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Cal vs UCLA NCAA Pick – Jan 3rd

We had another great night in college hoops last night, going 3-0 ATS at thesportsgeek.com, pulling our record to 16-3 ATS in our last 19 games.  It’s a good way to start conference play.  Non-conference play is always a little tricky, as it is often a little tougher to get a good gauge on exactly how opposing and unfamiliar styles will matchup once they actually get on the court.  Home teams generally reign supreme; perhaps a combination of the fact that very few elite teams will actually go and PLAY a true road game against another elite opponent, and a little factor from a brand new unfamiliar gym and the shooting difficulties it can occasionally cause.

Now, we get into the meat of the college hoops season, where teams and coaches know each other well and rivalries ramp up the intensity.  The Big Ten and Missouri Valley are already off and racing, and the Pac 12 joins the fray tonight with a good slate of interesting matchups.  So let’s head to Los Angeles for tonight’s free pick and focus in on the suddenly-dangerous UCLA Bruins.

Cal Bears at UCLA Bruins -7 (Total: 152)

Before the season began, UCLA was expected to be the class of the conference along with a solid Arizona team.  However the combination of suspensions and sloppy play got them off to a terrible start.  They had an early stretch where they lost three of five including a humiliating loss to Cal-Poly.  Shabazz or no Shabazz, that loss just CAN’T happen in Pauley Pavilion.

So it was only natural to write off Ben Howland’s squad as overrated.  Do so at your own peril.  This team looked fantastic in its last game, a thrilling 97-94 overtime win against a very good Missouri team.  They have also went on the road and won at Texas.   Despite one of the more inexplicable losses of the season, this team is still a very real threat to win the Pac-12 and earn a Top 4 seed come March.  In fact, I’d wager on it if such a prop bet existed.

Cal had a good start to the season, winning the 76 Classic over Thanksgiving by spanking Drake, Georgia Tech and Pacific.  Things were looking promising in Berkley.  Then the wheels came off.  They enter tonight losers of four of six, including a 25-point loss to under-performing Wisconsin, Creighton, and most recently, Harvard 67-62.  That’s not a good trend for a team getting ready to head into hostile UCLA to face a team loaded with suddenly coming together NBA talent.

I like UCLA big tonight, and don’t think they’ll have too much trouble covering the seven point line.

Free Pick:  UCLA Bruins -7