California vs. Washington State Pac-12 Tournament First Round Picks and Predictions

Grant Mullins #3 of the California Golden Bears. Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images/AFP

For the third game of the opening day of the Pac-12 tournament we have No. 10 California taking on No. 7 Washington State and the winner will face No. 2 UCLA on Thursday. Who might that be?

After a stumbling start to the Pac-12 season at 2-11, California either started to play better or the competition took them too lightly and they closed a somewhat respectable 3-4 SU and ATS. Will this give the Golden Bears a belief that can engineer the upset?

Washington State was 11-9 (8-12 ATS) in conference play and they had swings of good and poor play mostly predicated on who they faced. The Cougars closed well at 4-1 (though only 1-4 ATS) and will try to put Cal away early and save energy for a quarterfinal encounter.

California Golden Bears vs. Washington State Cougars

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 – 9:00 PM EST at T-Mobile Arena

Sportsbooks like BetRivers have Washington State as an eight-point favorite with a total of 125.5 when reviewing their betting odds. The Cougs won 65-57 at home and 68-64 in Berkeley and failed to cover spreads of -9.5 and -7.5 respectively.

Cal Bears Preview

It’s been another long season for men’s basketball for California at 12-19. Those backing the Golden Bears are far less disappointed because they posted a 19-12 ATS mark.

Coach Mark Fox has not done a good job in reshaping this basketball program, particularly on offense, where they were last in the Pac-12 in scoring at 63.2 points a game. Second-leading scorer Andre Kelly (13.4 PPG) has missed Cal’s last 10 contests and nothing has been said about his return. This past Saturday, starting point guard Joel Brown did not play with a knee injury and his status for this matchup and the tournament is in question. On a team with a limited offense, not having these starters leaves them with only one option.

The Golden Bears will have to rely on their defense, which surrendered a respectable 66.1 PPG versus opponents that averaged 71.2 PPG. Cal was the top three-point defensive team in the conference and they will have to force more than the 10 turnovers a game as they have this season and try to convert those into easy points.

Wazzou Cougs Preview

Washington State at 18-13 (13-18 ATS) only has one path to the NCAA tournament and that is winning four games in four days.

To do that, the Cougars will have to do better than their solid nine treys a contest and need to average double digits to keep advancing. That is going to require players like guards Michael Flowers, Noah  Williams, and Tyrell Roberts, in particular, to connect from deep. In their last game of the regular season, they did just that in dropping 16 made bombs in routing Oregon 94-74.

However, that’s not going to happen every game and it would help immensely if all Washington State players took their time in the halfcourt offense and worked for better looks to improve the 41.7% shooting percentage.

The Cougars’ defense by the numbers is slightly better than California at  65.3 PPG permitted and at 42% (Cal’s at 42.3% allowed) and they generate 14 miscues a contest.

What Is the Best Side to Be On?

In considering taking Washington State to cover the spread, one has to think long and hard about the Cougars handing out this many points. Since the middle of December, coach Kyle Smith’s crew is 2-8 ATS dishing out seven or more points.

California will do whatever possible to slow the pace and because they are skilled in slowing their opponent’s three-point shooting that forces a club like Wazzou to make shots from elsewhere, which has not been their strength.

For your NCAAB picks, look for Washington State to maintain a 5 to 8-point working margin most of this battle, but fail to cover the spread in victory.

NCAAB Pick: California +8 (-110) at BetRivers