Saturday NCAAB Picks
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Saturday, January 17.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines, 8:00PM ET
A milestone victory might not be enough to prevent Michigan from falling out of the Top 25 yet again, even if it is against their biggest rival.
The 25th-ranked Wolverines look to bounce back from their most recent loss while again trying to give coach John Beilein his 500th career NCAA win when they host Ohio State in a Big Ten matchup Saturday night.
Two days after Michigan (13-4, 3-2) returned to the poll after dropping out for a week, the Wolverines lost 66-51 at unranked Illinois on Wednesday, leaving Beilein short of the monumental victory and his team on the verge of disappearing from the rankings one more time.
Michigan will be trying for a third consecutive home win after losing 73-61 to Wisconsin on New Year's Eve, which pushed them out of the No. 23 spot - and the poll overall - despite beating Illinois by 10 later in the week.
The Wolverines will be going for a second straight victory over unranked Ohio State (12-3, 2-2), which can't catch a schedule break as it faces its third straight ranked league opponent on the road. The Buckeyes lost at then-No. 21 Minnesota and then-No. 8 Michigan State in a span of four days.
California Golden Bears at Stanford Cardinal, 8:05PM ET
Mike Montgomery would like nothing more than to keep the focus on his team, not on him.
Not this weekend.
``Who we playing this week?'' the coach of No. 22 California asked as he opened his weekly news conference, his Golden Bears back in the poll for the first time since March 2003. ``Huh? Oh, that's right, that team that runs up and down and scores all those points. Yeah. Yeah.''
That team would be Stanford - Montgomery's old school. The program he coached for 18 seasons and took to second round of the NCAA tournament 10 straight times before departing for the Golden State Warriors.
The Cardinal won their first 26 games in Montgomery's final year in 2003-04 and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 with a 29-1 record. He had a 393-167 mark at Stanford.
Montgomery has known from the moment he took over the Bears in April that his return to Maples Pavilion on Saturday night would be a wild one.
There's even more significance now that Montgomery has Cal (15-2) riding a nine-game winning streak and off to a 4-0 start in the Pac-10. Stanford (11-3, 1-3 Pac-10) is looking to avoid what would be a demoralizing defeat at home after being swept at the Washington schools on a pair of one-point losses.
Marquette at Providence, 9:00PM ET
Dominic James may be on pace to be Marquette's all-time leading scorer, but the point guard's defensive prowess could be the main reason the Golden Eagles are atop the Big East standings heading into Saturday's game at Providence.
James is fourth on the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game, and his average has steadily declined since his freshman season, when he averaged 15.3 points en route to being named the 2006 Big East rookie of the year. He is currently ninth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,631 - 17 shy of seventh and 143 from surpassing George Thompson's all-time mark of 1,773.
But James' offensive numbers only begin to represent his all-around contributions. The senior has been providing lockdown defense for No. 14 Marquette (15-2, 4-0), which has won six straight and is tied with No. 1 Pittsburgh for the conference lead.
He harassed Villanova's Scottie Reynolds into a 6-for-15 shooting performance while forcing him into four turnovers on New Year's Day, held Cincinnati's leading scorer Deonta Vaughn without a point for the first time in his college career, made Rutgers' Mike Rosario take 24 shots to score 22 points and, most recently, turned Darryl Bryant into a non-factor in last Saturday's 75-53 win over then-No. 25 West Virginia.
James quickly got Bryant in foul trouble, relegating him to 13 minutes, and also helped defend Alex Ruoff, who shot 4 of 12 from the field. Marquette was able to limit the Mountaineers to 35 percent shooting, partly due to the on-the-ball pressure James and fellow senior guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews were able to exert.
Posted: 1/17/09 11:00AM ET