Best NCAA Basketball Picks for California vs. Utah: Bears to Cover, Utes to Win

Joe Catalano

Sunday, February 15, 2015 3:38 PM GMT

Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 3:38 PM GMT

Find out what the best bet is for tonight's battle between the California Golden Bears (on a 5-game winning streak) & a #11 Utah Utes team which is undefeated at home this season.

Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET tonight at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. This game can be viewed on ESPN.  5 Dimes Sportsbook opened Utah as an 18 point betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 126. A win here would be absolutely huge for Cal where the NCAA Tournament is concerned, but it seems like asking the impossible as Utah has defeated opponents at home by an average of 25 points per game.

 

Utah Defense Is the Key 
When you limit Chaisson Randle of Stanford to just 2 of 11 shooting for 10 points, you have an effective defense and that's just what Utah did as they defeated Stanford 75-59.

According to Randle, Utah's defense focuses in on the opposition's best player and attempts to make them a non-factor. In Randle's case, it worked. This is a Utah team that allows only 56.2 points per game and has held their last 22 opponents to under 70 points per game. In contrast, the Utes, average 74.2 points per game offensively and this has enabled them to be so successful this season.

 

#55 In Your Program
He's #55 in your program and has been a key reason for Utah's success. Senior guard, Delon Wright, has great size at 6 foot 5 and if his shot isn't falling, he'll find some other way to contribute as this is a very well rounded basketball player. In the win over Stanford, Wright's shot was falling as he scored 15 points on 50 % shooting from the field while grabbing 5 rebounds and managing 4 steals. Wright isn't an overwhelming player offensively, but he's very efficient from the field, shooting 53.1% and also shooting over 80% from the free throw line. Efficiency appears to be a common theme for the Utes as they shoot 50 % from the field as a team. This is good for 4th in the nation.

If Wright is having a tough time offensively, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor are always there to pick up the pieces as they each shoot at least 45% from 3-point range. Utah is a well rounded team that can play both ends of the court and the fact that they're at home, will make this game a real challenge for California.

Check out another solid NCAA Basketball Pick: Arizona/Washington State.

Squeakers
Cal is a team that won't overwhelm an opponent offensively and play a solid defense, but they've been getting lucky lately, winning by the enamel of their teeth during this winning streak with 2 point wins over Washington and UCLA and a 1 point victory over USC. Two other reasons why the Golden Bears have been winning have been the offense supplied by Tyrone Wallace (17.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Jordan Matthews (15.1 ppg, 45.7 % from 3 -point range).

Having big-time scorers is the one advantage, or two in this case, that California has over the Utes. You can bet that Utah's defense will be focused on Wallace the same way that that they were against Chaisson Randle. Wallace is a superb rebounder for his size and hasn't met a shot that he hasn't liked, averaging 14.9 shots per game, but only converting 42.9 % of the time.

 

Outcome
Utah's objective is to win the game and not to cover the NCAA Basketball odds spread. I look for the California offense to provide enough resistance for Cal to cover the enormous spread.

NCAA Basketball Pick: California +17 at Pinnacle

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