California Golden Bears -1.5 (22-10) 16-13 ATS, 16-12 O/U vs. Maryland Terrapins +1.5 (20-13) 15-10 ATS, 10-16 O/U Thursday, March 19, 2009 Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. 2:55 p.m. EST, TV: CBS
By Wilson of Predictem.com
The California Bears and the Maryland Terrapins will both travel to the Show Me State this Thursday when they go head to head in Kansas City. For the Golden Bears it will be their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance while Maryland will make their 24th tourney showing.
Both teams are very similar on paper as they matchup nearly even across the board in terms of points allowed per game with 68, and shooting percentages from the field (42-48%), they also score in the low to mid 70s each outing.
Maryland will also be making their 16th consecutive appearance in the tournament and they have won eight straight first round games going all the way back to 1998. The Terrapins have reached four Sweet Sixteens in eight of their last appearances. Maryland has not had to deal with a Pac-10 squad since 2001 when they knocked off Stanford in the West Regional Final. The Terrapins won the NCAA Tournament Championship in 2002 by downing the Indiana Hoosiers 64-52.
The Terrapins were led in scoring by Eric Hayes who had 20 points in the loss to Duke on Saturday. Hayes will look to put up even more numbers against the Golden Bears.
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Californias Jerome Randle poured in 18 points also in a losing effort as the Bears lost to USC in the Pac-10 quarterfinals in Los Angeles last Thursday at the Staples Center. The Bears have beaten some quality teams but are also capable of not finishing off opponents.
The Bears are 18-14 in NCAA Tournament games. It is Cals first NCAA Tourney trip under head coach Mike Montgomery. This is the second time that the Bears have been awarded a seven seed in the tourney as they were a seven seed in 2006 when they were knocked out in the first round game by NC State Wolfpack. Coach Montgomery knows his team will face a tough, hard nosed basketball team in Maryland. The Terrapins play out of the ACC, which probably the toughest conference in the land outside of the Big East Conference, at least this year. The Terrapins and Bears have only met one time prior to Thursdays meeting as they played head to head back in 1996-97 with the Terrapins earning the win.
The Bears are one of the sharpest shooting teams in the nation as they are deadly from three-point range and hit 43.4 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Cal also ranked No.9 in the country in field goal percentage at 48.5 percent.
California is 2-2 versus ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament as they beat Duke 82-77 (1993) lost to North Carolina 63-57 (1997) and split with NC State, 76-74 win in overtime in 2003 and a 58-52 loss in the first round of 2006.
Maryland is used to playing against well coached teams and great athletes so Thursdays game will be up and running at the tip. The Terrapins have been playing exactly how teams are supposed to play this time of year- tough! They beat NC State and Wake Forest in the ACC Tourney before exiting to Duke 67-61 in the semifinals.
Bookmakers have this game close at -1.5 in favor of the Golden Bears, and everyone knows that tournament time is unpredictable and as a bettor you must truly get lucky to cash in on a lot of these bracket matchups.
Maryland has the experience of playing in the ACC, but California faced their fare share of quality opponents this year as the Pac-10 has developed a number of excellent teams who can compete with any conference in the country. I like what Mike Montgomery has done in his short time at Cal and believe that the Golden Bears may be a serious sleeper to advance in the tournament.
Wilsons Pick: California -1.5 . Luck to ya.