Virginia Cavaliers vs. Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs Pick
Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs (23-11 SU, 18-13-1 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (29-3 SU, 23-9 ATS)
When: Friday, March 22nd, 2019 – 3:10 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina
By: Matt Lowry, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GDWB +22 / UVA -22 (5Dimes)
Total: O/U 130
Last Time Out: Gardner-Webb beat Radford 76-65 in the Big South Championship; Virginia lost to Florida State 69-59 in the ACC Semifinals
Scouting the Runnin’ Bulldogs:
Gardner-Webb finished their regular season 3rd in the conference but wins over 2nd-seeded Campbell and 1st-seeded Radford in the Big South tournament helped them clinch a spot in the Big Dance. Keep in mind, that this is the first ever appearance for the Runnin’ Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament, meaning all these guys have never played on a stage this big. After seeing what UMBC did to Virginia last year, Gardner-Webb must have confidence that they can repeat history and take down the Cavaliers.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
The Cavaliers were once again dominant for most of this season. Two of their three losses came to Duke and they also lost in the ACC semifinals to Florida State. For Virginia, this game will be all about redeeming themselves after the loss last year to 16-seeded UMBC. Virginia clearly has the talent and defensive skills to make a deep run in the tournament, but the question is, “Which Virginia team will show up?”
The Virginia defense steps up and defends at an elite level. It is no question that the Cavaliers are known for their amazing defense. They are number 1 in the country in points allowed per game (55.1). Furthermore, they allow their opponents to shoot just 38% from the field and 27.2% from the three-point line. The question to consider is will we see the Virginia defense from majority of the season or the Virginia defense from the Florida State game. The Cavs allowed the Seminoles to shoot 56.5% in their most recent game, which is very unlike them and is unacceptable. If the Cavs defense struggles early, look for Gardner-Webb to take full advantage.
Notable Betting Trends:
The Runnin’ Bulldogs come into this game red hot as they are riding a 5-game win streak. Not only have they won 5 games in a row, but they are also 5-0 against the spread in these last 5 games. Another interesting trend shows that when the Cavaliers are favored by more than 20-points, they are 6-1 this season against the number. As for Gardner-Webb, they have only been a 20+ point dog once this season and failed to cover the spread in that game.
Gardner-Webb will Cover if:
Their top three scorers show up. As an underdog by more than 20 points, it is imperative that they knock down a high percentage of their shots. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have three guys specifically that can keep this game much closer than the experts think. First, we have leading scorer, David Efianayi. The Senior guard averages 18.3 points per game and has a shooting percentage of 48.9%. Their second leading scorer is Jose Perez. Perez, a freshman, averages 15.1 points per game and his shooting percentage is 44.2%. Lastly, we have another Senior in DJ Laster. The Senior forward averages 13.7 points per game and shoots 56% from the field and 45.1% from three. These three guys mentioned are basically the only fighting chance the Runnin’ Bulldogs have, so if they are going to pull off a historic upset or even cover the huge spread, these guys need to each have a monster game.
Virginia will Cover if:
They rebound the ball. Rebounding has been one of Virginia’s weakest points this year as they average just 34.8 boards per game. This is 217th in the country and needs to improve drastically if they are going to avoid an early upset. Granted Gardner-Webb is not a good rebounding team either, but either way creating second chance points in a tournament like this can be vital to a team’s success or could lead to an early exit. Look at the ACC semifinal game for example. The Cavaliers were out-rebounded 33-19, which led to their fourth lowest scoring output of the entire season.
Matt’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Something about this game just does not feel right. Virginia may be a title contender, but their offense has been too inconsistent at times throughout this season. MyBookie has the Cavaliers laying 22 points, but again Virginia has been known to choke in the biggest games, which is why backing the underdog with the points should be the best play.
Matt’s College Basketball Pick: Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs +22