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Villanova. UCLA prediction and pick for Friday's college basketball top-five showdown in LA. Mike Spector gives us his pick for this early-season matchup

Villanova vs. UCLA Prediction: Wildcats, Bruins Battle in Potential Final Four Preview

Villanova vs. UCLA

  • Point Spread: UCLA -4.5
  • Total: 140
  • Start Time: 11:30 PM ET
  • Venue: Pauley Pavilion (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Where to Watch: ESPN2

Villanova vs. UCLA odds

Villanova vs. UCLA Prediction

On Tuesday, the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden was our first taste of ranked vs. ranked competition, as the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils battled the tenth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. However, from a sheer rankings perspective, tonight's battle between the No. 2 UCLA Bruins and No. 4 Villanova Wildcats is our most marquee matchup of the young season. So which team has the upper hand in what could be a Final Four preview?

Villanova was dealt a huge blow when they lost point guard Collin Gillespie to a season-ending knee injury just days before the Big East tournament. However, Jay Wright's Hall of Fame coaching was on display as the team rallied to earn their 17th Sweet 16 appearance in school history. The Wildcats gave eventual national champion Baylor the toughest game of their entire NCAA tournament run, which is a testament to the talent and experience on the Wildcats roster. Gillespie is back, as are four of their top five scorers from a year ago.

Last year, the UCLA Bruins went from "First Four" to Final Four in a Cinderella run as a No. 11 seed. Like Villanova, UCLA received great news when Johnny Juzang decided not to use his magical NCAA tournament run to test the NBA draft waters. Not only is UCLA's starting five from last year now intact, but they added more muscle down low with the addition of Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson. Johnson joins a loaded frontcourt that already helped the Bruins be the PAC-12's best rebounding team last season.

One could not help but wonder what the view nationally would be surrounding UCLA if they had not survived in overtime in their "First Four" opening-round matchup against Michigan State last year. Many mocked the Bruins' selection to the Big Dance altogether before the tournament started, but a Final Four run has many believing they are national title contenders.

Regardless of how you view UCLA, one thing for sure is that they played elite defense in their Final Four run under Mick Cronin. The Bruins held their last five tournament opponents to well below their season 3-point shooting averages, and none of their six tournament opponents shot better than 33.3% from deep. That will come in handy when defending a Villanova squad that attempts nearly half its shots from long range.

While Villanova retains four of its five top scorers, they will sorely miss last year's leading scorer against the Bruins. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was Villanova's lone post presence from a year ago, and now Jay Wright is relying on the inexperienced Eric Dixon to man the paint. The Wildcats catch a break with UCLA's Cody Riley out for this game, as he suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain in their opening game. However, Myles Johnson will be inserted into the starting lineup and will be a game-changer on both offense and defense tonight.

Look for UCLA to run Villanova off the three-point line and the Bruins' physicality to wear down a smaller Wildcats team.

Villanova will have the experience advantage over nearly every team they play this season, except for UCLA, who is equally as old, mature, and battle-tested. In addition, flying across the country to Pauley Pavilion and tipping off at 11:30 PM ET is an arduous task.

In their last five road games, Villanova is 0-5 ATS, while UCLA has covered the spread in seven straight games dating back to last year. Thus, we feel confident laying this small number with the Bruins.

Villanova vs. UCLA Pick

Article Author


Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest


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