NCAAM Pick January 7, 2021 – Washington State Cougars at Cal Bears

Our red-hot week continued yesterday as we picked up two more winners on an undefeated day of college hoops betting action! One of the winners came when we backed the Arkansas Razorbacks getting +9 points at Tennessee. It was one of those spots where I felt that the public was heavily undervaluing the Razorbacks and that while I didn’t think they were going to be able to go into Knoxville and win the game outright, getting to back Arkansas with that many points seemed absurd.

I expected a physical back and forth game all night long that would likely come down to the final few possessions. The Razorbacks are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, and I knew that if they could dominate the glass, they would have the Vols on upset alert and easily cover the spread.

And that is exactly what happened. Arkansas led for much of the first half and took a 7-point lead into halftime. The game was tightly contested the rest of the way out, and with less than a minute remaining on the clock, the Vols led 75-74. As expected, Arkansas wasn’t able to complete the outright upset victory, but our cover was never in doubt, and we cashed an easy winner with a final score of 79-74.

The win was a huge one for Tennessee as they continue to be the team to beat in the SEC, and they needed to rebound after losing their first game of the year last week to Alabama. For Arkansas, they have now lost back-to-back games after starting their season 9-0, and while neither of their two losses are bad ones, the Razorbacks are going to need to find a way to win games against good teams if they want to compete at the top of the SEC. With the win yesterday, we ran our record this week to a sizzling hot 8-3, and we will look to keep that run good going tonight as we head to the PAC-12 conference for a game between Washington State and Cal.

Today’s Game

  • Washington State Cougars (8-1) at Cal Bears (5-6)
  • Haas Pavilion, Berkeley
  • 7:00 PM PST
  • TV: PACN

The California Bears host the Washington State Cougars in a PAC-12 conference game tonight from Haas Pavilion in Berkeley. Both teams are expected to finish near the basement of the conference, and the Bears have already started their league play season poorly with an 0-4 record. Cal is hoping to pick up their first PAC-12 win of the year tonight against an upstart Cougars team.

For Washington State, the Cougars didn’t have a lot of reasons to be optimistic heading into this season, but after an 8-1 start, many are wondering if WAZZU can be a contender out west. The Cougars are coming off of their first loss of the season, a homecourt loss to Arizona in double overtime, and tonight marks the first game of the year for Washington State that won’t be played in Pullman.

Spread:

  • Washington State Cougars (-2.5)
  • Cal Bears (+2.5)
Money line:

  • Washington State Cougars (-148)
  • Cal Bears (+120)
Total Points:

  • Over 129.5 (-110)
  • Under 129.5 (-110)

Cal Bears (5-6)

Cal head coach Mark Fox is hoping to turn this Bears program into a contender in the PAC-12. Fox was able to take Nevada and Georgia to the NCAA tournament as a head coach, and in his second year at the helm in Berkeley, he is starting to see some progress. When you are building a program from the ground up like Fox is trying to do, the first step is finding a way to protect your home floor and win in your own building.

Cal has done a great job of doing just that under Fox, as last year as the Bears were 12-5 at Haas Pavilion. In conference play, the Bears were a very receptacle 6-3 at home. That homecourt success has bled into this year as well, as Cal is 4-1 at home but just 1-5 in neutral site or true road games. The lone home loss on the year for Cal came to an Arizona State team that has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but is expected to compete for the PAC-12 title.

Washington State Cougars (8-1)

I am going to come out and be completely honest here. I grew up just an hour away from Pullman, Washington, and sadly I call myself a closeted Cougars fan. And while I really want to believe that this 8-1 start is for real, I can give you a dozen examples of seasons that have started out just like this one, that have ended in heartbreak for me and my fellow Cougar faithful. WAZZU has this nasty habit of scheduling really soft in the non-conference and running up a stellar record before getting wrecked in PAC-12 play.

Those 8 straight wins Washington State had to start the season? Not a single one of them came against a top-100 team, and 4 of those wins came against teams outside of the top-300! The SOS for the Cougars is one of the weakest in the nation right now at 323rd, and oh, did I mention that every single one of their games have been played in Pullman?

Who Do I Like?

Last year Washington State had a similar start to the season as they jumped out to an impressive 9-4 record with wins over a bunch of bums. When they hit league play, they were quickly exposed as frauds and finished the year 6-12 in PAC-12 conference games. That ugly league record includes getting swept by these very same Cal Bears. WSU has never been good on the road in conference play as last year they were a dismal 1-8, the year before they were 2-7, and in 2018 they were again 1-8.

This is such a predictable public line move. The Bears opened up as -1-point homecourt favorites and that number made a lot of sense. On the one hand, you have a team that isn’t very good, but they are battle-tested, having played a respectable schedule, and they are historically great at winning at home. On the other hand, you have a WSU team that beats up on bad teams, and when they play good competition, they basically never win, and on the road in conference play, they are winning only 17% of the time in the last three seasons.

So, yeah, of course, the public jumped all over WSU, because that’s what they always do! The brain-dead general betting public saw Washington State’s flashy 8-1 record and never cared to notice that wins over teams like Idaho, Northwestern State, and Prairie View A&M were basically bye games and were tricked into thinking this team is good. They aren’t. All of that public action has now made the Cougars road favorites, laying -2.5-points.

The Bet

Another day, another home court underdog, fade the public, play. There are certain teams that should be favored in road conference games. But laying wood on the road in league play should be reserved for the best of the best in the nation. It goes without saying that Washington State is not one of the best teams in the nation. The fact that they are favored on the road against a Cal team that is actually quite good at home, is laughable.

Backing the Bears shows outrageous value, and this will go down as one of the worst line moves of the year so far. Trust me, take it from a die-hard Cougars fan, you don’t want to be laying wood on the road against anybody. Tony Bennet and Klay Thompson aren’t walking back through those doors, Cougars fans.

I am going to snatch up the points because it’s basically free money at this point, but I fully expect the Bears to take care of business and win this game at home tonight, so a money line play on Cal certainly shows some value as well. Give me the Cal Bears tonight at home, getting +2.5-points as they knock off a painfully overrated Washington State Cougars team. Let’s call it a 64-56 final score from Haas Pavilion!

The Bet: Cal Bears +2.5

My Pick
Cal Bears +2.5
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL