A full slate of action in the Pac-12 Thursday night includes a meeting between the Washington State Cougars and the California Golden Bears.
California currently sits at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings. Mark Fox’s team has taken a substantial step backward from last season, going 3-13 in conference play and 8-15 overall.
The silver lining is that the Bears are fresh off an upset of Colorado on Saturday, a win that snapped a seven-game losing streak. A second straight win could lift California out of last place.
Meanwhile, the Cougars are only a couple of spots ahead of California in the Pac-12 standings. Of course, Washington State’s season has been less of a disaster.
Despite being 5-10 inside the Pac-12, the Cougars have a winning record overall at 12-10. But with three losses in their last four games, Washington State is trending in the wrong direction and would like to create some positive momentum over the last couple of weeks of the regular season.
For those betting online on this contest, the Cougars are favored by 2½ points at home, with the over/under set at 131½ points.
The I in Team
Washington State has been carried by senior guard Isaac Bonton. Not only does he lead the Cougars with 18.4 points per game, but he’s also an unselfish playmaker who averages 4.2 assists per game.
Of course, those 18 points per game account for over 25% of Washington State’s offense, as the Cougars only averages 68.2 points per game. That means an off night from Bonton could be disastrous.
On the other hand, the Cougars are 5-4 when he scores at least 20 points in a game.
It’s worth noting that Bonton missed Monday’s loss to Washington with a minor ankle injury. Whether he plays on Thursday, the Cougars will need more out of their supporting cast.
Sophomore guard Noah Williams hit his season average with 12 points against Washington while also supplying seven assists. He gives the Cougars a strong outside shooter who can help pick up the slack for Bonton.
However, Washington State will need more from centers Efe Abogidi and Dishon Jackson, as well as junior forward Aljaz Kunc, who chipped in 14 points on Monday night.
Bears in Hibernation
The Golden Bears have struggled offensively, averaging just 67 points per game. However, the California offense has received a spark recently from junior guard Matt Bradley.
After missing three weeks in January because of an ankle injury, Bradley has started to get back in the groove. He’s averaging 19.1 points per game on the season but has scored at least 20 points in five of his last six games. That includes making some college basketball news with a career-high 29 points in California’s recent win over Colorado.
The caveat is that Cal lacks consistent scorers outside of Bradley. Forward Andre Kelly is the only other player who averages at least 10 points per game. The 6-8 junior has also struggled in recent games, failing to reach double figures in five of his last eight games.
Plus, the Bears have been hindered all season by inconsistent play at the point guard position. Sophomore point guard Joel Brown averages just 3.3 assists per game. He’s also scored four points or less in three of his last four games, including a scoreless game against Colorado.
Ride the Momentum
While one win doesn’t give Cal a ton of momentum, beating Colorado should give the Bears a nice confidence boost. Bradley is back to carry the scoring burden, and Cal is surprisingly 7-2 ATS in its last nine games.
When you factor in the uncertainty of Bonton’s status after his ankle injury, the best bet when doing your college basketball betting is to take Cal as 2½-point underdogs.