UCLA/Villanova odds and betting picks


The 2021-22 men’s college basketball season is finally here, and opening week is loaded with matchups between the top teams in the country. Below is my analysis and favorite bet for the Friday night No. 2 UCLA Bruins against the No. 4 Villanova Wildcats.



UCLA vs. Villanova

(Line: UCLA -3, DraftKings Sportsbook)

The UCLA Bruins have been the college basketball media’s golden child of the offseason after returning their entire roster (and adding a few new names) from an improbable Final Four run a year ago. What Mick Cronin has been able to do in his short time at UCLA has been quite impressive, bringing them back to national relevance and a unanimous No. 2 spot in the preseason AP Poll. 

But let’s pump the brakes for one second and dissect UCLA’s full body of work last season. Recency bias may be playing a hidden role here, as UCLA was trending way downward toward the end of the regular season, losing four straight including a first-round upset to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament. The Bruins luckily still ended up on the right side of the bubble in a play-in game, squeaking out a tightly contested overtime thriller against an equally struggling Michigan State squad. If the ball bounces another way in that contest and the Spartans hand them their fifth straight loss and an early exit from the tournament, we may be seeing an entirely different preseason outlook for this year’s Bruins. Their magical run was certainly a biproduct of “getting hot at the right time” as hot shooting and tight wins led them straight to the Final Four, which has me a bit lower on UCLA this year relative to the market.

Don’t get me wrong, UCLA is certainly talented and a bona fide top-10 team in the country behind steady point guard play from Tyger Campbell, streaky shooting from Johnny Juzang and the intangibles of Jaime Jaquez. But I can’t quite get behind them being on the same tier as the nation’s elite blue-blood programs yet, and that’s what the market is pricing in their home contest against Villanova. The Wildcats return three core veterans in Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels from a team that won the Big East regular season title and made the Sweet 16 (without their best player, who is now back). Not only does Villanova have a solid mix of veterans and young talent, but they have one of the best coaches in the country in Jay Wright. Where Villanova can be exposed is inside, but UCLA is a perimeter-oriented team and I don’t see them being able to fully take advantage of that. An early season matchup against the Villanova backcourt and offensive machine is scary and even on the road, I still think Nova’ is a tier above UCLA and love getting points here.

The Pick: Villanova +3 

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