Daily Bet: Cal-State Northridge +14.5 at UCLA

Having finally received NCAA clearance to hit the court, Shabazz Muhammad is off to a decent start to his UCLA career, scoring 15, 21 and 15 points in its first three games. In fact, he posted a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) against Cal Poly on Sunday. Unfortunately for the former Bishop Gorman star—and the rest of the blue-chip recruits on the Bruins’ roster—Ben Howland is still the head coach. Which is why UCLA is just 4-2 after a stunning 70-68 home loss to Cal Poly as an 18½-point favorite. And that 4-2 could very easily be 2-4, as UCLA eked out wins over inferior foes Georgia (60-56) and UC Irvine (80-79 in overtime — at home).

Seriously, handing Howland this loaded roster is like handing Lindsay Lohan the keys to a Ferrari—you know both prized possessions are going to end up destroyed in a fiery crash eventually. And by eventually I mean immediately. How does UCLA, which had one of the top recruiting classes in the nation last year, lose to Cal Poly at home? And it wasn’t a fluke, either. Both teams had nearly identical stats: Cal Poly went 24-for-54 from the field (9-for-25 from 3-land); UCLA went 24-for-53 (5-for-13 from 3-land). Cal Poly hit 13 of 20 free throws; UCLA hit 15 of 24. Both teams had 35 rebounds, and UCLA had a slightly better assist-to-turnover ratio (16-9) than Cal Poly (14-10).

So if Cal Poly—which prior to facing the Bruins lost 76-67 to Fresno State as a 1½-point home favorite—can win at UCLA as a huge underdog, why can’t Northridge cover this big number? After all, the Matadors are 6-1 overall and 7-0 against the spread, including two outright upsets (going back to last year’s season finale, they’ve cashed in eight straight games). And Northridge can clearly put the ball in hoop, averaging 79.3 points per game while shooting nearly 44 percent from the field and nearly 79 percent from the free-throw line. At the same time, UCLA has allowed Cal Poly, James Madison and UC Irvine to score 70, 70 and 79 points—all at Pauley Pavilion.

Yep, that noise you heard was John Wooden rolling over his grave.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday’s Result: Indiana -9.5 vs. North Carolina (win)

Record: 68-56-1