Two of the top-five programs in college basketball will square off on Friday when Villanova and UCLA square off on the West coast. Both teams were dominant in their season openers against lesser competition, which was to be expected. But the winner of this Villanova Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins matchup will have to win in spite of a huge step up in competition, with a win keeping the team that earns it in the top-five when next week’s rankings come out.
Both of these teams had their season end at the hands of a participant in last year’s national championship game. Villanova was eliminated by Baylor, while UCLA lost in the Final Four to Gonzaga. This year, both teams will look to tip off their season with a win over a team that could very well make it to the end of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Villanova Wildcats – Looking For Signature Road Win
Villanova demolished Mount St. Mary’s in their first game of this season. And while Mount St. Mary’s did manage to win the Northeast Conference last season, Villanova were always going to win that game. In their 40-point victory over the Mountaineers, the Wildcats held their opponent to just 25% shooting from three-point range. They also forced The Mount into 18 turnovers, while also committing only six turnovers of their own.
Against UCLA, defending the mid-range is essential to the success of Villanova, as UCLA is extremely proficient at scoring from that part of the floor. And, as is always the case with Villanova, they will need to shoot well from three-point range. They did so against Mount St. Mary’s, making over half of their threes. But UCLA’s defense could make that task tougher than usual.
Expected Line-Up: Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels, Brandon Slater, Eric Dixon
with best odds
UCLA Bruins – Hoping To Start Another Run
UCLA won against an in-state opponent in their season opener, beating CSU Bakersfield by 37 points to kick off their season. Johnny Juzang followed up on last year’s heroic NCAA Tournament performance by scoring 19 points to lead the Bruins in scoring in the win. But Juzang and the rest of the Bruins are going to face a much tougher defense on Friday night when they host the Wildcats.
The Bruins also shot the ball well in their season opening game, making 13 of their 27 three-point shot attempts. But UCLA assisted on just 13 of their shots, compared to the 21 assists that Villanova had on their field goals in their first game. The ball movement from UCLA could be an issue here, as isolations with Juzang that lead to long twos may not be what they need to get a win here.
Expected Line-Up: Jules Bernard, Tyger Campbell, Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez, Cody Riley
Expert Pick #1 – Villanova +4 @ -110
The first bet to make on this game is the Villanova Wildcats +4 at -110 odds. While home court advantage will work in the favor of the Bruins here, Villanova has a much better pedigree over the recent history of these two programs. With someone like Collin Gillespie leading them in this matchup, even the poise of players like Jaquez and Juzang won’t be enough for UCLA to get the victory.
Expert Pick #2 – Villanova To Win @ +145
Our second bet for this game is Villanova to win the contest at +145 odds. With a tight point spread like this one, there is some value on the underdog, especially when there is recency bias involved in this game. Many bettors will be expecting the same UCLA team that nearly made the national championship game last season. But this team is going to fall short of those expectations, starting with Friday.
Expert Pick #3 – Johnny Juzang Under 17.5 Points @ -110
Finally, Johnny Juzang scoring under 17.5 points in this game is our final bet, which comes at -110 odds. Juzang is a nice player and is going to have a pro career ahead of him. But against a team that is as well coached as the Villanova Wildcats, it is going to be tough for Juzang to get the mid-range looks that he is most comfortable with. Expect Villanova to take away his greatest strength and for his scoring to suffer.
This should be an interesting game between two of the best teams in college basketball this season. But the Villanova Wildcats are going to make a real statement in this matchup on the road. Their more three-point heavy approach to college basketball is going to serve them well against the Bruins, whose dependence on inefficient two-point shots will lead to their undoing in the first real test for either team this season.