The California Golden Bears (24-9) and South Florida Bulls (20-13) will meet up in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday night inside the University of Dayton Arena
California Golden Bears vs. South Florida Bulls
California is set to play in the NCAA tournament field for the third time in four years under head coach Mike Montgomery, as the program is 19-16 all-time in the event. The Golden Bears out of the Pac-12 Conference know that they need to be physical in facing an opponent out of the Big East. “It’s going to be a real challenge on the physical side of the game,” commented Golden Bears guard Jorge Gutierrez. “We’re excited for the challenge.” California is 16-10 ATS as a favorite this year and the “under” is 16-9 in those contests.
The Golden Bears have met the Bulls on two occasions, with each team winning on its home floor. California advanced to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament championship until getting bounced out by eventual winner Colorado. It’s important to note that 11 of Montgomery’s past 12 NCAA teams have won first-round games in part because of strong preparation.
South Florida had high expectations coming into the 2011-12 campaign due to returning 77 percent of its scoring and 67.8 percent of its rebounding, but the main problem was getting everyone healthy and on the court at the same time. The Bulls want to play physical basketball for 40 minutes and set a Big East record in allowing just 56.9 points per game. The team has held its last 10 opponents to under 60 points scoring and all 10 to at least 19 under its season scoring average. South Florida is 0-2 ATS as a neutral court underdog of three points or less.
The Bulls are one of just two Big East teams that finished league play without a conference losing streak. South Florida is the first team since at least 1999 to reach the NCAA tournament without a leading scorer averaging over 10 points per game. Due to injuries throughout the season, the program joined St. John’s as the only Big East school to have six players averaging over 25 minutes of action this season.
Bettors will likely back the Bulls due to their 13-6-1 ATS mark as a neutral-site underdog, while the Golden Bears are 1-4 ATS as a favorite of 6.5 points or less.
Recommendation: South Florida Bulls +3
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