Purdue Boilermakers vs. Virginia Cavaliers Pick
Purdue Boilermakers (26-9 SU, 20-14-1 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (32-3 SU, 24-11 ATS)
When: Saturday, March 30, 2019 – 8:40 PM ET
Where: KFC Yum Center, Louisville, Ky.
Point Spread: PUR +4.5/UVA -4.5
Total: O/U 126
Last Time Out: Purdue survived Tennessee 99-94 in overtime; Virginia edged Oregon 53-49.
Scouting the Boilermakers:
When two of the nation’s five best offenses get together, that’s the kind of result that can happen. Purdue and Tennessee can play defense but didn’t play anything close to defense on Thursday night, turning the game into a track meet that forced the Boilermakers to play for their own survival after being up 18. Carsen Edwards was simply magnificent against Tennessee, going all 45 minutes and scoring 29 points. However, that begs the question as to how fit he’ll be if Purdue needs some late heroics against Virginia. With everyone else, Matt Painter subbed fairly liberally, but he left his star on the court for the entire game plus overtime. Purdue will need someone else to step up the way Ryan Cline did against Tennessee if it hopes to beat Virginia.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
There was never any doubt that Virginia could grind one out, and that’s exactly what the Cavaliers had to do against Oregon. Ultimately, Virginia has been able to play its way throughout the tournament, playing through three games that have been played at its pace and allowing the Cavaliers to highlight their defense. Against a high-flying Purdue squad, however, they might have to get some extra help from their offense to keep pace with the Boilermakers. In fact, Purdue will be the best offense that Virginia has faced all season, ranking two spots higher than Duke in terms of efficiency. It’s been said all year that Virginia has the best offense it’s ever had under Tony Bennett, and Kyle Guy and company will have to show it here.
Mentality. No programs have heard about their failures in the NCAA tournament more than these two. Virginia hasn’t made the Final Four since 1984, and Purdue hasn’t done it since 1980. The Cavaliers have reached this round once before under Tony Bennett, falling to Syracuse in 2016, while Purdue has finally broken through to the Elite Eight after five Sweet 16 losses under Matt Painter. Both teams have accumulated more than their share of doubters after past failures, which is especially true in Virginia’s case after the Cavaliers’ first-round flameout a season ago.
Both teams are going to have to block out the distractions that come with the pressure of trying to reach a Final Four if they’re going to actually make it there. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has said in the past that the Elite Eight is the hardest game to win because it’s the last hurdle before the Final Four, an event where everyone there is a regional champion. Not so at the Elite Eight, which will only make things more challenging for both squads.
Purdue will Cover if:
The Boilermakers can keep finding some of the kind of shots they did against Tennessee. Purdue is not going to shoot above 50 percent against Virginia the way it did against the Volunteers. Even as good as the Boilermakers are, the Cavaliers’ defense is just too stout to allow that to happen. What Purdue has to do is learn from its loss to Michigan earlier this season and find better shots than it did against the Wolverines. The Boilermakers scored just 57 points in that contest because Edwards was 7-for-21, and a repeat performance is going to leave Purdue well short of what it needs to best Virginia.
Virginia will Cover if:
The Cavaliers can match their offense to their defense. Grinding it out worked beautifully against Oregon, but Purdue’s offense is a much different animal than the Ducks. The Boilers have come a long way since their loss to Michigan, and their past two offensive performances against Villanova and Tennessee show just how much of a challenge they can be to stop. Virginia can stop Purdue, but its best outcome is to get enough from its offense to ensure that holding Purdue under 70 becomes a luxury, not a necessity.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Both of these teams are deserving Final Four entrants. Both are strong on both sides of the ball, both have excellent individual talent, and both are well-coached. But when I look at Purdue, I keep seeing a team that has been slowed down before by the likes of Michigan and Indiana. Virginia’s defense and tempo are on a different level from both of those squads, and the Cavaliers are confident now. Purdue might have come a long way since Michigan, but the reality is that it’s been just five weeks since the Boilers scored only 48 on Indiana.
Purdue has a great offense, but it’s too prone to off-nights for me to trust it against a defense like Virginia’s. I’m going with the Cavaliers to kick in the door to the Final Four.