This matchup is all about defense and surprisingly, Oregon is the hotter team having won its last 10 Games. Sure, playing in the Pac-12 doesn’t compare to the ACC, but there’s no arguing it’s been an impressive run for the Ducks. Still, Virginia opened as a decent -8.5 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
A defensive matchup is nothing new for Oregon, which has won its last three Games by at least 18 points against slow, defensive-minded teams in Washington, Wisconsin and UC Irvine. Virginia is a different team, but it’s evident Oregon knows how to win this type of Game, which is through defense and a slightly more consistent offense.
There aren’t many teams that run a similar defense to Oregon’s and that’s why it’s hard to prepare against, though Virginia gets a few extra days. It’s also wise not to forget this Virginia team is different than previous versions in that it ranks second in the country in terms of offensive efficiency. Oregon runs a matchup zone that also features some pressing, but the Cavaliers have multiple guys that can handle the ball from Kihei Clark and Kyle Guy to the taller Ty Jerome. Also, with Guy, Jerome and De’Andre Hunter all able to shoot at least 40 percent from deep, that’s different than anything Oregon has seen of late. That shooting will be important, but also Hunter is a guy that can sit at the top of the zone and play from there. Helping even more is that Virginia also has guys like Braxton Key and Mamadi Diakite that have been vital against more athletic teams and those two will likely be key in this Game, especially against block master Kenny Wooten.
Oregon doesn’t have an elite offense, but it’s arguably been much better on the winning streak thanks to Payton Pritchard, who is doing it all. The point guard has scored at least 18 points in the last five Games, but also has at least seven assists in the last Four. He’s setting up the offense, while also getting quality looks and attacking more. When this team was struggling, Pritchard took more of a backseat and let his teammates have the ball more, but that’s changed. That being the case, he’ll likely see numerous Virginia defenders, from shorter, but active Clark to the taller Jerome.
However, often with the 6-foot-9 Louis King and Paul White at the three and Four spots, Virginia will likely have to play their bigger lineup that doesn’t feature the 5-9 Clark even though he’s played 69 minutes the last two Games. That would put Hunter at the three with Key at the Four and Diakite at the five, and that advantage arguably goes to Virginia. Hunter may be the best player in this Game and while he can take out someone like King on one end, he could also use his size and shooting to cause problems on the offensive end.
Oregon is playing its best basketball of the season, but it hasn’t played a team quite like Virginia’s. The Hoos are smart on offense, but also limit easy looks defensively, allowing an incredible 27.8% from three and 45.3% inside the arc. This will be a fascinating defensive matchup with the team that’s been more consistent all season getting the nod over the one that needed to win the Pac-12 Tournament to be in this spot.
Our Pick – Oregon +8.5