No. 2 UCLA and No. 4 Villanova will face off in a late game Friday night at Westwood’s Pauley Pavilion in what could be one of the best and most even and compelling matchups of opening week — and possibly of opening month — of the 2021-22 college basketball season.
The Bruins are slight favorites at home over the visiting Wildcats but both teams enter the game having blown out their competition in season-openers. For UCLA, that was a 95-58 destruction of CSU Bakersfield, and for Villanova, it was a 91-51 dismantling of Mount St. Mary’s. So it’s hard to get a good feel on what to expect when the teams clash Friday.
One thing is certain: Both teams boast experience and depth that programs across the country covet. UCLA returns every player of significance from its Final Four run a season ago and Villanova returns star guard Collin Gillespie and a wealth of experience around him. It sets up an old-school college hoops showdown Friday between two legit title contenders.
Here is what to know before the game and who our team expects to come out on top.
How to watch UCLA vs. Villanova live
Date: Friday, Nov. 12 | Time: 11:30 p.m. ET Location: Pauley Pavilion — Los Angeles TV: ESPN2 | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
UCLA vs. Villanova prediction, picks
Featured Game| UCLA Bruins vs. Villanova Wildcats
UCLA is the slight betting favorite and on a neutral court, this feels like it’d probably be a pick ’em. But it’s not on a neutral court — it’s on UCLA’s court. So inside Pauley Pavilion I like the Bruins to ride the wave of crowd support to a big win (figuratively but not literally). Nova will keep this close though, I’d expect, so I’m taking the points with the ‘Cats. Prediction: UCLA 69, Villanova 66
Last season, the Steelers were 20th in points allowed and surrendered the most rushing yards in the league. For the first time since 2017, the Steelers were not in the top six for yards allowed, finding themselves in the 24th spot.
It was not exactly the year the defense wanted to have, and this year the unit is focused on getting back to being a classic Steelers defense.
Defending Defensive Player of the Year Watt spoke about the expectations in Pittsburgh.
“As a Pittsburgh Steeler defender, it’s just that much more important for us to take pride in everyone that came before us and uphold the fact that the standard is the standard. At the end of the day, when the back is against the wall, when it’s a two-minute drill, when the game is on the line, we want to be on the field,” Watt said (via NFL.com). “That’s the mentality we have to have to be a hard-nosed defense, and that’s why we’re here to build that type of tradition, that type of standard for the season.”
The defense last year was not where they wanted it to be, with Watt commenting on the “unacceptable” number of 100-yard rushers they allowed in 2021.
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With such legends coming before them, there could be pressure on the players that could backfire. Heyward says he does not look at it as pressure, but what the team standard is.
“When you come to the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’re known for your defense. That wasn’t the case last year, so going forward it’s put up or shut up. If we’re going to win these games, it’s got to come down to us,” he said. “But that comes with the standard we are charged with upholding. It’s not pressure. It’s what’s expected.”
The Steelers are “based on defense,” new senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores said.
“Its roots and foundation is defense,” Flores said. “It’s stopping the run and rushing the passer and keeping the score down. Any outsider can look at that and, if you peel back the layers, that’s who the Steelers are and that’s who we want to be and what we want to be. But there’s a process to doing that.”
Teryl Austin, who was promoted coordinator after three seasons serving as senior defensive assistant/secondary coach, said he appreciates Flores giving an outsiders view as someone just getting to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers’ season was cut short after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round.
They are 56-56, which is highly disappointing since they were widely expected to comfortably take the AL Central division like they did last year.
Of course, unexpected circumstances have gotten in the way: injuries, slumps, demotions, a lack of action at the deadline, and other scenarios have undoubtedly affected the Sox.
The most interesting part is that they are still very much alive in the playoff race.
Before Friday, they are 3.5 games behind the division leaders, the Cleveland Guardians.
That is definitely not an insurmountable difference.
They will need to show some thump with the bat, though.
“705 of the White Sox’s first 1,000 hits this year were singles. Most recent teams to finish a season with at least 70% of their hits being singles: 2018 Marlins (63-98), 2016 Marlins (79-82), 2015 Marlins (71-91), 2015 Braves (67-95). The Tigers also are on pace to join this list,” stats guru Jeremy Frank tweeted on Friday.
705 of the White Sox’s first 1,000 hits this year were singles.
Most recent teams to finish a season with at least 70% of their hits being singles: