Saturday’s NCAA Basketball Best Bets for Pac-12 and SEC, Utah and Alabama

Saturday College Basketball Best Bets
Pac-12 & SEC

After being able to get there with Connecticut during the week, it's back to the usual large Saturday card for the sport, one of the final ones of the year. Saturday boards have treated us very well in this piece the past few weeks, and hopefully as the final Saturday of regular season for some conferences is here, we can continue on that pace.
Today we've got two evening games on tap for the card, as two Power Five Conferences – the Pac-12 and SEC – get the focus, although it's not at the top of the conference. Instead, I'm looking to back two programs looking to improve their standing within their respective conference to help their potential chances in the conference tournament in a few weeks, as both schools are likely to need a strong showing there to be considered for the NCAA tournament. Let's get to it:

Pac-12 Betting Prediction
Utah at California

Betting Odds: Utah -1.5, Total 128.5
Date: Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
TV/Time: Pac-12 Network, 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Haas Pavilion
Location: Berkeley California

Pac-12 Best Bet: Utah Utes -1.5

Truth be told, unless the Utes win the Pac-12 tournament, they probably aren't getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but there is zero chance the guys wearing those jerseys have come close to resigning themselves to that outcome. Instead, it's all about maximizing their opportunities left, and that begins with getting one of those Top Eight spots in the Pac-12 so that they can avoid those first “play-in” style of games for the lowest seeds. Right now the Utes are sitting in 9th, staring up at tonight's opponent – California – for that 8th spot.
Utah already knocked off this Cal team 60-45 back at the beginning of the month, but that was a home game for Utah. The Utes have been the definition of a team that's a complete Jekyll and Hyde depending on the venue, as they are 11-2 SU at home, and just 1-9 SU on the road. That latter number will have many looking to the home dog tonight, and when you combine that with the idea of the revenge angle working in California's favor as well tonight, this home dog could become pretty popular. I mean, after all, California is coming off what is probably their best performance and biggest win of their year, knocking off a ranked Colorado team 76-62 on Thursday night. Riding the hot hand with California against a very bad road team will be the way some definitely choose to play it.
But let's be honest, California isn't really all that good of a basketball team either – after all, they wouldn't be finding to stay out of that opening round play in the Pac-12 Tournament as well. And even with some big things seemingly in their favor tonight – revenge, home court, great recent form – oddsmakers still had no problems making them a small home dog tonight. They know that Cal will take money regardless because of Utah's road record alone, but at this point, it's almost like they are willing to take a position on Utah, knowing that having the Golden Bears at plus-money to win the game will be too juicy for most to pass up.
Taking a position on Utah is something I can agree with simply because California is not a good enough team to put together two spectacular efforts in a row, nor are they likely able to have moved on from Thursday's huge win and be 100% focused on tonight's opponent. Fading teams after big shocking wins is always a great angle to look for this time of year, especially when there has been less then 48 hours between games. For one, recent form influences market perception way too much these days (in my opinion), but because of it, you are always going to get a 'buy high' number on team's like California who are coming off a huge and surprising win. You never want to 'buy high' in the stock market, but yet that's what it feels like California backers are doing tonight. And even at an inflated price, they are still home underdogs to a team that's won one true road game all year.
That tells me all I need to know about this game, as this is the 14th straight game California is catching points, and while they are 8-5 ATS during that span, the Golden Bears were getting at least four points in all of those games, and at least 5.5 points in all but one of those contests. That screams 'overvalued' to me tonight regarding California's chances, with Utah finding a way to kick these road woes to the curb for at least one night.

SEC Betting Prediction
South Carolina at Alabama

Betting Odds: Alabama -5.5, Total 160.5
Date: Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
TV/Time: SEC Network, 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Coleman Coliseum
Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

SEC Best Bet: Alabama -5.5

Home/road splits have been quite drastic all throughout college basketball this year, and while Alabama's not exactly in that class as say Utah is, the Crimson Tide are probably glad to be back at home today.
Alabama has been on the road for four of their last six games overall, the most recent being a 80-73 loss @ Mississippi State earlier in the week. The Tide are just 3-3 SU (4-2 ATS) in those six games, as they just have had a hard time connecting strong performances together.
At the same time, recent home games haven't exactly treated the Tide well either, as they've dropped three of their last four outright in this building (all as home chalk) with a quality win over LSU mixed in there. However, this is almost a mirrored situation to that of California at home tonight that I discussed earlier, as Alabama appears to be rather undervalued at this current number. Buying low is what you always want to do with stocks, and this appears to be a great opportunity to do so with the Tide.
Alabama is trying to make sure that they finish in the Top Eight in the SEC standings for their conference tournament in a couple of weeks, and a victory tonight would definitely help that cause. South Carolina is a good, but far from great team, so the opportunity to win is clearly there for the Tide. With the way the likes of Tennessee and Arkansas have been playing of late, they are the programs Alabama fears taking over their spot in the standings, and if that happens, Alabama may end up on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament. After all, they are highly quoted as one of the “first four out” schools when it comes to this year's NCAA field.
But finishing strong down the stretch could change all that, and with Alabama's remaining games coming against Vanderbilt and Missouri – two teams beneath them in the standings – the opportunity to finish strong is definitely there.
It starts with knocking off a South Carolina team that's hard to trust in terms of the overall effort you'll get on a nightly basis. Combine that with Alabama's 7-2 ATS run off a loss, and 12-3 ATS run in their last 15 against a team that's won at least 60% of their games, and buying low on Alabama tonight is an investment that should pay off.