UCLA has weathered the storm of losing its five best players from a year ago to open the season 3-0. However, Marquette represents its first real challenge of the year and our betting picks aren’t exactly bullish on the Bears to prevail.
Feast Week is here and there’s college basketball galore to satiate hoop fans’ appetites. That also means the return of the Maui Invitational, the first round of which tips off on the island tonight.
After a long day of feasting, there’s a scintillating nightcap between the UCLA Bruins and the No. 4 Marquette Golden Eagles.
Glancing at college basketball odds, Marquette is a 6.5-point favorite while the total is set at 141.5.
Experience and continuity matter now more than ever as both, ironically, become more seldom. That benefits one side in particular tonight, which I’m using as an angle for my best bet.
Check out our college basketball picks and predictions for UCLA vs. Marquette on Monday, November 20.
UCLA vs Marquette best odds
UCLA vs Marquette picks and predictions
If you’re tuning into UCLA Bruins basketball for the first time this year, you may not recognize the product on the court. The roster underwent a total overhaul after the departure of their five top scorers from last year’s Sweet 16 squad, losing program stalwarts Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell along with Amari Bailey, Jaylen Clark, and David Singleton.
Mick Cronin hit the overseas recruiting trail hard this offseason, bringing in imports Aday Mara (Spain) — who stands 7-foot-3 — Jan Vide (Slovenia), Berke Buyuktuncel (Turkey), and Ilane Fibleuil (France). This crop hasn’t had the impact many expected heading into the year as they’ve combined to average 15 PPG — although that could change now the Buyuktuncel was cleared by the NCAA after sitting out the first three games.
The leader of this year’s squad is big man Adem Bona, who is averaging 18 PPG and 8.7 RPG as one of the most dominant forces in the sport. If you’ve been tuning into my Pac-12 basketball coverage since last season, then you know what I think of Bona — I’ve been as effusive in my praise of the big man as possible and think he’s primed for a huge season.
The Bruins get a difficult matchup against the Marquette Golden Eagles, who return eight of their nine rotation players from last year’s roster that won 29 games. Shaka Smart is now 51-20 at Marquette and there are high hopes that an experienced roster starting five upperclassmen can do some damage in the Big East. Olivier-Maxence Prosper is the only notable departure from last year’s squad, but it’s a big one — he was a first-round pick (24th overall) in the NBA Draft.
Reigning Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek has a strong claim as the nation’s best point guard, Kam Jones is the leading scorer again this year (19.3 PPG), and Oso Ighodaro was chemically engineered in a lab as an exemplar of the perfect big man for modern basketball. To repeat as Big East champs, Smart’s squad will need to buckle down on the defensive end and maximize rebounding, but there are few questions about this elite offense.
KenPom isn’t a fan of UCLA’s reshaped roster — the Bruins check in at 35th overall, ranking 75th in offensive efficiency and 12th in defensive efficiency. Marquette, meanwhile, ranks 11th overall — eighth in offensive efficiency and 19th in defensive efficiency. AP Poll voters also aren’t buying the Bruins this year as they’re unranked despite Cronin winning 61 of his last 75 games with the program, including a 3-0 start to the year.
There’s no denying the talent of this UCLA roster. If everything clicks right, Cronin may have another fearsome team that could have the best collection of big men in the nation. There are huge questions about roster fit and experience, however, as most of this team’s talent is congested in the frontcourt while there aren’t many shooters surrounding them (24.1% from three-point range so far this year).
Cronin laid out this same line of thinking after a 20-point win over Long Island on Wednesday. “Jan Vide comes down in the first half, no passes, drives the lane in traffic, and shoots an airball. You might as well throw it out of bounds so we can go set our defense. I got my work cut out for me.”
That last sentence says it all — Cronin certainly has his work cut out for him to make this roster gel. He’s one of the best coaches in America and will find a way to have this team competing yet again, but it’s going to take time. They don’t have time on Monday night — this young roster is thrown into the fire against a top-five team that is among the most experienced in the nation.
Give me the Golden Eagles in Maui.
My best bet: Marquette -6 (-112 at Unibet)
UCLA vs Marquette same-game parlay
The Bruins have been one of the slowest-paced teams in the country thanks to its frontcourt-laden rotation. They rank just 330th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo and are averaging just 66.6 possessions per game, good for 333th nationally.
Cronin usually coaches up elite defenses and I see no reason why that should change this year with Bona manning the paint as one of the nation’s best rim protectors. It’s a tough matchup against an elite Marquette offense, of course, but the Golden Eagles check in at just 188th in adjusted tempo, and possessions should therefore be at a premium.
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UCLA vs Marquette spread and Over/Under analysis
This line jumped a point in the time it took to write this article, moving from Marquette -5.5 to -6.5. The total is set at 141.5.
UCLA has had a slow start to the year, going 1-2 ATS and 1-3 O/U. The Bruins seem like a team that will take a while to find its chemistry but the most notable takeaway has been the molasses-like tempo they’ve been operating offense.
Marquette is 2-1 ATS and 2-1 O/U and, unlike UCLA, has already faced a legitimate threat of an opponent, topping Illinois 71-64 last Tuesday.
The Golden Eagles will need their interior defense to play well in this spot against a gargantuan Bruins lineup that will hope to live in the paint. Per Haslametrics, Marquette checks in at 28th in near-proximity defense and 31st in mid-range defense. They allow just 31.6% of opponents’ field goal attempts to be at the rim in a defensive strategy that looks to force mid-range looks.
Cronin is still figuring out his rotation and his allotment of minutes, and that’ll especially be true tonight when Buyuktuncel joins the fray. I trust his coaching of defense enough to not expect a total disaster on that end of the court despite the tough matchup, but I think he has this offense operate at a standstill pace in an attempt to limit mistakes and find looks down low.
UCLA vs Marquette betting trend to know
Marquette is 13-1 straight up across its last 14 games. Find more college basketball betting trends for UCLA vs. Marquette.
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UCLA vs Marquette game info
|Location:||Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, HI|
|Date:||Monday, November 20, 2023|
|Tip-off:||11:30 p.m. ET|
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