Conference slates pick up in earnest this weekend, and all signs point to the only mystery in the Pac-12 being the race for second behind the Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona is ranked No. 3 in the country, the only Pac-12 squad to sit in the top 25 of either poll. The Wildcats remain one of just four unbeaten teams on the college hoops landscape. They are lucky to be in that quartet after a scare in their conference opener on Thursday against Colorado, who took Sean Miller's crew to overtime before Arizona eventually pulled it out.
UCLA figures to be the best bet to challenge the Wildcats, followed by Oregon. Arizona State is off to a surprisingly good start to the season, and Colorado has proven it won't be a pushover.
It's easy to focus on the cream of each conference this time of year, but bettors need to remember there's value in matchups between lesser teams. Our two stops on Saturday's NCAA odds slate looks at four such teams appear to be headed for that middle-of-the-pack status in the Pac-12.
Wazzu Hosts U-Dub in Conference Openers
Washington and Washington State break the seals on their Pac-12 schedules with a clash in Pullman for the 275th meeting on the hardwood between the rivals on the hardwood. Opening numbers on the SBR odds screen listed the Cougars as 4 point home favorites with 129 for totals bettors to consider.
This series has belonged to the visiting Huskies over the years with a 174-100 edge, including 7-2 the past nine meetings. Washington has emerged victorious in the last three battles after sweeping and covering the home-&-home contests last year.
But it's Wazzu that comes in on a better run at 7-2 its last nine, and beating the spread in all seven lined affairs during the stretch that started after getting walloped by Kansas in the CBE Classic back in November. Ken Bone's bunch has since lost two games by a total of three points, including dropping one at the buzzer to No. 10 Gonzaga.
Defense is the Cougars' strength, and it will have to remain the calling card without much offense behind Brock Motum (19.7 ppg) and DeVonte Lacy (11.8 ppg). Washington State is keeping the other guys off the scoreboard to the tune of just 55.2 PPG, 12th in the country, and 20th in limiting teams to a 37.2% shooting mark.
Washington comes to Pullman off a loss at UConn last Saturday that snapped a 4-game win streak. The Huskies failed to cover for the second straight game, and are 6-4 their last 10 straight up (3-6 ATS). They have a little more offensive firepower than the Cougars with four players in double figures, led by CJ Wilcox's 18.5 scoring average.
The key battle will be inside between Motum and Washington's Aziz N'Diaye, and Motum has the edge since he should be able to draw N'Diaye out at times to open up space for the Wazzu guards to penetrate.
Cal in LA to Take on Trojans
The final game on Saturday's schedule that will be played in the Lower 48 is California at USC in the second conference game for both schools. Southern Cal is favored by a point and the overnight total was 128.
The Trojans have been a real enigma in the early going thanks to a very inconsistent offense. Southern Cal had a 4-game stretch in November without sinking 40% of field goal tries, but has also been able to get hot on a few other occasions when you least expect it. Like Thursday night in the Pac-12 opener against Stanford. Three-point underdogs at home, the Trojans sank nearly 51% from the field to rally from a 9-point halftime deficit for the 71-69 dubya.
California has fallen on tough times after opening the campaign 6-0. The Golden Bears have dropped five of seven since then and failed to cover any of the six lined games during that span. Cal is likely to be without Richard Solomon for this game with the big 6-10 forward questionable due to a concussion. The Bears are also going to be a little thin off the bench out on the perimeter as Brandon Smith (concussion) is expected to miss his third straight game.
Both games last season went to California, and the teams split at the window. Southern Cal has been a good wager to cover in recent meetings, but a streaky offense has me thinking UNDER in this one for my NCAAB Picks.
Season: 34-27 ($4.30)