California vs. SMU in NIT Action: NCAA Basketball Picks

Willie Bee

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:31 PM GMT

Have we found value on the NCAA odds in Wednesday night's NIT quarterfinals matchup between Southern Methodist and California?  Read on to find out where our handicapper is placing his money.

A great season for the Southern Methodist Mustangs ended in disappointment when they were left out of the NCAA Tournament's Field of 68.  Instead, the Ponies drew the top No. 1 seed in the NIT, and they'll try to punch their ticket to the Final Four with another victory Tuesday night at home.

Up next for the Mustangs are the California Golden Bears, seeded No. 2 in the bracket behind SMU.  The squads collide in a 9 PM (ET) contest at Dallas' Moody Coliseum with ESPN2's cameras on hand to broadcast the showdown.

SBR's live NCAA basketball odds opened SMU as 8.5 point chalk with 134.5 for the total.  That number was quickly adjusted to 136. 

The Mustangs and Bears did not meet in the regular season, but they do share one common opponent in the Arkansas Razorbacks.  Cal beat Arkansas, 85-77, in the first round of the Maui Invitational last November, covering a 4 point spread with the contest darting past a 149 point total.  A week earlier, SMU lost to the Razorbacks on the road, 89-78, falling short of the +5.5 underdog spread Mustang backers were getting.

[gameodds]14/262703/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Bears Top Hogs A 2nd Time To Reach NIT Quarters
California (21-13 straight up, 13-19-1 against the spread) proved its win over Arkansas in Hawaii was no fluke by beating the 3rd-seeded Razorbacks again Monday night to set up this clash with SMU.  This time, the Golden Bears were giving up two points, and once again cashed for sports bettors with a 75-64 decision.  Unlike the first meeting, Monday's contest stayed below the total (153). 

That game followed a 77-64 victory in the first round of the NIT vs. Utah Valley.  The final pushed a 13 point spread, and the two wins in this tournament are the first time since mid-February the Bears posted back-to-back dubyas. 

Mike Montgomery's troops have not had the services of Richard Solomon since their loss to Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.  The 6-10 forward suffered a concussion in that game and is doubtful for the SMU game.  Solomon is fourth on the team in scoring (11.0 ppg) and ranks in the top 15 of the nation pulling down 10.2 rebounds per game. 

The Bears might also be without junior swingman Ricky Kreklow who broke his nose in Monday's game vs. Arkansas.

 

Ponies Hoping To Ride Into Madison Square Garden
A 3-game skid just before Selection Sunday dashed any hopes Southern Methodist (25-9 SU, 19-11 ATS) had of completing their amazing turnaround with an invite to the Big Dance.  It should be noted, however, that two of those setbacks came to defending champion Louisville and at then-No. 20 Memphis. 

The huge improvement from last season to this should net Brown some postseason hardware.  He's a finalist for both the Henry Iba National Coach of the Year and Naismith Coach of the Year awards, though I'm certain he'd exchange those honors for a trip to Madison Square Garden next week. 

The Mustangs put those three late defeats quickly behind them with a pair of wins and covers so far in the NIT.  SMU first dispatched UC-Irvine a week ago, besting a 10 point spread with a 68-54 victory vs. the Anteaters.  Monday night saw the Mustangs take care of business against 5th-seeded LSU with an 80-67 triumph on a -7 line.  The win left SMU 17-1 at Moody Coliseum this season. 

I love the Pony Express, just not by 8.5 points.  The Bears may be short-handed, especially in the paint, but I'm still going with the road 'dogs for my free NCAA basketball pick

My pick: California +8.5

Season: 59-43-4 (+11.7), 2 picks pending