College Basketball Odds, Expert Picks & Predictions for UCLA vs. Baylor (Sunday, November 20)
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Scott Drew of the Baylor Bears
- In the matchup that was expected to be the Continental Tire Main Event final, UCLA and Baylor meet for the consolation prize.
- Mick Cronin ripped his team following its loss to Illinois, so will the Bruins respond positively?
- Scott Schaeffer has you covered with a preview and a betting prediction.
UCLA vs. Baylor Odds
Both the Bears and Bruins look to rebound from somewhat surprising losses on Friday night.
Still, this consolation matchup provides as much "pop" on paper as any early-season tournament battle will.
Coach Mick Cronin expressed a ton of frustration in his post-game presser after Friday night's loss to Illinois. The frustrations were primarily an indictment on the competitiveness and meddle of his roster.
Cronin went so far as to say he "had no positive thoughts on the performance of any individual player on UCLA … including the coach."
Clearly, the intensity and fight the Bruins showed was nowhere near the level Cronin expects from his team.
Set to face a talented Baylor roster, it would be difficult to imagine Cronin's bunch coming out flat. The comments from the Bruins' head coach were all made alongside Jaime Jaquez Jr., the team's leader, who likely took those words as a challenge to improve the team's effort level and lead from the front.
Truthfully, the Bruins did not play as poorly as their coach may have made it sound. UCLA held a double-digit lead against the Illini before falling victim to a late offensive onslaught from Brad Underwood's team.
Terrence Shannon Jr. went 8-for-9 from 3-point range as part of Illinois' comeback win. Shannon's unconscious shooting performance likely points to both defensive lapses and a bit of luck.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Scott Drew and Baylor won't provide a chance for UCLA to get things figured out against a less talented team.
Scoring hasn't been an issue for UCLA in its first four contests. Led by key returners Tyger Campbell, Jaylen Clark and the aforementioned Jaquez, the Bruins' offense has flowed well early.
However, Baylor will provide the most potent defensive challenge the Bruins have faced, especially considering their poor effort against Virginia on Friday.
I happen to trust Baylor slightly more in this matchup.
Why? Well, at least their coach has yet to publicly admonish his team's demeanor.
The Virginia team that defeated Baylor on Friday night likely had Drew's full attention, but it would have been hard to see that impressive of an effort coming given the Cavaliers' results from a season ago.
Despite the disappointing result, Baylor should have an easier time learning and moving on from a loss than UCLA.
The competition level in the Big 12 has likely seasoned the Bears. They know a loss doesn't necessarily mean their ultimate goal isn't within reach.
Guards Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer are the cornerstones of the Bears' roster. Both veterans have averaged more than 15 points per game this season and are capable of being named All-American's come April.
With forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua still mending from last season's knee injury, Flo Thamba will lead Baylor's frontcourt against UCLA.
Additionally, freshman Keyonte George will look to continue the impressive start to his college career. His 17 points per game average leads Baylor through four contests.
Flagler, Cryer and Thamba are all well versed in bouncing back from a difficult loss. There are many examples of the Bears having a tough Saturday and rebounding with an impressive response on a "Big Monday" in conference play.
Expect Baylor's leadership to dictate a strong effort against UCLA.
The Bears allowed a 56/64/77(2PT/3PT/FT) shooting split to Virginia on Friday. Even a talented offense like UCLA's will have a difficult time duplicating those numbers.
UCLA vs. Baylor Betting Pick
I will settle on Baylor and the trust the Bears have earned in recent years.
Back-to-back losses seems more plausible to come from a coach who feels the need to challenge his team after only a handful of games this season.
Although I would lean toward the under on this total — given the defensive effort each coach is likely to prioritize — I can't endorse it. I'm simply not sure 24 hours is enough time to fix a defense when very talented offenses await both squads.