NCAA Basketball Picks: Take The Points When California Meets Stanford In Pac-12 Matchup

Willie Bee

Thursday, January 14, 2016 12:48 PM GMT

Stuck in the middle of the Pac-12 pack, the Stanford Cardinal and California Golden Bears meet in a late contest on Thursday. Who will be our NCAA basketball pick?

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Stanford +3½
Best Line Offered: at The Greek

 

These are indeed strange days in the Pac-12. None of the four teams at the top of the conference race within a game of each other are named Arizona or UCLA, and a pair of teams expected to give the Wildcats and Bruins their toughest competition are languishing in the middle of the pack treading water at .500 going into their crucial Thursday evening matchup.

That would be the California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal who renew their long-running rivalry at the Maples Center in one of the final games on tonight's college basketball betting slate. The 11 PM (ET) tip will be televised by FOX Sports 1.

A quick check of SBR's live NCAA basketball odds board shows Cal -3½ at Bookmaker and 132 for the total after that number opened a notch lower.

One of the best overall rivalries in the Pac-12, these two schools have been going at each other a long time on the basketball court with Thursday's tussle the 264th meeting. The Golden Bears hold a 144-119 edge in the series, though the Cardinal have won three straight and five of the last six get-togethers. They're scheduled to meet again in a little more than three weeks up in Berkeley.

Each of Stanford's wins in the current modest streak were by at least 10 points, earning paydays for Cardinal backers. Both contests a year ago stayed 'under' totals in the 130-138 range, giving low-side bettors the cash in four of the last six meetings.

 

Bears Hibernate For A Week After This One
Thursday's tilt wraps up a 3-game road trip for California (12-5 straight up, 9-8 against the spread), and the first two on the journey didn't go well for Cuonzo Martin's men. A trip up to the Beaver State last week resulted in losses to Oregon and Oregon State, the second of those of the mild upset variety as 2½ point chalk against OSU.

The Golden Bears did manage to cover as 3½ point underdogs in the 68-65 loss against the Ducks, and could have pulled off their own upset if not for the fact they were shut out from beyond the arc on 12 tries. Cal also left 10 points on the free throw line in that game and committed 18 turnovers.

Martin's squad is still in the Pac-12 race with a 2-2 league mark, but need a win tonight before taking a week off in front of hosting Arizona State and Arizona. The offense revolves around guard Tyrone Wallace, the senior out of Bakersfield on top of the team scoring chart as he was a year ago. Outside shooting has been a problem, however, with junior guard Jordan Mathews the only real 3-point threat on the squad.

 

Cardinal Really Missing Travis' Inside Presence
It certainly didn't help Stanford (9-6 SU, 6-7 ATS) to lose Reid Travis a little less than a month ago. The sophomore forward suffered a stress fracture in his left leg after a December 15 win over DePaul, and there is no timetable for his return. The same injury last year cost Travis about a month, and his minutes were drastically reduced upon his return.

The Cardinal were on the same trail as Cal last week, first beating Oregon State 78-72 as 6½ point underdogs before bowing to Oregon 71-58 on a +9 spread. Stanford smoked the Beavers on the glass, snatching a season-high 20 offensive boards in the process, then got overmatched in the rebounding column by the Ducks. With Travis out, Dorian Pickens has moved into a starting role, and both he and Michael Humphrey have been in foul trouble early the last four games.

So, for my free NCAA basketball pick, I'm going to take the home team plus the points.

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