Top 25 NCAA Hoops Match-up: #21 Missouri takes on #20 California

Marcus Denmon leads his #21 Missouri Tigers into battle against #20 California, in the Progressive CBE Classic Final at Kansas City, Missouri.

Another showdown between two undefeated teams takes place tonight in Kansas City, Missouri for the final of the Progressive CBE Classic between the #21 Missouri Tigers and the #20 California Golden Bears. After rolling through the first four contests of the season, tonight’s game will be the first real test against a quality opponent for both squads, and with both teams making impressive starts centered on great shooting, there’s little doubt this match-up will make for a lot of excitement for online sports betting on Tuesday.

There’s little in the way of recent history between these two competitors in tonight’s game, as the last time the Tigers and Golden Bears clashed it was back in 2008, and California was nothing of the same team they are now, losing 93-66 in that showdown. However, there’s plenty of room for optimism for Cal fans especially this season after the Bears have rolled through season-opening competition, with an average margin of victory of 22.2 points per game. Though there has been the usual unbalanced match-ups expected for top-conference teams in early games, coming off a 70-46 rout of Georgia the Golden Bears have established some exciting early trends that should bolster the prospects for riding a betting streak on Cal early in the season.

On the other hand, Missouri has jumped out to stay on pace with expectations this season, starting their second straight NCAA Basketball campaign with a 4-0 record and looking sharp on offense with great shooting and plenty of talent throughout the line-up. Shooting lights out against then-undefeated Notre Dame in the tournament semifinals, the Tigers enter tonight’s final will plenty of confidence after beating the Fighting Irish by 29 points on 58.2 percent shooting from the field. And it’s not just their offense that has been getting it done early in the season, as noted by the 58 points Notre Dame was held to in last night’s game. Missouri has been big on the boards and in the turnover department, holding opposition to just 60.3 points per game while averaging over 83 points scoring. That kind of margin is right in line with Cal’s opening spread of victory, meaning that something is likely going to have to give between two teams playing very well to start the season.

Breaking into the line-ups for tonight’s game, there’s plenty of exciting players to look over, and quite a few unknown names in College Basketball that may start seeing some more press in the coming weeks as both these programs seek to remain elite. Starting with Missouri, the scoring has been coming in droves from senior guard Marcus Denmon, who is one of host of remaining upperclassmen to have played against Cal back in 2008. Averaging 20 points per game through 4 contests this season, Denmon is without a doubt the floor general for the Tigers, shooting an impressive 56.2 percent from the floor and also pulling down 6 rebounds per game (pretty solid for a 6’3″ shooting guard). Denmon has a host of senior talent on the perimeter this year as well, including the much-improved 6’6″ guard Kim English, who is averaging 15.3 points/game this year on 55.9 percent shooting (up from 10 points/game and 36.6 percent shooting last season), as well as sophomore shooter Flip Pressey (14.3 points/game). In the paint, the Tigers turn to Ricardo Ratliffe, their leading rebounder at 7.3/game, and despite having no player taller than 6’9″ on the roster, Missouri has outhustled opponents using their quickness and defensive prowess to control both the turnover and rebound margins in each game this year. Though the height issue could come into play against teams with big inside presences like, say #1 North Carolina, Missouri will continue to stack up well especially against teams that like to play small, as they have one of the most talented all-around backcourts in College hoops right now.

For the California Golden Bears, there’s going to be a lot more attention on senior guard Jorge Gutierrez this season, who is a relative unknown in College Basketball thanks to the lesser status of Cal in the last few years, but is certainly worthy of discussion on the national level. As one of the only players to have faced the veteran Missouri Tigers back in 2008 (Cal has just 2 seniors on the roster, Gutierrez and F Harper Kamp), there’s going to be a lot of focus on whether Gutierrez can step up in this game and help control the game plan for the Golden Bears tonight on both sides of the ball. Shooting 55.3 percent on the year thus far while averaging 6.5 rebounds and 13.5 points per game, the scrappy native of Chihuahua, Mexico is not only a leader on the offensive side, he’s also been paramount to Cal holding opponents to just 36.8 percent shooting on the season, and will be getting lots of looks from potential NBA suitors next season for his pesky defensive play and hustling work ethic. Alongside Gutierrez, there’s good talent for Cal with the aforementioned Harper Kamp (11.3 points, 7 rebounds/game), top scoring guard Allen Crabbe (14.8 points, 4 rebounds/game) and budding sophomore guard Justin Cobbs, who has been showing improvement in all areas (3 steals, 6 assists, 4 forced turnovers against Georgia yesterday). Though there is less depth and veteran leadership for the Bears, this young squad is hungry, quick, and dedicated to making life difficult for opposing outside shooters. That is definitely something they’ll want to carry over into tonight’s game against a top-shooting squad like Missouri.

Betting Lines for #21 Missouri vs. #20 California

It’s a bit tough finding all the sports betting lines for Cal vs. Missouri today, as most sportsbooks are not offering over/under wagers, but one that does is, which has betting odds against the spread, on the money line and the over/under total points. It’s a big change of pace for both teams on the spread especially, and by a narrow 2.5 points, the default-home team Missouri Tigers get the nod as favorite over the Cal Golden Bears in tonight’s match-up. On the money line, Mizzou is a -140 favorite to win, while Cal comes in as a +120 underdog, further indicating that this game has plenty of potential to go either way. Though both teams have been scoring well this season (averaging a combined 158.5 points per contest), it’s a little surprising to see the over/under at 146 points, considering the defensive prowess of both teams on the court. With both teams already known for playing shut-down defense, the under wager could end up being one of the better wagers for tonight’s tournament finale.

Our Pick to Win:

Missouri looks to be a great bet as a favorite, considering the odds are reasonably favorable for a veteran team playing in what is essentially a home game in Kansas City for the Progressive CBE Classic title. However, this game is simply going to boil down to who has the better shooting night, as both teams will be pretty evenly matched on the defensive side of the ball (slight edge goes to Cal in that department), and both teams rely on smaller, quicker line-ups. What does set these two teams apart in this contest though is depth of scoring, which gives the Tigers a pretty good edge. If Mizzou can find success with their perimeter play tonight (keep in mind they have 4 guards shooting in double digit scoring this season), they’ll be able to squeeze out a win this evening for the tournament title. However, if Cal can focus on a defensive game and limit the Tigers’ shooting effectiveness, there is just as much promise that the Golden Bears can pull out an ‘upset’ win and start grabbing some well-deserved national attention. In a season that has already seen some great play and a few notable upsets, we’re siding with the close underdog tonight, pushing for a late surge by the Golden Bears to push them to a big victory against a ranked team, by a final score of 68-64.

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