I guess when you have been as hot as we have been in the last three weeks, you have to lose once in a while. Heading into the game between West Virginia and Kansas State yesterday, our record since the start of 2020 was a steaming hot 15-2 on college basketball. For those less mathematically inclined folks out there, that is good for 88% winners and an ROI of over 80%.
And while we came up short yesterday by backing West Virginia on the road, I still feel that the logic was sound and that the bet had value, we just got stung by some variance. The Mountaineers have the number one defense in the country, and I just didn’t think that Kansas State was going to be able to get many good looks and expected them to really struggle to shoot the basketball.
— K-State Men's Basketball (@KStateMBB) January 18, 2020
Instead, inexplicably, the Wildcats had their highest-scoring game of the season. The West Virginia defense gave a poor effort early on and allowed the Wildcats to get to the rim and score a bunch of points in the paint. I didn’t think they would be able to shoot the basketball, and it turns out that they didn’t have to, as they got most of their points on layups or dunks.
The win was a big one for Kansas State as it snapped a four-game conference losing streak. The win will go a long way towards bolstering the Wildcats NCAA tournament resume, but at just 8-9 on the year, they still have a lot of work left to do even to be considered a bubble team at this point.
For the Mountaineers, it was a painful loss, as they now drop to two games back of first place Baylor in the loss column in the Big 12. Baylor trailed big yesterday against OK State but gutted out the win, and the Big 12 is the Bears to lose right now as they are 5-0, with road wins against Texas Tech and Kansas. For today’s pick, we will head out west, where the UCLA Bruins host the Cal Bears in Pac 12 action.
- Cal Bears (8-9) at UCLA Bruins (8-9)
- Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
- 5:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPNU
The UCLA Bruins will look to snap a three-game home-court losing streak tonight as they host the Cal Bears in a Pac 12 conference game. The Bruins are in full rebuild mode with new head coach Mick Cronin in his first season at the helm in Westwood. UCLA has lost six out of their last seven games overall, and they are just 1-3 in league play.
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) January 19, 2020
For Cal, the Bears are looking to build on a strong week that saw them pick up back to back wins in league play over the likes of Washington and Washington State. Cal did lose their last game though, at USC, and the Bears will be looking for their first true road win of the season tonight in the city of angels.
The Cal Bears are finally showing some signs of life after a brutal stretch that saw them lose eight out of ten games. The Bears have played a very tough schedule this season, as their SOS is in the fifties, and up until last week, they hadn’t beaten a top-100 team.
But with the recent wins over Washington, a team with two NBA lottery picks on the roster, and Washington State, a team that just beat both Oregon and Oregon State, they showed us that this team just might find a way to stay competitive in the Pac 12 this season.
The Bears play a very slow and methodical pace, and they like to force long drawn out possessions on the defensive end of the floor, making it hard for teams to get easy buckets in transition. And while their defense isn’t great in terms of efficiency, they shrink the game down to fewer possessions, and this has led to some games where they allowed very few points. They have held Washington, Washington State, Stanford, Boston College, Fresno State, Texas, Prairie View A&M, and Cal Baptist to fewer than seventy points.
We already talked about how this Bruins team is rebuilding, and the short-term results have been really ugly. After starting out the season 4-0, the Bruins have lost nine out of their last thirteen games. And after winning seven out of their first eight home games, they have really struggled at Pauley Pavilion recently, dropping their last three.
The home-court loss to 284th ranked Cal State Fullerton was the low point of what has been a very disappointing first year for Mick Cronin at UCLA. The Bruins did manage to find a way to knock off a talented Washington Huskies team on the road two weeks ago, but that game is really starting to look like a fluke as the Bruins continue to lose games.
Who Do I Like?
In reality, I don’t really like either of these teams. Cal has yet to win a road game and to be honest, I don’t think that they will. The Bears just haven’t shown me that they compete at a high-level outside of Berkley.
And when you look at UCLA, the Bruins have been an absolute mess as they look to play Cronin’s signature slow it down, grind it out defense, with a bunch of guys that were recruited for their ability to run and gun on offense under former head coach Steve Alford. But in college basketball, there are teams that should be laying big numbers and there are teams that shouldn’t be. UCLA falls squarely into the category of teams that shouldn’t be asked to lay a lot of wood.
I can’t imagine ever feeling confident backing UCLA laying a bunch of points right now, no matter who they are playing. The Bruins have shown us they can lose to bad teams, even on their home court. Home court losses to Hofstra, Cal State Fullerton, and North Carolina tell me that this team can find a way to lose to just about anyone. And for those of you saying that losing to North Carolina isn’t a bad loss, take a look at what the Tar Heels have done since losing Cole Anthony to injury, it hasn’t been pretty.
So, I will back the Cal Bears getting a handful of points tonight. And while I certainly don’t have a lot of confidence in Cal either, this bet is a straight fade of UCLA. The Bruins will probably find a way to beat a Cal team that can’t win on the road, but all I need is for the Bears not to get blown out, and that is what I see happening tonight. Give me the Cal Bears and the +8.5-points tonight from Pauley Pavilion!