College Basketball Pick
The Pac-12 is deep this year, but without a dominant team like Arizona has been in recent seasons, the Conference will continue to not get any respect. The most surprising part right now is that USC and Washington are at the top of the standings, which no one probably predicted. Arizona is close behind, while California has really struggled on the road.
The Golden Bears aren’t a bad team, they just can’t seem to put it all together on the road so a three-Game road trip early in the Conference slate wasn’t good news for them as they fell to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. But before those Games, they dealt rather easily with Colorado and Utah. A win over Arizona here would take away some of the pain from those losses.
As for the Wildcats, they’ve had similar issues after falling in back-to-back road Games at UCLA and USC. Of course, they followed those up with 20-plus-point wins over Washington and Washington State. Arizona is good, but can they beat solid teams on the road?
Both of these squads are plenty young and that has been part of the reason for their road struggles, but that’s not to say neither have any experience.
The Wildcats are led by big man Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York, while the Golden Bears have Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews to turn to. The easiest way to beat Arizona is to hit shots (obviously), but this year’s team doesn’t have defense as a strong suit. Tarczewski is effective in the paint, but the Wildcats lack defending on the outside.
That’s where the veteran backcOurt trio of California will come in handy. Although part of the issue is that Mathews is their only consistent shooter right now. They have guys that can shoot, but Mathews is their only guy to be truly afraid of beyond the arc. Wallace is more of a slasher and only has 16 made threes on the year.
Maybe the most interesting matchup in this Game will be freshman Ivan Rabb against Tarczewski. Rabb has been good this year, but continues to get into foul trouble and it wouldn’t be surprising if Arizona attacked Rabb in the early going. Rabb fouled out in three of his first five Pac-12 Games if that says anything. If that’s the case, ‘Zona gets the edge because Cal is obviously a better team with Rabb on the floor. The same can be said about fellow freshman Jaylen Brown, who averages 3.2 fouls per Game and just fouled out against Arizona State on Thursday. Brown is a dynamic player that presents mismatch problems, but if either of these guys gets into foul trouble, the harder this Game will be to win.
Another issue for Arizona is that second-leading scorer and freshman Allonzo Trier won’t be active again because of a broken hand. Of course that hurts them, but senior Mark Tollefsen has been great filling in so far. Transfer Ryan Anderson has also been huge for this team as he leads the Wildcats in scoring.
Cal will be pumped for this Game on a national stage against the perennial Pac-12 favorites. This will be a close Game as expected just because it’s Arizona, but the Golden Bears get the edge at home in what is set to be a ‘Gold OUt’ for the crowd.
Predicted ScoreArizona 74 Cal 73