Badgers to Cover NCAA Basketball Odds: Wisconsin -9 vs. Cal

Darin Zank

Monday, December 22, 2014 7:07 PM GMT

Two teams who are also a combined 15-6 against the spread this season meet when Wisconsin takes on Cal out in Berkeley & this College Hoops handicapper is excited to share his expert pick. 

Badgers-Bears Betting Odds
Most NCAA Basketball odds we checked with opened this game with Wisconsin favored by 8.5 points, with a total of 125. In the early betting many books then bumped the Badgers to -9.5.

As far as the possibility of an upset in this spot goes Cal could be gotten at +411 on the moneyline at Pinnacle.

 

Badgers-Bears: The Match-Up
Wisconsin returned four starters this season from the team that made that memorable run to the Final Four last season, so expectations are big in Madison. But sometimes big expectations can be hard to play with, and they certainly don't help cover inflated pointspreads. And yet, the Badgers are 8-3 ATS this season.

Wisconsin opened this season 7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS, with victories over Georgetown and Oklahoma. But the Badgers then ran into a buzzsaw against Duke, which shot 65 percent from the floor in beating Wisconsin 80-70 in Madison. Since then, though, the Badgers have won three more in a row, after bombing Nicholls State 86-43 nine days ago.

Wisconsin shot 52 percent from the field that night, held the Colonels to 35 percent shooting and covered as a 37-point favorite.

Cal returned three starters this season, its first under new Coach Martin, from a team that went 21-14 last year and missed the NCAA tournament. But they had to replace their starting point guard and two others who combined to average 32 points and 13 rebounds per game last season. So there were holes to fill, and new systems to learn. Sounds like a rebuilding project.

Cal started this season 3-0, with a win over Syracuse, before falling to Texas 71-55. The Bears have since then won seven in a row, albeit over the likes of Cal Poly SLO, Fresno State, Montana (in overtime), Nevada, Wyoming and Princeton. Last Friday Cal beat Eastern Washington 78-67, covering as a six-point favorite.

The Bears shot 57 percent Friday, and held the Eagles to 43 percent shooting. Cal only led that game by two points halfway through the second half, but pulled away from there.

So Cal's toughest foe so far has been Texas, and it lost that game handily. The Bears also struggled against teams like Fresno State, Nevada, Wyoming and Princeton. And yet, Cal is 7-3 ATS on the season.

These two teams met most recently back in December of 2012, an 81-56 Wisconsin victory in Madison.

 

Key Numbers
Wisconsin is shooting 49 percent from the floor this season, and holding opponents to just 38 percent shooting, while playing what Sagarin at USAToday Sports calls the 74th-toughest schedule in the country.

Cal is shooting 47 percent from the floor, just 65 percent from the FT line, but holding foes to just 37 percent FG shooting, while playing what Sagarin calls the 288th-toughest schedule.

 

Badgers-Bears Betting Trends
Wisconsin is 4-7 on the totals this season, as Badgers games have averaged 127 points.

Cal is 4-6 on the totals, as Bears games have averaged 130 points.

Wisconsin is 7-1 ATS this season as double-digit chalk.

Cal is 1-1 both SU and ATS as an underdog this season.

 

Injury Update
Cal G Jabari Bird (12 PPG) has missed recent action with a sore foot, and it looks like he'll also miss Monday's game.

Badgers-Bears Free Pick
We often like to take the better teams even if they're playing on the road, simply because the spread is often so much more manageable. And that looks to be the case in this spot. If this game were being played in Madison the Badgers might be favored by 12 or 13 points. Big-picture, we expect Wisconsin to make the Final Four again this season; meanwhile, Cal is off to a nice start, but hasn't played anybody. As for tonight we like the Badgers to grind out a victory and a cover.

Free College Basketball Pick: Wisconsin -9 at BetOnline