Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 5:00 PM
The California Golden Bears started Pac 12 play with a flourish. They beat Stanford on the road as a 6-point underdog, then did the same thing to Oregon. They were 5-0 straight up and ATS in league play to get things started. Then, DISASTER! They were stunned at USC Wednesday Night in a lookahead to Sunday’s huge game at UCLA. Was Cinderella’s coach turning back into a pumpkin? Or, was that a head coach who couldn’t keep his players focused?!
We’ll soon now as Cal plays their toughest Pac 12 road game to date against the Bruins. If you’ve only been casually following college hoops until football ends, you may have forgotten that Steve Alford is now the head man at UCLA. He has his team in the top 25 of the computers. But, they sure aren’t playng Steve Alford basketball.
Let’s go through JIM HURLEY’S indicator stats to see how things might play out in the best TV game on the Sunday schedule in terms of computer rankings.
California: #34 in Pomeroy, #45 in Sagarin
UCLA: #23 in Pomeroy, #22 in Sagarin
College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy is more fond of California than USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin is. Both men see UCLA the same way. But, Pomeroy had Cal 11 spots higher heading into the weekend. This will make UCLA a clear favorite on their home court.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Both teams rate better on offense than they do on defense in Pomeroy’s methodology (which adjusts for tempo and schedule strength). That should set up an exciting game, and might have some handicappers thinking about the Over (four of Cal’s last five games have gone Over, and UCLA is 4-2 to the Over in Pac 12 play).
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
This is where both teams run into trouble. California is borderline for having a Dance-caliber defense. And, UCLA ranks lower than many expected given Alford’s emphasis at New Mexico for guarding the basket. Remember that a ranking around #50 is solid on a national score where more than 300 teams are measured. But, when you’re talking about ELITE, a ranking that low is way behind what the best teams are doing. Arizona is #1 in the Pac 12 and the country, and their defense currently ranks #3 in Pomeroy’s methodology. How are you going to chase down Arizona if you can’t go hard on defense for 40 full minutes?!
This is also a surprise. UCLA is running and gunning! Maybe Alford wants to play exciting basketball to get the campus and the city fired up about the program again. Maybe he wants to recruit NBA caliber athletes, and he knows that fast tempo is a secret to that. But, he’s not really a run-and-gun coach. Or, he wasn’t during his stints in the Big 10 and the Mountain West. This could turn into a problem down the stretch and in the postseason tournaments. Fast tempo and soft defense because a big problem with tired legs. California is slightly faster than average nationally, but will feel like the slow team here.
Against the Spread
Both teams have been moneymakers so far. Though, Cal would fall back to break even after vigorish if they don’t get the money Sunday Night. Oddsmakers have misread a few Pac 12 teams badly this season. Arizona entered the weekend 13-5 ATS. Utah entered 11-2-1 ATS! Note that Arizona will be hosting Utah Sunday in a matchup set for the same exact starting time.
Obviously that TV tandem will help you get caught up with the Pac 12 picture very quickly.
PAC 12 STANDINGS
For now, it’s a three-team race. Though, possibly it’s a ONE-team race and everyone else is fighting for second place.
JIM HURLEY never settles for second place! He’s been the biggest name in sports handicapping for more than 25 years. You can purchase his top plays every day right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure to take care of business early on Sundays because of all the early tips. If you have any questions about basketball season programs, or combination packages that would include the Super Bowl, call us in the office Sunday morning at 1-888-777-4155.
Back Monday to crunch the numbers in Duke/Pittsburgh on ESPN’s Big Monday. That’s one of the new dream matchups created by Pitt and Syracuse joining the ACC. You know the home crowd will be sky high for Duke’s first visit! Tuesday brings Michigan State at Iowa as the road to March Madness continues. Stick with the NOTEBOOK for handicapping tips all through the way. Then, be sure you GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!