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Weekend Preview: Can UMass keep it going?

dave1Massachusetts is unbeaten heading into its matchup with BYU this weekend.  Of their seven wins, the Minutemen have five victories away from home – four on neutral courts and a roadie at Eastern Michigan.  Can UMass keep it going?  Chaz Williams and Cady Lalanne have been superb and lead five Minutemen averaging double figures in the scorebook.  It’s certainly been a team effort.  Much like UMass, BYU has put together a solid start to the 2013-14 season.  The Cougars’ only losses are to Iowa State (two points) and Wichita State.  BYU also ranks among the top teams in the nation in points per game, assists per game, and rebounding.  Together, Guards Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino average 40 points a contest.  Should be a fun one to follow.

Here are some of the weekend’s other Inside the Bracket matchups:

UCLA at Missouri – The visiting Bruins are unbeaten although largely untested, save a tight home opener with Drexel.  This is the only true road game on UCLA’s non-conference schedule;  that alone adds some intrigue and importance.  The Bruins don’t play another road game until a January 16 trip to Colorado.   Missouri hasn’t left home either, and doesn’t play a neutral-court game until the Tigers’ annual battle with Illinois in St. Louis.  The Tigers best win probably came Thursday night against West Virginia.

Clemson at Arkansas – Both squads are part of a large group of bubble teams that will dwindle and change as the season progresses.  While losing twice in Maui, the Razorbacks played well enough to beat Minnesota and battle both Gonzaga and California down to the wire.  They also have an underrated home win over SMU.  In the revamped ACC, Clemson has some tough sledding ahead.  The Tigers gave Massachusetts all it wanted in Puerto Rico in their only loss.  This is Clemson’s first road test; a victory would certainly add a nugget to the Tigers’ resume.

Marquette at Wisconsin – It’s been somewhat of a rough start for the Golden Eagles who were manhandled by Ohio State at home and taken to task by San Diego State at the Wooden Legacy.  With three losses, Marquette would love to put a high-end road victory on its resume.  Albeit an ugly game at Virginia, the Badgers remain unbeaten and have been as consistent as any team in the country through the first month.  A win at the Kohl Center would put Wisconsin in prime position to complete its non-conference season without a setback.

Cincinnati at New Mexico – This is Cincinnati’s first test of the season and it’s never easy to leave The Pit with a victory.  Next up, the Bearcats play cross-town rival Xavier and Pittsburgh, so we’ll learn a lot more about UC.  New Mexico’s best win is a double-overtime effort against UAB.  The schedule turns tougher for the Lobos between now and Christmas. Beating Cincinnati would be a nice way to build momentum.

Saint Louis at Valparaiso – Saint Louis missed on its chances to snag a marquee non-conference victory against Wisconsin or Wichita State.  As such, it would be a good time to place a nice road win on the resume.

Kansas at Colorado – The Jayhawks’ potent non-conference haul continues.  Kansas was a bit shaky in the Bahamas.  Have they re-grouped?  We’ll find out as Bill Self’s crew visits a former Big 12 conference foe on the road.  While freshman Andrew Wiggins garners a lot of attention, it’ll take a team effort to leave Boulder with a victory.  Since an opening loss to Baylor, the Buffaloes have quietly won eight straight.  This one, and a game with Oklahoma State, are the two high-end games left on CU’s non-conference slate.

Maryland at George Washington – An early Bracket-Buster type matchup.  George Washington grabbed a few headlines after beating Creighton and would love to post a victory against an ACC opponent.  It’s also a chance for Maryland to put a notable non-conference win on its resume; after Boston College, there’s not much left for the Terrapins until ACC action begins.  A win might also help ease a disappointing loss to Oregon State.

Oregon at Ole Miss – Until Ole Miss lost at Kansas State on Thursday this was going to be a battle of two undefeated teams.   It still has the potential to be a close one.   The Ducks opened the season with a victory over Georgetown in South Korea but have been on cruise-control since.   With Illinois and BYU ahead before Christmas, this would be a nice jump-start.   The Rebels have a couple of decent wins against Georgia Tech and Penn State.  Beating Oregon would be a much bigger get.

If you’re looking for some under-the-radar matchups, track Texas at Temple and Virginia at Green Bay.  Virginia, which lost to Wisconsin at home this week, travels to the team that nearly upset the Badgers on November 16.   Texas has been a pleasant surprise, losing only to BYU on a neutral court.  It’s the Longhorns’ first road game of the season.

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