Stanford Cardinal @ Cal Bears -8.5
To say it has been a down year in the Pac 12 would be understating the obvious. With no ranked teams in the Top 25, and the conference lagging well behind the non-BCS Mountain West (and to some extend the WCC, who boasts the addition of BYU to compliment St. Mary’s and Gonzaga), it is hard to find a single team in the Pac 12 who could be considered a LOCK for the NCAA Tournament.
The closest contender would likely be Cal, who enters tonight’s contest at 16-5 and a perfect 13-0 at home, and winners of six of their last eight. At 6-2 in the Pac 12, they are knotted up with a big bunch of teams and can keep pace with leader Washington who emerged to 7-2 with their dramatic victory at Arizona yesterday afternoon. Stanford is 5-3, so technically right in the thick of things, but without a win today, it is hard to see them as a legitimate contender to make the Big Dance.
Cal has been inconsistent on the road, but has been excellent at home this season. They have not only won, but also covered the spread in 8 of their last 10 home games, including 4 of 5 in Pac 12 play. Stanford, on the other hand, has had difficulty living up to the slightly inflated Vegas lines their early season solid play led to. They have gone a meager 3-8 against the spread in their last eleven games, most of which have been underwhelming Pac 12 performances.
The line is a decent sized margin at 8 ½ points, but it is not a number Cal has had too much difficulty covering in their home arena. Their last two contests versus the Cardinal have each been double digit blowout wins; one by 18, the other in 2010 by a whopping 26 points. I am not sure they run them completely out of the gym by 20+ again, but they certainly have an enormous talent advantage and the potential to bury them early. Either way, the 8 ½ should be little trouble for the Pac 12’s best ballclub to cover. I like Cal tonight with relative ease.