NCAA Basketball Pick: California -4½ over Arkansas

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, November 25, 2013 5:00 AM UTC

Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 5:00 AM UTC

The California Golden Bears have taken advantage of their height to begin the season 4-0 and even with a step up in competition they should prevail vs. Arkansas Monday.

The favorites with the much stiffer interior defense should take advantage of their size advantage Monday when the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0, 0-0 away) take on those California Golden Bears (4-0, 0-0 away) in the First Round of the Maui Invitational from the Lahaina Civic Center in Lahaina, HI at 3:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has California as a moderate favorite for this contest with the current line at -4½ with odds of -106.

This tournament has grown into one of the most popular early-season tournaments in the country and besides these two teams, this year’s field includes the likes of Syracuse, Gonzaga and Baylor. This opening round contest could be a good one though with both teams coming in undefeated.

Granted, both teams are stepping up in class here after taking advantage of early cupcake schedules, with California beginning the season 4-0 and Arkansas starting off 3-0. California grades out considerably better on the early Pomeroy Ratings though as the Golden Bears are currently ranked 33rd overall while the Razorbacks repot home just 70th.

California comes off of a nice 21-12 season including 12-6 inside the Pac-12, just one game worse than the regular season conference champions from UCLA, and the Bears beat UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament before seeing their season end in a close 66-60 loss to the Syracuse Orange. That Cal team finished sixth in the country in two-point defense, and the Bears have been even better than that this season.

The Golden Bears have two big shot-blockers up front in Richard Solomon and David Kravish, who have combined to block 15 shots in four games while also combining for 19.7 rebounds and 20.2 points per game. Their mere presence on the court at the same time has made the interior of the California defense almost impenetrable, and thus the Bears currently lead the country in two-point defense at a tiny 34.3 percent, helping lead to a 13th ranking in defensive efficiency.

The offense he also been well balanced with returnees Tyrone Wallace and Justin Cobbs combining for 24.0 points per game, but the biggest story has been freshman Jabari Bird, who leads the team with his 13.5 points per contest and whose 54 points in his first four games is the most by a Golden Bear freshman since Ryan Anderson in 2006.

Arkansas has been respectable on both sides of the ball, but not as good as California on either end while ranking 108th in offensive efficiency and 59th in defensive efficiency. The Razorbacks were a mediocre 19-13 last season although they did spring a couple of home upsets vs. the likes of Florida and Missouri. Unfortunately they are not home here and the Hogs won just one road game all of last season at Auburn.

Arkansas added some size of its own in 6-foot-10 McDonald’s All-American Bobby Portis, and the youngster is contributing 9.3 points and 4.0 rebounds so far while playing 24 minutes per game. Unfortunately the Razorbacks have very little else to offer in the size department, so we think it will be a struggle for Arkansas to score points here vs. the staunch Cal interior.

Yes, Arkansas is hitting 41.2 percent of its three-pointers so far, and that will need to continue to have a chance in this game. But keep in mind that all three of the Razorbacks’ games this year have been at home, and as we alluded to, they had a very rough time brining their shooting touch on the road with them last season.

Thus do not expect Arkansas to hit 40 percent of its three-pointers in Hawaii, and that should result in the California defense dominating in a fairly safe victory on Monday.


NCAA Basketball Pick: California -4½ (-106)

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