UCLA vs. BYU
11:30 p.m. ET ESPN2
(Odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Opening Spread: BYU -1.5
Current Spread: UCLA -1.5
Projected Spread: UCLA -3.5
Tonight’s Maui Invitational nightcap features Mick Cronin’s 4-1 UCLA Bruins against Mark Pope’s 3-2 BYU Cougars. The UCLA Bruins are coming off a lackluster performance where they surrendered 88 points to Hofstra. Prior to their loss against the Pride, the Bruins were allowing a little over 60.0 ppg.
The knock on the Bruins under former coach Steve Alford rested on the defensive end. They had always been able to generate offense, but getting consistent stops on the defensive end was their kryptonite.
Enter Mick Cronin: His last nine seasons at the helm of the Cincinnati Bearcats resulted in a top 30 KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency rating. I am high on the Bruins as a potential sleeper team in the Pac-12 due to their roster makeup and the addition of Cronin. Their performance last Thursday may seem a bit concerning, but it is the perfect fuel for Cronin to use to get his squad motivated for a big week in Maui.
KenPom actually projects BYU pulling out a 71-68 win, as the Cougars rank ahead of the Bruins in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Cougars have played the tougher schedule to this point, having traveled to the Fertita Center and Taco Bell Arena. The Cougs went 1-1 in those contests, defeating Houston courtesy of TJ Haws late-game heroics and falling to Boise State 71-68 in overtime.
The loss of Yoeli Childs significantly hinders the Cougars, as the strength of the Bruins rests in their frontcourt. Jalen Hill and Cody Riley figure to be featured tonight.
I project this line at UCLA -3.5 and see value in the current number.
Pick: UCLA -1.5 (up to -3.5)