Pick – Analysis
Virginia has been one of the most impressive teams of the college basketball season. The Cavaliers have compiled a 28-1 record, and have reeled off win after win despite dealing with an injury to one of their best players over the past month. They travel to a hungry Louisville team, desperate to show teams they are for real.
The Cardinals have floated near the Top 10 all season long, but after a couple back-to-back losses to NC State and Syracuse along with the loss of guard Chris Jones, a lot of people have doubted them. The doubting is warranted, but this team hasn’t gone away as other guys have only stepped up. They eked out wins over Miami and Georgia Tech and destroyed Florida State on the road over the weekend, although got put in their place against Notre Dame on Wednesday. A win in their home finale against Virginia would be impressive.
The Cavaliers won the first matchup between these teams 52-47 as their defense dominated an inconsistent and poor shooting offense. Louisville scored 13 points in the first half, but managed to come back, and still fell short in the second. The double-teaming of Montrezl Harrell bottled up the energetic big man most of the way and Virginia only turned it over twice against the press-heavy Cardinals. That’s a perfect recipe to defeating Louisville.
Without Chris Jones in the backcOurt, Quentin Snider and Anton Gill have filled in nicely (for the most part), but can they do so against this defense? Wayne Blackshear is another guy that has picked up his offensive Game a bit. The problem still remains that the Cardinals are not that good of a shooting team, which is an issue against a team like Virginia. They’ll double team Harrell down low and play great ball defense on the outside. With Jones gone, other guard Terry Rozier needs to have a big Game every time out if Louisville wants to do anything this postseason.
The problem for Virginia’s opposition is that the Cavs don’t shoot themselves in the foot. They play balanced, smart basketball that gets the job done, hence their one loss this season. Justin Anderson played in the last Game between these teams, but it was the Game he got hurt in and only made it 16 minutes while shooting 1-of-9 from the field. However, at midweek, Virginia did say Anderson could return for this Game, but don’t put too much money into that as he is coming off a broken finger. Expect his time to be limited even in a return.
Virginia can attack with any number of guys without Anderson as we’ve seen in the last month. Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes can step up when needed out of the backcOurt, while Anthony Gill, Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey run the paint on the defensive end, and get the job done offensively despite minimal statistics.
Even if Louisville wins this Game, it’d be hard to see Virginia drop out of the 1-seed slot. They’ve been a top team all season long and deserve it. As for the Cardinals, they might need a win here to hold on to a 4-seed, to show the committee they’re sort of fine without Jones.
Our Pick – This is being written on Thursday before lines are available for the Saturday Games. All of Our numbers have Virginia squeaking by with a 1 point win.