The California Golden Bears are quite likely to make this year’s NCAA tournament field. However, if they can beat the Arizona Wildcats for the second time in the past few weeks, they won’t have to sweat at all when the NCAA tournament’s teams are ultimately seeded, bracketed and selected.
California Golden Bears @ Arizona Wildcats
Wednesday, February 26th – 7:35 PM ET
Aloha Stadium – Honolulu, HI
Odds: Wildcats -12.5
The Golden Bears Will Win If…
They have already proved that they can beat Arizona, and because playing on the road will give them the awareness and understanding that no one expects them to win. California can take the court in Tucson with a daring, even defiant, state of mind. The Golden Bears won’t be reckless – they’ll be aggressive and unrelenting, and since head coach Mike Montgomery has frequently stood in the way of Arizona’s path to success (dating back to his days at the San Francisco Bay Area’s other Pac-12 Conference school, Stanford University), Cal can rightly feel that it has the right man on the bench for this game.
Cal can also win because it has the playmaker and shotmaker who can carry a team on the road in a tough environment. Justin Cobbs is the guard who hit a game-winning shot against Arizona in the previous meeting between these teams, nailing a tough 17-footer from the left corner with 0.9 seconds left in regulation. If Cobbs can score 35 points in this game – and while that’s not likely against Arizona’s defense, it’s certainly possible for a player of Cobbs’ caliber – California wouldn’t just have a chance to win and cover the college basketball point spread. It would likely prevail.
The Wildcats Will Win If…
They’re playing a revenge game at home after having fixed their foremost problems. The Wildcats lost forward Brandon Ashley in the early stages of their previous game against Cal. Now, Arizona will know how to play the Golden Bears in a different way. The biggest sign of encouragement for the Wildcats is that their point guard. T.J. McConnell, played two road games last week against Utah and Colorado without committing a turnover. McConnell’s shot selection wasn’t particularly good, and his jump shot needs work at this late stage in the season, but if McConnell isn’t turning the ball over, Arizona definitely benefits.
The Wildcats are also playing really tough defense, their trademark throughout this season. Arizona’s rotations are crisp and effective, and this team still has the low-post size – with Kaleb Tarczewski – to be intimidating for opponents in the paint. The Wildcats are not likely to be outworked on the boards, and they can feed the ball in the low post on offense and get high-percentage shots if their guards can’t break free for open looks on the perimeter. Arizona has options, and teams with options are the teams that generally rise above the rest in college basketball. That’s where Arizona is right now.
Do you really think that California is going to sweep Arizona, winning the second game on the road? It’s not likely. Yet, 12.5 is a lot of points to give away on the betting lines. California should be able to cover the number here.
Pick: California +12.5