We look to the Pac-12 for our NCAA basketball Picks of the Night, a pair of double-digit spreads catch our attention. In one spot we're going to give the points, while in the other we'll take them.
Utes to the Palouse
Utah, trying to hang on to second place in the Pac-12, heads up to Pullman to take on Washington State. In the early betting many books opened the Utes at -13.5 and -14, then dropped that spread to -13.
Utah had won five in a row, but has lost two of its last three, after taking a tough 63-57 defeat Saturday at home to Pac-12 leading Arizona. The Utes, despite being the home team, got out-shot from the free-throw line 37-21, resulting in an 11-point difference.
So Utah can't overtake the Wildcats atop the Pac-12, but it could use a two seed for the conference tournament to avoid Arizona for as long as possible.
The Cougars, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four and nine of their last 12, after falling at UCLA Sunday 72-67. Wazzu hung around for as long as it could, and held on for the cover as a 15-point underdog.
At 12-16 overall Washington State is just playing out the string on this season.
Utah took the first meeting between these teams this season six weeks ago in Salt Lake City 86-64, covering as a 19-point favorite. The Utes led that game by 19 at the half, allowed Wazzu to pull within 10 about halfway through the second half, then re-applied the gas and pulled away. On the night Utah committed just three turnovers, while the Cougars committed 17.
The Utes shot just 31 percent from the floor Saturday against Arizona, but our guess is they'll shoot a little better than that tonight, against Washington State's rather generous defense. And while tonight's spread seems a bit high, at least it's not the 19 points Utah had to give in the first meeting this season. We like the better team in this spot to win this game with room enough for the cover. Add Utah to your NCAA basketball picks tonight.
Free College Basketball Pick: Utah -13 at 5Dimes
Top 'Cats Battle Bears
Pac-12 leading Arizona, which has already clinched a share of the regular-season conference title, hosts Coach Martin's Cal team. Most shops we sampled opened their college basketball betting odds on this game with Arizona favored by 19 points, and that figure was holding steady in the early action.
The Wildcats have won six in a row, going 5-1 ATS, after winning at Utah Saturday 63-57. Arizona only shot 33 percent from the floor, but held the Utes to 31 percent and won the battle on the boards by a 44-35 margin, winning outright as a two-point road dog.
During their recent winning streak the Wildcats have won by at least 24 points four times.
At 14-2 in conference play and 26-3 overall Arizona is still in the running for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
The Bears, meanwhile, just snapped a three-game losing streak with a 73-56 victory over Oregon State Sunday. Cal trailed that game by eight late in the first half, then went on an 18-0 run to take over. For the game the Bears shot 51 percent from the field, one of their best performances of the season, and out-rebounded the Beavers 38-25, covering as four-point home favorites.
Back in early February Cal won five in a row, before losing to Utah by 15, to Stanford by 11 and to Oregon by 11.
Hey, if the Bears can hang tough enough to only lose by 11 tonight, they'll cash.
At 17-12 overall, 7-9 in Pac-12 play Cal has probably played a bit below hopes this season, even though it's been dealing with the learning curve with the new coaching regime.
Arizona won the first meeting between these teams this season back in January up in Berkeley 73-50, covering at -12. But the Bears were going through a tough stretch at that moment; they're a little better team right now.
Cal is 6-3 ATS over its last nine games, suggesting to us the Bears might be slightly underrated on the betting lines. Also, Arizona, coming off the win at Utah and playing at home, is probably favored by a bit too much. Yes, the Wildcats are very likely to win this game, but if Cal can just ugly it up a bit, play a little defense, limited the turnovers and hold its own on the boards, it could cover tonight's number.
Free College Basketball Pick: California +19 at 5Dimes