It's a Pac-12 flavor on our NCAA picks of the day for the final Saturday of college basketball's regular season -- both a sad day in that it's the end of the season but also a good one in that March Madness is almost upon us -- and both picked games have big-time NCAA Tournament ramifications.
No. 3 Arizona vs. Oregon
Arizona is the Pac-12 champion so might the Cats simply take their foot off the gas for this one and get ready and rested for the conference tournament? That's doubtful because a victory over the Ducks likely clinches the No. 1 seed in the West Region for Arizona no matter what happens in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Wildcats (18-11 ATS, 9-17-2 O/U at sportsbooks) fell out of sync a bit when they lost starting forward Brandon Ashley for the season in Arizona's 60-58 defeat at California on Feb. 1. UA won its next two games without Ashley, but then was beaten 69-66 in double overtime at Arizona State and lucky to escape the next game with a victory at Utah, winning 67-63 in overtime. Since then, Arizona is clicking on all cylinders: 27-point win over Colorado, 28-point win over California, 13-point win over Stanford, and 5-point win Wednesday at Oregon State (the only Arizona non-cover of the four for sports bettors). One concern against the Beavers was that Arizona was outrebounded for only the sixth time all season. Frankly, that was a bit of a letdown game coming after UA had clinched the Pac-12.
Oregon, the defending Pac-12 Tournament champion, is on the NCAA Tournament bubble despite starting the season 13-0 and getting into the Top 10 of the polls. The Ducks (15-10-3 ATS, 15-12 O/U) didn't win consecutive games since that 13-game run until a current six-game winning streak. That began after Oregon was swept in the Arizona swing, losing to the Wildcats and Sun Devils by two points each. The two most impressive victories in the current run were at UCLA on Feb. 27 and Tuesday against Arizona State. Oregon's athletic department should send Bruins coach Steve Alford a thank-you letter. Alford suspended UCLA's two top scorers, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, for that Oregon game. That win could be the difference between an at-large bid or not, although the Ducks should get one for sure if they pull off this upset.
Arizona was a 12-point favorite on NCAA basketball odds in the 67-65 win over Oregon on Feb. 6. The Wildcats looked disjointed in their first game without Ashley, shooting 40 percent overall and just 4-for-16 from 3-point range. Their best player that day, ironically, was Ashley's starting replacement, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He had 14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The Ducks led 60-59 with under two minutes left but had two big turnovers and missed a few free throws.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Oregon +3 on NCAA basketball odds. The Ducks know this punches their Big Dance ticket, have won five straight pretty convincingly at home, and it should be rowdy with the only sellout of the season. Oregon has covered four straight in this series.
Colorado vs. California
Here are two teams squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble with the Buffs (21-9, 10-7) in much better shape than the Bears (18-12, 9-8). Colorado has a solid RPI of No. 25, while Cal is at 57.
The NCAA selection committee will take into account that Colorado (16-13 ATS, 15-13 O/U at sportsbooks) lost its best player, Spencer Dinwiddie, for the season Jan. 12. The Buffaloes were No. 15 in the nation in the game he was hurt -- at Washington -- and have gone 7-6 without him. They ended a two-game losing streak with a big 59-56 win at Stanford on Wednesday. The Cardinal are another bubble team and that certainly slots CU ahead of them. It's hard to imagine a team finishing 11-7 in the Pac-12, even as down as it is, wouldn't get in. Colorado's 21 wins match the 1996-97 team for the most in school history.
California (12-17 ATS, 13-16 O/U) needs a win and probably to reach the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, and even that may not be enough. The committee definitely takes into account how a team has finished a season and the Bears have lost three straight and four of five. Cal does have a win over No. 1 Arizona on its resume but not much else. Wednesday's 63-59 home loss to Utah was a crusher, the fifth straight loss in which the Bears have been held under 70 points. Cal has just one loss in 2014 when it reached 70 points and that was in OT (Arizona State). Leading scorer Justin Cobbs, who beat Arizona on a buzzer-beater, was held to six points against the Utes.
This is the only regular-season meeting between the schools. The teams split last season, each winning by double digits at home. Take California over Colorado for your college basketball picks.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: California -4.5 on NCAA basketball odds. The Bears end their five-game ATS losing streak as they play inspired ball in their home finale. Colorado is 1-4 ATS in its past five after an ATS win.