Finish out your night with this huge confidence-building opening night victory when Rice visits the Cal Bears to tip off the 2015-16 NCAA Basketball season, dont miss our free picks!
Rice vs. California (-15.5) 11:30 ET PAC 12 TV
The Rice Owls travel to the west coast to face the California Golden Bears in this late-night tipoff on Night 1 of the CBKB season. It is a battle of a Rice team who is projected to the middle of CUSA play against the California team who is projected at the top of the PAC 12 as the No. 12 team in the land by the prestigious 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. To put the matchup in further perspective, CUSA was the 18th ranked conference in the season last year compared to the No. 6 ranking of the PAC 12, as done so by the Sagarin ratings.
Rice has been a struggling basketball program in recent seasons. The Owls won a combined 12 games in the 2 previous seasons, before Rice hired Mike Rhoades from the staff of Shaka Smart at VCU. Rhoades knew it would be a monumental rebuilding job. He is right! In the early going last year, Rice lost to Alaska-Anchorage in the Great Alaska Shootout and, as they entered conference play, had only 1 victory, against Prairieview, which is perennially at the bottom of the list of 351 D1 teams. Unlike previous seasons, however, the Owls were being competitive in many of their contests. When the smoke cleared at the end of last season, the Owls had a 12-20 SU season, but were 18-8 ATS. As a measure of their improvement, they went 10-1 ATS down the stretch. Credit to Rhoades, who has proven to be successful in changing the culture at Rice much faster than most anticipated. This year, however, Rice returns only 6 players that were on last season’s roster. The good news is that 4 of them started and that 5 of them played major minutes. Major loss was Sean Gearhart, the leading scorer. The work of Rhoades, from the beginning to end of last season, is duly noted. But, now it begins once again with an entire new crop of young, untested players. Rhoades proved he could build the ground work last season when the Owls won 6 of their last 11 games and lured more people than in any recent season to the Tudor Fieldhouse venue to watch the Owls’ entertaining style. There is little doubt that the Owls are on the rise in the CUSA hierarchy. But asking a group of freshman, to take the court for the first time in their career at a potential Top 10 program, is a bit out of their reach.
In just his 2nd year in Berkley, Cuonzo Martin, with roots from the Gene Keady coaching tree and at Tennessee, has the Bears ready to growl. Inheriting a team that had averaged 21 wins per season in the previous 4 years, Martin finished the year with a record of 18-15 SU, including 7-11 in the rugged PAC 12. Gone from last year’s team is starting (C) Kravish, a big man of solid repute. In just 12 short months, however, Martin has taken expectations to a whole new level in Berkley. A summer tour of Australia was the perfect time to determine how a team, who has NBA talent at every position, could be molded into a winning team. Martin found they had size, athleticism and a deep bench. Now, it is up to Martin to put it all together and keep everybody happy. After the quarterfinal PAC 12 loss to Arizona last year, by a blowout margin of 73-51, the Bears know how far they have to go. That humbling experience leaves them hungry for the start of this year.
A huge confidence-building opening night victory against a thin Rice Owls team with a group of freshman is exactly what these Bears need! Should the Owls persist in pushing the pace, it will only add to the Bears’ depth advantage in the 2nd half of tonight’s contest. I invite you to put the NCAA Basketball Odds in your favor. Join me in this NCAA Basketball Pick and conclude your evening by watching the Cal Bears blowout the Rice Owls by 20 or more points on PAC 12 TV.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Cal Bears -15.5 at Bet365