The Bears are 3-point favorites on NCAA basketball odds. Your final NCAA basketball betting action on the Thanksgiving schedule features No. 14 California taking on San Diego St at midnight.
Bears Have Some Major Talent
Cal has welcomed one of its best recruiting classes in school history under second-year coach Cuonzo Martin, the former Tennessee coach. Many thought it was a great get when Cal was able to lure Martin from the Vols and it appears to be the case thus far. Cal finished 18-15 last year and didn't play in any postseason tournaments but was picked to finish second in the Pac-12 this season behind perennial power Arizona. In fact, the conference's top NBA prospect is Cal 6-foot-7 freshman wing Jaylen Brown; he's joined by another likely future NBA player in fellow five-star freshman Ivan Rabb. Brown could be best talent since Jason Kidd. And you could argue Cal has the Pac-12's top returning player in senior point guard Tyrone Wallace.
The Bears (4-0) haven't played anyone of note yet, routing Rice and UC Santa Barbara to open the season and then getting a bit of a challenge last Friday from East Carolina but prevailing 70-62 in the Las Vegas Invitational. Rabb had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Brown added 16 points and 10 rebounds. But the Pirates' 2-3 zone gave Cal fits. The Bears were only 3-for-23 from long range and committed 15 turnovers. But they were able to dominate the glass. Cal looked better in Monday's 89-63 win over Sam Houston State. Brown posted his second straight double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds -- both career highs.
Martin's club has a +14.9 rebounding margin thus far -- the school record for a season is +11.2 in 1959-60 when Cal reached the NBA title game -- and has held all four of its opponents to 40 percent or lower shooting from the floor with none of the teams scoring more than 67 points in a game. Wallace leads Cal in scoring at 20.3 ppg. He is shooting 60.4 percent from the field (29-for-48) and leads the team with 23 assists against only eight turnovers.
The Cal-San Diego State winner plays the West Virginia-Richmond winner on Friday in Las Vegas. The Bears are 3-1 against the spread on NCAA Basketball odds and 3-1 'over/under.'
Aztecs Are Consistently Good
Coach Steve Fisher's San Diego State team is always one of the best "mid-major" clubs. Last year's team shared the Mountain West regular-season title and beat St. John's in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Alas, the Aztecs ran into top-seeded and eventual national champion Duke in the next round and lost 68-49 to finish at 27-9. It was San Diego State's school-record sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the eighth-longest active streak nationally. SDSU is the only school from the state of California to earn an NCAA Tournament berth six years in a row.
Two key starters are back off that team, a big reason why SDSU is the preseason Mountain West favorite. They are senior forward Winston Shepard, an all-Mountain Team second-team selection last year, and senior forward Skylar Spencer, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. Junior guard Matt Shrigley, who started 17 of the final 21 games last year, was due back but tore his ACL this summer.
San Diego State is a disappointing 3-2 this season. A loss at ranked Utah was understandable but not a home defeat to Arkansas-Little Rock. The Aztecs last played on Monday against East Carolina in the Las Vegas Invitational and won 79-54. Fisher was furious over that loss to Arkansas-Little Rock so he benched Shepard, Spencer and sophomore Malik Pope vs. ECU. In their place were freshman Zylan Cheatham, senior Angelo Chol and junior Dakarai Allen.
Fisher wanted more energy from his guys and got it as his team jumped to a 16-0 lead. Shepard still tied for the team lead with 16 points alongside four-star freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley, the 2014-15 Los Angeles Times Player of the Year. The Aztecs won their 148th straight game when leading with five minutes to play. San Diego State has followed its last 22 losses with a victory, which is tops in Division I. The Aztecs have gone 87 consecutive games without suffering a two-game losing streak.
SDSU leads the all-time series with Cal 3-2 but the teams haven't met since December 2011. The Aztecs have won 42 straight non-conference games vs. schools from the state of California. They are 6-6 in their past 12 games overall against ranked teams. San Diego State is 2-1-1 ATS on NCAA Basketball picks and 3-1 O/U.
I'd take the home team in his matchup were it on one of the campuses, but in Vegas I'll lean Cal. The Bears have covered 13 of their past 21 non-conference games. SDSU is 0-3-1 ATS in its past four after a win.
Free NCAAB Picks: Bears -3