NCAA Basketball Pick: Cal, Virginia To Get Defensive In Rematch

Virginia Cavaliers Player With The Ball

Willie Bee

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 2:33 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 2:33 PM UTC

The two schools gave us a thriller last year in Charlottesville, and on Wednesday we have a free NCAA basketball pick for the rematch in Berkeley between California and No. 12 Virginia.

Defense is never going to be an issue for a team coached by Tony Bennett. The other end of the court, however, has been a problem spot for the Cavaliers who complete their non-conference slate with a long trip west to face the Golden Bears.

The battle between squads each looking for their 10th victory of the year gets underway a little past 10 p. m. ET from Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, ESPN2 beaming the action into your living room or favorite sports bar. It's the visiting Wahoos who went out as 5-point favorites before that number was whittled down to 3½ at 5Dimes, the 118½-point total serving as the lowest scoreboard mark by far on today's card.


Finding Offense Key To Game

No. 12 Virginia (9-1 straight up, 5-3 against the spread) is still trying to find consistent offensive production to match its stellar defense. The only player averaging at least 10 points a game is Austin Nichols, who appeared in all of one game before being kicked off the team for discipline troubles, and the Cavaliers rank 204th in the country in scoring just over 71 PPG.

Bennett's bunch did bounce back from their only loss to West Virginia a few weeks back with wins over East Carolina and Robert Morris, covering the NCAA basketball odds in both decisions. Freshman Kyle Guy saw his minutes and production increase in each game, and he could provide the offensive boost the team sorely needs heading into ACC play.

Yes, we're all happy about California (9-2 SU, 4-7 ATS) so far, but this is when Cuonzo Martin really needs to push his Bears to a signature win. The biggest of the nine victories came against Princeton in the Pearl Harbor Invitational as small 'dogs, and like Virginia, Cal begins its conference slate next following a long break after this game. The Bears have go-to scoring options in Charlie Moore and Jabari Bird, who recently returned to action after a back injury, and don't rank far behind Virginia's top-ranked defense (46.7 ppg) in allowing just 59.6 points a contest.


Bears Seeking 28th Straight Home Win

Tonight marks just the second meeting between these two, and if it is anything like last year's inaugural meeting we're in for some fun. Favored by 12½ at home, then-No. 5 Virginia needed a strong push in the second half to force overtime, where the Cavaliers got a 3-pointer from London Perrantes in the waning seconds for a 63-62 triumph. Even with the extra period, the game failed to reach a 134-point total.

Both teams have shot very well in their last two wins, but those came over lesser programs. Cal is trying to extend the school's longest home-court win streak, currently at 27, but I'm more inclined to play the 'under' for my free NCAA basketball pick than taking either side in what should be a defensive clinic. Season record: 15-15 (-1.50).

NCAAB Free Pick: 'Under' 118.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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