California has an experienced lineup and the bette defense in this first round matchup with Maryland. Back the Bears as small favorites in this West Regional opener.
Maryland came away with a big win over Wake Forest in the ACC tournament and nearly knocked off Duke, but conference games are much different than tournament games and the Terps will have trouble matching up as well against an unfamiliar foe.
Maryland was crushed by Gonzaga, a team that compares favorably with many Pac-10 teams, and the Terps closed the season going 7-10 but managed to win just enough of the key games to get into the dance. Maryland is grossly over-seeded at No. 10 as they were likely one of the last teams in the tournament field, and Cal is the better scoring team and the better defensive team statistically despite playing in a more defense oriented conference.
Both teams lost to Florida State by three points in a common opponent game, but Maryland also had several awful performances this season and went 6-9 straight up in games away from home. California did not end the season ideally with a quick exit from the Pac-10 tournament to USC. Keep in mind however that the tournament that the Trojans won was basically at home for them and Cal played them as tough as anyone on that run. The Bears won at Washington, at Arizona, at Washington State, at UNLV and at Utah this season so there have been several quality wins away from home.
The Terrapins have not had much postseason success since the title run in 2002, and the Pac-10 is generally undervalued in the postseason based on the national fanfare for the ACC and the Big East. Cal's starting lineup is all upperclassmen and this Bears team is ready to make a dent in the tournament.
Free Pick: California -1½ (-110)
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