles for first place in the Big East. They are 19-4 SU overall and 7-3 SU in conference play. Louisville has covered in its last two games after going 0-4 ATS in its previous four outings. The total has stayed UNDER in seven of its last nine games.

It has been a bumpy ride in and out of the top 25 this season for Notre Dame. It will probably fall back out of the rankings after suffering a 63-47 thrashing at the hands of Syracuse this past Monday as an 8 ½-point road underdog. The Irish return home for this game where they have gone 13-3 SU but just 5-8 ATS. Overall, they are 18-5 SU and an even 10-10 ATS. The total has stayed UNDER in seven of its last nine games. Notre Dame remains one of the better shooting teams in the nation; hitting 48.7 percent of its shots from the field.

  
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