UCLA is the superior two-way team in this matchup, despite its offseason losses. See why our college basketball picks are confident the Bruins can outclass Illinois in this standout early-season tilt.
There’s a marquee college basketball matchup in Las Vegas Friday night as the No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini (3-0) and No. 8 UCLA Bruins (3-0) battle at T-Mobile Arena.
The Illini are up to No. 19 in the polls after being ranked No. 23 in the preseason and rattling off three blowout victories to start the season. They have high hopes in 2022 after finishing with a 23-10 record a year ago.
Mick Cronin’s Bruins have been tremendously successful over the last two seasons and return a wealth of experience to this year’s roster, so expectations are naturally sky-high.
Check out our college basketball picks and predictions for Illinois vs. UCLA on Friday, November 18.
Illinois vs UCLA best odds
Illinois vs UCLA picks and predictions
Mick Cronin has turned UCLA into one of the premier basketball programs in the country. The Bruins made the Final Four in 2020-21, falling only to No. 1 seed Gonzaga — no shame in that. They followed that up with another successful campaign in 2021-22, compiling a 27-8 record and making the Sweet 16, where they lost to North Carolina. That makes it two straight years where they were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by the eventual runner-up.
The Bruins figure to remain near the top of the college basketball landscape for the next decade or so, as Cronin signed a six-year extension this offseason that will pay him $4.1 million annually.
UCLA is primed for another run in 2022-23 as a wealth of experience. Leading scorer Johnny Juzang departs, along with impact wing Jules Bernard, but two-all league players return in point guard Tyger Campbell and do-it-all Jaime Jaquez Jr. They added two impact freshmen in Amari Bailey and Adem Bona, both of whom have begun the season in the starting lineup. Considering both Top-20 recruits, there’s reason to expect this version of UCLA to have a higher upside than last year’s squad.
Illinois, meanwhile, has rattled off three straight victories to start the season by an average margin of 35.3 points. Considering none of their three opponents ranked better than No. 276 in KenPom, it’s hard to gain much insight from those games. Impact returners include Coleman Hawkins, Luke Goode, and RJ Melendez, while Terrance Shannon Jr. is a high-caliber transfer who is currently No. 18 in the NCAA in scoring with 22.7 points per game. Goode has been out with a foot injury to start the year, leaving the Illini without a rotation piece. They lose a ton of talent from last year’s team and no loss will be felt more than that of big man Kofi Cockburn, who averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
This is Illinois’ first big test of the season, and I believe UCLA is the superior side on paper. Cronin’s team has played well in neutral-site games and will be familiar with the venue considering the Pac-12 Tournament is held in T-Mobile Arena. Give me the Bruins.
My best bet: UCLA -2.5 (-104 at FanDuel)
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Illinois vs UCLA spread analysis
Be sure to shop around, as the spread ranges from UCLA -2.5 to -3.5 depending on the sportsbook.
The Bruins are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall and have typically played well in Friday games, going 6-1 ATS in their last seven. They check in at No.9 in KenPom while being a Top-20 unit on both ends of the court. Jaylen Clark leads the team with 17.3 points per game, while four of his teammates (Campbell, Jaquez, Bailey, and David Singleton) are also averaging double-digit points per game.
Illinois checks in at No. 26 in KenPom, while falling outside the Top 20 on both ends of the court.
Brad Underwood’s squad has not played well in neutral-site games, going just 1-6 ATS in its last seven. The Illini have also struggled when facing difficult competition, going 0-5 ATS in their last five games against a team with a winning percentage above .600. Despite covering their last two games, it’s worth pointing out that they are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven following an ATS win.
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Illinois vs. UCLA Over/Under analysis
The most commonly available total at current is 145.5, although 144.5 is also available at a few locations. The Illini are 2-1 to the Over to start the year while averaging a robust 92 points per game. Meanwhile, the Bruins are averaging 85 points per game but are just 1-2 to the Over thanks to a stingy defense allowing only 58 ppg.
UCLA has one of the most lethal offenses in the country, checking in at No. 5 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. Despite this fact, the Bruins prefer to slow things down and operate at their own pace. They rank just No. 214 in KenPom’s adjusted tempo metric, and if you’ve ever watched Jaquez play ball then you know he looks like he’s moving in slow motion most of the time.
Illinois’ offense will be the lowest-graded unit in this game, ranking No. 35 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metric. It will be a battle of tempo on Friday night, as the Illini will look to get out and run in order to push the pace. They rank No. 50 in adjusted tempo and will look to keep pushing the gas pedal in this matchup.
UCLA’s efficient offensive attack could see an uptick in points scored as this is a pace-up game against the Illini. I prefer the Over for this matchup.
Illinois vs UCLA betting trend to know
Illinois is 1-6 ATS in its last 7 neutral site games. Find more College basketball betting trends for Illinois vs. UCLA.
Illinois vs UCLA game info
|Lease:||T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV|
|Date:||Friday, November 18, 2022|
|Tip off:||9:30 p.m. ET|