This handicapper hit on a free NCAA basketball pick Thursday night with Arizona on the road; the Wildcats are on the road again Saturday night, playing at Cal. Do we stick with the 'Cats for today's free pick, or jump off and go with the home dog?
Wildcats-Bears Betting Odds
The NCAA basketball odds opened Arizona ay -12, with a total of 130; many books then bumped the 'Cats to -13.
Those who believe in minor miracles could get Cal at +750 on the college basketball moneyline at BetDSI.
Even after losing two key players from last year's Pac-12 championship team Arizona was the clear favorite to win the conference regular-season title again this season. And so far we haven't seen anything that might dissuade us from that notion.
The Wildcats started 11-0 this season, with wins over Kansas State, San Diego State, Gonzaga and Michigan, then got upset at UNLV. Arizona then won its first two Pac-12 contests, beating Arizona State by 24 points and Oregon by 18, then got upset at Oregon State. Since then the 'Cats have won three in a row, most recently at Stanford Thursday night 89-82, covering as four-point favorites on the road.
Arizona trailed by five points with about 15 minutes to go Thursday night, but went on a 14-2 run to take over. The Wildcats later allowed the Cardinal to get within six points in the final minute, but hung on for the victory and the cover.
Arizona shot 56 percent from the floor Thursday, but allowed Stanford to shoot 50 percent. Our guess is the Wildcats won't let the Bears shoot 50 percent tonight.
Coming into this season we didn't have a good read on Cal. The Bears returned three starters from a team that went 21-14 last season, 10-8 in the Pac-12, but missed the NCAA tournament. Cal was also playing for a new head coach, after Cuonzo Martin, who did a nice job at Missouri State and Tennessee, took over for the retired Mike Montgomery. We thought if things went well, which was possible, the Bears had a shot to return to the NCAA tournament. And if they didn't Cal could chalk it up to a season on the learning curve. Despite a nice start to this season the facts are now pointing toward the latter.
The Bears started 10-1 this season, with a win over Syracuse, the only loss coming against Texas. Cal then lost to Wisconsin, and then got upset by CS-Bakersfield. The Bears then won their Pac-12 opener, beating Washington, but since then they've lost their last five games, to Washington State, USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona State.
Thursday night the Bears hit a low, losing at home to the Sun Devils 79-44. Cal, playing for the first time in eight days, came out dead cold, making just four shots in the first half, scoring just 13 points through the first 20 minutes. And it got worse from there. For the game the Bears shot just 33 percent from the field, and committed 19 turnovers, while allowing ASU to shoot 48 percent.
So Arizona, at 5-1 in conference play, is tied with Utah for the lead in the Pac-12, while Cal, at 1-5, is tied for last place with USC.
Wildcats-Bears Recent History
This is the first meeting this season between these teams; last season these teams split two games, each winning and covering on their home courts. Cal upset Arizona in the first meeting 60-58, winning outright as a six-point home dog, but the 'Cats blew out the Bears in the second meeting 87-59, covering as 13-point home favorites.
Wildcats-Bears Key Stats
On the season Arizona is shooting 49 percent from the floor, which ranks right near the top in all the nation, 36 percent from 3-point range but only 67 percent from the FT line. At the other end of the court the 'Cats are holding foes to 40 percent FG shooting.
Cal is shooting 43 percent from the floor, 34 percent from long range and only 65 percent from the line, while also holding opponents to 40 percent shooting.
Wildcats-Bears Betting Trends
Arizona is 9-10 on the totals this season, as Wildcats games have averaged 135 points. Prior to Thursday night's game Arizona had played three UNDERS in a row, mainly because it held its three opponents to 58, 54 and 51 points.
Cal has trended toward the UNDERS this season by a 12-6 margin, as Bears games have averaged 130 points. Cal has also played four UNDERS in a row, mainly because the Bears have been held to 57, 54, 59 and 44 points.
Wildcats-Bears Free Pick
We played Arizona Thursday night because it was the better team playing on the road, where the spread is a little more manageable. That NCAA Basketball Pick worked out perfectly, as the Wildcats beat Stanford, with a couple of buckets to spare for the cover. Tonight's spread does concern us a bit, but then again, Arizona has been playing very good defense, other than Thursday night, while Cal has had a hell of time scoring lately (on the court). The Bears might not score 50 points tonight. So we'll go with the Wildcats, the better team, playing on the road.
Free College Basketball Pick: Arizona -13 at 5Dimes