Friday College Basketball Odds & Picks for Villanova vs. UCLA: Betting Guide to Electric Top-5 Showdown
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
- Powerful Villanova takes on fellow giant UCLA in Friday's NCAA basketball showdown.
- The Wildcats enter this clash of top-5 powers as slight underdogs, but Tanner McGrath loves the value on them.
- Check out below why he's backing Villanova to cover the number in this matchup.
Villanova vs. UCLA Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
I’m sure everyone is hyped to watch Texas play Gonzaga on Saturday night. But, to me, this is the most exciting game of college basketball’s opening week.
The Villanova Wildcats and UCLA Bruins are both immensely talented and experienced. And following their success last season, both are ranked in the top-four in the preseason polls.
However, some in the college hoops community are hesitant to declare UCLA the nation’s second-best team. But Vegas has the Bruins listed as 4.5-point favorites and they’ve already started taking some sharp money.
So, in a game as enticing and unpredictable as this one, where does the value lie?
Obviously, the return of Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels has turned Villanova into an immediate national title threat.
Jay Wright and his Wildcats probably feel let down after last season, where injuries and three COVID-19 pauses in play culminated in a Sweet 16 loss to Baylor — one where Villanova actually led 30-23 at the half.
So, the four returning starters are motivated, and Wright has added four incoming freshmen into the mix.
The loss of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will hurt considerably. Specifically, on the defensive end, an area where Villanova struggled last season.
Defensively, Villanova finished outside the top 200 in effective field goal percentage (51%), outside the top 275 in steal rate (7.7%) and outside the top 300 in block rate (5.7%).
But, those aforementioned newcomers should help in that regard. Specifically, Trey Patterson and Nnanna Njoku will add much-needed frontcourt depth. Meanwhile, the backcourt rotation is versatile and fairly long and those players should see an increase in production with another year of experience.
On offense, Villanova will do what it always does. It’ll play slow, take care of the ball, run the pick-and-roll, pass around the perimeter and chuck it from 3.
Villanova | Drive-Kick-Swing | Important building block to creating a selfless and efficient offense. pic.twitter.com/kTrFEyEMrP
— Coach Rio (@MarioCelebre) December 7, 2020
It’s a formula that worked last year. The Wildcats finished sixth in offensive efficiency and in the 99th percentile of teams in spot-up situations (1.129 points per possession).
They’re primed to be an offensive force again.
Before we dive into the Bruins, it’s important to note that Cody Riley is most likely out for this game.
Mick Cronin tells @jimrome
that UCLA is waiting on an MRI result on Cody Riley, who left last night's game with a knee injury.
Cronin on Riley: "He's probably out on Friday (Villanova)."
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 10, 2021
However, that’s a perfect segue into one of Mick Cronin’s biggest transfers. Myles Johnson comes to Southern California via Rutgers and he’ll likely get some major minutes in this game.
Last season, UCLA finished outside the top 200 in block rate and outside the top 300 in steal rate. Johnson is here to plug up those holes. His 7-foot-7 wingspan will help tremendously with interior defense, especially since he posted the 19th-best block rate in the nation last season (10.6%).
Myles Johnson (@MylestheMonster) with the BLOCK ✋ … @JohnnyJuzang with the 3️⃣💦
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) November 10, 2021
While Johnson is the Bruins’ biggest transfer, transfers aren’t the reason UCLA is ranked No. 2.
It’s because of its roster continuity, as UCLA returns four starters and 91.4% of its minutes from a Final Four team.
But, as I mentioned in my intro, some are skeptical of UCLA entering this season. The Bruins barely squeaked into the NCAA Tournament and their tournament run was quite improbable from a variance standpoint.
As The Action Network’s and Three-Man-Weave’s Ky McKeon points out in his Pac-12 preview, the Bruins “had some of the most fortuitous shooting luck ever.”
Ky posted this chart in the preview, which highlights the season-long FT% and 3P% of UCLA’s tournament opponents, compared to what they shot in the matchup.
Meanwhile, UCLA shot over 40% from long 2-point range in four of those wins, including 68% in its narrow loss to Gonzaga, per Hoop-Math.
So, is UCLA’s ranking really predictive of its value? Or is it overvalued?
Either way, there’s no doubting the talent on this roster.
Tyger Campbell is one of the savviest and most experienced point guards in the nation. He has started every game of his two-year UCLA tenure. He runs the offense with ruthless efficiency, ranking third in the Pac-12 in assists (5.4 per game), fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9:1) and seventh in minutes.
Meanwhile, Johnny Juzang is an elite shot-maker. He averaged 22.8 points per game during the Bruins’ tournament run, even scoring 28 of UCLA’s 51 points in its narrow Elite Eight victory over Michigan.
HW Alum Johnny Juzang (@JohnnyJuzang) had a smooth showing on opening night with 19 Points & 4 Rebounds against CSU Bakersfield🔥 pic.twitter.com/wGcNJjewDw
— Harvard-Westlake Boys Basketball 🏀 (@HWHoops) November 10, 2021
Add in returning forwards Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez Jr. — who combined for 22.5 points per game on combined 46%/39% shooting splits — and this offense can beat you in every different way.
Villanova vs. UCLA Betting Pick
Villanova and UCLA are both 1-0, as both blew out inferior opponents in their season openers. Currently, the two rank right next to each other in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rankings.
These teams seem pretty evenly matched, so I’ll happily take the 4.5 points in this situation. But that’s not the only reason I’m high on the Wildcats.
As I mentioned, there are some who believe UCLA is slightly overrated. Well, I am one of them.
The Bruins ended last season outside KenPom’s top-40. If the tournament committee decides differently, this team probably isn’t ranked No. 2.
UCLA then went on the most improbable run of good fortune basketball I’ve ever seen. While the regression never came in the tournament, it could come this season.
Meanwhile, Wright’s Wildcats have been here before. They were ranked No. 3 in last season’s preseason poll. So, I ask: how will Cronin & Co. handle the astronomical pre-season expectations?
Until UCLA proves it belongs here, I’m going to fade it in these massive non-conference matchups.
If I’m catching four or more points with the Wildcats, I’m betting them.
Pick: Villanova +4.5 (Play to +4)
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