The late game in this year’s Maui Invitational quarterfinals features a new-look UCLA squad taking on top-5 Marquette. Can the Bruins pull off the upset?
TV schedule: Monday, November 20th, 11:30 pm ET (approx)
Arena: Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii
In the early part of the 2023-24 season, we’ve seen a few highly-ranked preseason teams struggle so far. One of the exceptions is Marquette (3-0), coming off a strong road win over top-25 Illinois in the past week. The final score was 71-64, led by 24 points and seven assists from Big East Player of the Year guard, Tyler Kolek.
The Eagles return four starters from last year’s Big East title team, including leading scoring guard, Kameron Jones (19.3 ppg). Big man Oso Ighodaro is picking up the slack left from Olivier Maxence-Prosper being gone, while sophomore guard Chase Ross is having a nice role as the team’s 6th Man. The No. 4 team in the country is the second-highest ranked team in the Maui Invitational and if they win, could end up being No. 1 in the next AP poll.
While we have a good idea of who the Golden Eagles are, their opponents are more of a mystery. That’s because not only did UCLA (3-0) lose four starters from last season but most of their key newcomers are overseas players. One of them is 6’8 forward Berke Buyuktuncel, who reportedly just got cleared by the NCAA in time to participate in this event.
Seeing how Buyuktuncel and 7’3 freshman forward Aday Mara (7.0 ppg) look against power conference competition will be interesting and a barometer for how good this team can be throughout the season. The good news for the Bruins is that the one proven player and lone returning starter from last year as emerged as a go-to option on Adem Bona. The former five-star prospect and all-league defender currently leads the team with 18.0 ppg and 8.7 rpg.
The key to this matchup is how the backcourt players for UCLA looks against the veteran Eagles. Starters Sebastian Mack and Dylan Andrews have been in double figures, while Utah transfer Lazar Stefanovic gives them a spacing option on the perimeter.
It’s going to be a nice late test for the Bruins, but Marquette may ultimately be too much, too soon, for them. UCLA will put up a fight but, in the end, the favorites will prevail.
Prediction: Marquette 76, UCLA 66