Pick with Analysis
The rough stretch is about over for Virginia, but not quite. They host Louisville this Saturday, the third Top 12 team the Cavaliers will have faced in eight days. As for the Cardinals, they are coming off a stretch against UNC and formerly ranked Miami (FL), not all that easy either.
Despite the Schedule, Virginia has held strong and the offense has really come through against the top teams. OUtside of the ending of the Duke Game, Virginia has been stout on both ends of the cOurt against Duke and UNC. While they did lose to the Blue Devils, they did show the country they could compete with the big boys and that earned some respect in itself. They stayed the No. 3 team in the country for a reason, even after a home loss.
Louisville is ranked No. 9, but they are still lacking a great over-the-top win. Their best wins in non-Conference play come against Ohio State and Indiana, and while they just beat UNC, it wasn’t all too convincing after being down most of the Game. The Cardinals can beat up on the weaker teams, but when they play against other top teams, do they have enough? They scored 50 points against Kentucky and 52 against Duke. If they can’t pass that number against Virginia, it’s all but over for them.
While the Cavaliers didn’t hold Duke and UNC to under 60 points, they did enough to give themselves a chance at winning. Defense will be a huge part of this Game because Louisville doesn’t have the most dynamic of offenses. As seen against Duke, they really struggled to Scoreagainst a zone because they lack shooters. Montrezl Harrell is an absolute beast in the paint, but Virginia has the bodies to deal with Harrell like they did against Jahlil Okafor.
Terry Rozier leads the Cardinals with 18.3 ppg, but he’s not a fantastic shooter by any means, doing most of his damage inside the arc. Although, Rozier has been huge lately scoring at least 22 in three straight Games. It’ll be much harder sledding against this Virginia defense. If Harrell is at least somewhat contained, someone else will have to step up whether it’s Chris Jones or Wayne Blackshear. Jones has been big with 62 points in the last three Games, but just like Rozier, that stat line could look different in this Game.
On the other end, does Virginia have the guards to deal with the pressure of Louisville? North Carolina didn’t and they were exposed at the end of that Game. Led by London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia does not turn the ball over often, which will help. The Cavaliers turn it over just 8.9 times per Game, the third lowest rate in the country. That number will be put to the test against one of the best turnover-forcing defenses around.
OUtside of leading scorer Justin Anderson, Virginia doesn’t have many players that can shoot it from deep, but they are still an efficient team that gets plenty of open looks. With Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey down low, and Anderson, Brogdon and Perrantes on the outside, this group works well together and that was seen on the road Monday night at UNC. It was a tight first half, but the better overall team prevailed in the second half as the Cavs broke open a double-digit lead.
Louisville needs a win like this on its resume, but beating Virginia in Charlottesville won’t be easy. This will be a good Game regardless, but if the Cardinals can’t figure things out on offense, they won’t win.
Our Prediction – Virginia by 7