Illinois vs. UCLA Preview and Pick

The premier game of the Friday night college basketball slate comes out of the Continental Tire Main Event as two top 20 programs square off with Illinois and UCLA. The mutual site game tips off at 9:30 PM ET, right after the finish of the first game of the event in the Baylor and Virginia game. We’ll preview the heavy-weight match-up and get into the best way to bet the game.

Game Preview

Both teams enter tonight with a 3-0 record, beating up on far inferior opponents to start the season. This will be the first true test for both programs early on in this campaign so we’ll see how they’ll stack up against real competition.

The Fighting Illini are averaging 92 points per game this season and are led by Texas Tech transfer Terrance Shannon Jr. who is averaging 22.7 ppg. Illinois was able to reload after losing quite a few starters from last season. Aside from Shannon Jr. other transfers Matthew Mayer and Dain Dainja will play a big role for the Illini as Dainja is already leading the team in rebounds.

Highly rated freshman Skyy Clark will be playing in his first primetime game of the season so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the spotlight for the first time. The Fighting Illini will need Clark and RJ Melendez to shoot it a bit better tonight in order to keep pace with the Bruins.

UCLA is averaging 85 points per game and junior Jaylen Clark has been the leading scorer averaging 17.3 ppg. NCAA tournament star Jaime Jaquez Jr. is back for the Bruins and off to an efficient start to the season.

The Bruins also have a highly-rated freshman in Amari Bailey who is averaging 11.7 ppg through the first three games and be playing in his first big nationally televised game as well.

Pick for the Game

UCLA is currently favored by -3.5 in this neutral court contest but the play I’ll be making in this game is the over of 144.5. These are two high-powered offenses facing off and neither team has yet to play a team who can shoot and score quickly and efficiently.

Both teams possess deep rosters that possess bench line-ups that have the ability to score with ease. The Bruins come into this game shooting 43.3% from three-point range while Illinois comes in shooting 51.1% from the field so both teams have come out of the gate clicking on offense.

I think it may take time for both teams to settle in on the defensive end so it could be a high-scoring affair right out of the gate. We’ve yet to see either team truly be tested or have to play from behind but both head coaches are familiar with preparing their teams for games like this so I think it could be a back-and-forth tightly contested game.

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