Oregon Ducks vs. Virginia Cavaliers Pick
Oregon Ducks (25-12 SU, 22-15 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (31-3 SU, 24-10 ATS)
When: Thursday, March 28, 2019 – 10 PM ET
Where: KFC Yum Center, Louisville, Ky.
Point Spread: ORE +8.5/UVA -8.5 (Bovada Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 119.5
Last Time Out: Oregon routed UC Irvine 73-54; Virginia beat Oklahoma 63-51.
Scouting the Ducks:
Oregon just might be the hottest team in the nation right now after dismantling both Wisconsin and UC Irvine, making the country sit up and take notice of how good the Ducks really are. Oregon got a low seed because of injuries that caused some struggles in a weak Pac-12, but the Ducks have come on strong in the past six games, in large part because they’ve added another scorer to complement Payton Pritchard. Louis King has scored in double figures in each of the Ducks’ past six games, and only Arizona State has managed to stay within 10 points of Oregon in that stretch.
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One of the biggest things that the Ducks have going for them in this game is that they will not be afraid of Virginia’s tempo. The Cavaliers might slow the game down to a crawl, but the Ducks are perfectly happy to play like that by locking down on defense and getting offense when the opportunity presents itself. A lot of high-major teams are eliminated quickly by the mystique around the Cavaliers’ defense, leading to quick blowout losses. But the Ducks aren’t likely to buy into the hype around Virginia: this game feels like both will make the other work.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
For the first time since 2016, Virginia is past the first weekend of the tournament, and now the Cavaliers get to take another shot at the thing that’s eluded them in the Tony Bennett era: the Final Four. For all of its regular season success, Virginia has only reached the round of 16 twice under Bennett and has only gotten past it once.
But this Virginia team feels different. For starters, they showed no signs of cracks against Gardner-Webb or Oklahoma, taking control against the Bulldogs late in the first half and outplaying the Sooners to get to this game. Plus, the Cavaliers are a much more complete team than they’ve been in past years. Kyle Guy has been their main weapon all season, but Mamadi Diakite has really stepped up in the tournament and might be Virginia’s most important part of its offense.
Familiarity. Virginia gets the rare advantage of playing in a building it knows quite well in this game, as the Cavaliers are Louisville’s primary partner in the ACC and visit the Yum Center every year. While it might be a hostile court, it hasn’t felt particularly hostile to the Cavaliers as of late. Virginia has won four straight in Louisville, and its last loss here came in 2015. Given that Louisville hasn’t exactly been a pushover in the ACC, that’s no joke.
Oregon, on the other hand, has zero familiarity at all with the Yum Center. Not only that, but the Ducks have to cross three time zones to reach Kentucky after spending more than a month exclusively on Pacific Time. The Ducks haven’t been east of the Mountain Time Zone since conference play, and their last game played in either the Eastern or Central Time Zones was a Dec. 21 loss at Baylor. The Ducks did draw the late game, which will mitigate the time zone travel, but it could take more than a half to for Oregon to find its legs in this matchup. Oregon coach Dana Altman even admitted that familiarity with the Cavaliers could be a problem, as the Ducks are usually still practicing when the Cavaliers are playing games.
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Oregon will Cover if:
The Ducks can turn the Cavaliers over. These teams are both defense-first squads, but they play different styles of defense. Oregon’s style is built on forcing turnovers, and the Ducks average 7.7 steals per game. That makes this a battle of strength on strength, as the Cavaliers are fourth in the nation in taking care of the basketball. With Virginia averaging fewer than 10 turnovers a game, this will be a challenge.
Virginia will Cover if:
The Cavaliers can deny the Ducks good looks at the basket. Virginia is not the kind of defense that needs to force turnovers in order to win games. Instead, the Cavaliers win by slowing their opponents down and denying the open look. Oregon’s gotten several of those the past two games, including against Wisconsin, which is a miniature version of Virginia. The Cavaliers will have to be on top of their game, because the Ducks won’t be out of their comfort zone here.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This really feels like Virginia’s time. The Cavaliers look like they’re on a mission to expunge the ghosts of the past, and I wouldn’t want to be facing them right now.
But does that mean they’re the best choice against the spread? Honestly, I don’t think so against this Oregon team. The Ducks are playing well and know how to play a slower style. They’re not going to be like the typical Virginia opponent that gets thrown off by the Cavaliers’ defense.
This is a tough game to pick because I think the Cavaliers are the best team, but I don’t think they’re going to be nine points better than Oregon. This feels like a two-possession game in Virginia’s favor, and that’s what I’ll expect here. I think Virginia’s going to win, but as far as the spread goes, I want the points and the Ducks.