Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Free NCAAB Pick: Bearcats ATS
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
You have to love how some of these NCAA basketball powerhouses set up their non-conference schedules. Here we are six weeks or so into the 2018-19 season and UCLA hasn’t played a true road game yet. That changes Wednesday night with a tough trip to a good Cincinnati club.
The Bruins have played twice outside their own gym, losing to Michigan State and North Carolina in Las Vegas in a Thanksgiving tournament. UCLA had won three straight following that was but shocked 74-72 at home by little Belmont on Saturday to put embattled coach Steve Alford back on the hot seat. He entered this season definitely coaching for his job after the Bruins barely snuck into last season’s NCAA Tournament and lost in the First Four. Belmont is a good program, but UCLA can’t be losing at home to that level of school.
In Alford’s defense, he brought in a spectacular recruiting class but two of those touted freshmen, Shareef O’Neal – Shaq’s son – and Tyger Campbell are out for the season due to injuries. One crystal-clear issue with these Bruins are three-throw shooting. They are among the worst in the country in hitting just 61.1 percent. UCLA was an embarrassing 12-for-28 against Belmont.
UCLA is 2-3 all-time against Cincinnati. They played each of the past two seasons. Last year, the Bearcats rolled 77-63 in Los Angeles, taking control with an 18-0 first-half run. UC turned 18 UCLA turnovers into 23 points.
Bearcats Also Off ATS Loss
Cincinnati lost its season opener to Ohio State, won the next nine but then lost Saturday at No. 18 Mississippi State, 70-59. The difference was from behind the arc as the Bulldogs hit 12-for-23 from deep compared to 3-for-14 for the Bearcats. MSU also scored 16 points off UC turnovers and 14 second-chance points. “You can’t give a Top 20 team at home with their kind of talent 30 points,’ UC coach Mick Cronin said.
Didn’t help that Cincinnati had three starters in foul trouble, with junior center Nysier Brooks fouling out with nine points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. Jarron Cumberland led Cincinnati with 21 points, his fourth game with at least 20 this year. He leads the team at 15.8 ppg. Per usual, Cincinnati is an excellent defensive team, ranking No. 6 nationally at 57.6 ppg. UCLA averages 80.6 ppg. Seven of Cincinnati’s 11 opponents have shot 40 percent or under from the field this season.
The Bearcats are 39-2 at home overall since the start of 2016-17. They didn’t play at “home’ last year because Fifth Third Arena was undergoing a major renovation, so they instead played on Northern Kentucky’s campus (for those who don’t know, Kentucky is literally next door to Cincinnati). In 2016-17, UC was 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena.
- Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games.
- Bruins are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games.
- Bearcats are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 home games.
This writer always bets against an NCAA basketball team playing its first road game of the season. That’s just not something you can simulate. Back the Bearcats against the spread.