Heavy Pac-12 action on Wednesday night and no game is bigger than when California visits Arizona in a re-match of the game that knocked Arizona from the land of the unbeaten’s back on February 1. The Wildcats are in a revenge spot, now at home against a Golden Bears team that is still very much on the bubble as far as a birth to the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks goes. Arizona is a 13-point favorite at home.
Aside from venue, health my be the biggest difference between the first time these two teams played and the now. Arizona has been, and will be, without Brandon Ashley after he suffered a broken foot in the first game these two teams played at the start of the month. California has become healthier than the first time they saw ‘Zona. Ricky Kreklow is back in action for the Golden Bears after missing the first meeting in a game that Cal won by two points in the final seconds.
After a double overtime loss at Arizona State followed by an overtime win against Utah, the ‘Cats finally got back on track with a blowout win at the hands of the Buffaloes in Boulder over the weekend. Now, Arizona looks to continue the momentum against a Cal team that some still consider the second-best team in the Pac-12 despite a rather lackluster season so far. The loss of Ashley has certainly hurt Arizona, as the Wildcats simply lack some of the flair and added athleticism that Ashley brought to the table. But Nick Johnson, Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon are still good enough to keep Arizona in that better half of the top 10.
California is finally healthy and only has so many more games left to prove to the Tournament Committee it is a tournament team. The matchup to watch will be how a somewhat depleted ‘Zona frontline competes with both David Kravish and Richard Solomon of the Golden Bears. Cal is still stocked up on the perimeter where it can fill up the three-point shooting with Jabari Bird, Kreklow and Justin Cobbs.
Expect Cal to come out and play a very competitive game on the road in a game it really might need to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Bears just aren’t 13 points worse than Arizona. And even if Arizona does stretch out the lead at any one point, there is a large enough spread to provide plenty of backdoor opportunity.
Free Pick: California +13