Some people don’t enjoy the slow tempo of Virginia basketball, but it’s hard to deny just how good this team has been, especially for the betting crowd. The Cavs have covered their last nine Games and are a ridiculous 15-3 ATS for the season. In contrast, Notre Dame is just 7-12 ATS. Virginia may be the slowest team in basketball, but it also has the Fourth-most efficient offense and second-most efficient defense. Betting against Virginia is like playing with fire and Notre Dame gets to follow this with a home Game against Duke two days later.
The Fighting Irish weren’t expected to be good this season and then they lost a couple players to injury and they’ve been worse. This is still a Mike Brey team, though the talent isn’t there to compete and pick up wins in the ACC. The Irish are at home, but they’ve already lost there multiple times, including to Radford earlier in the season and by 10 points to Syracuse a few weeks ago. That shows home cOurt may not be a huge deal in this Game, which has been the case almost all season for Virginia, already having double-digit road wins at South Carolina, BC and Clemson.
To beat Virginia, you need a team that can either shoot the ball well from outside or multiple players that can dribble drive and take on double teams. Duke had two guys that could get a shot no matter who was guarding them and that’s how they beat Virginia. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, John Mooney is the only guy that’s consistently producing and he’s not the type of player that usually has success against the pack-line defense. Yes, Mooney is dominating the paint averaging 19.6 points and 15 boards in the last five Games, but this is a new test. Jack Salt is on the cOurt because of matchups like this so he can hold his ground and use his big body in the paint, while Mamadi Diakite helps out from the other side if needed. If you don’t have a super athletic guy down low, the advantage usually goes to Virginia.
If Mooney doesn’t reach his averages, Notre Dame may have trouble reaching 50 points because no one else on the team is a consistent scorer. TJ Gibbs (13.7 ppg) is just 4-for-25 in the last three Games and D.J. Harvey shoots 30.3% from three. This Game was surprisingly close when these teams met last year, but that was with Bonzie Colson, the type of player who can beat this defense, and Notre Dame was in a must-win situation. Otherwise, Notre Dame’s next leading scorer is Dane Goodwin at 7.5 points per Game and Mooney is the only one that shoots better than 36 percent from three and he only has 40 attempts.
The reason Virginia keeps covering is because its offense is better than usual. Ty Jerome is struggling with his shot, but he runs the show and averages 13.1 points, 4.1 boards and 4.8 assists per Game. Kyle Guy (15.0 ppg) is the main shooter running around screens while De’Andre Hunter (14.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) does a little bit of everything else. Sure, no one else on the team averages more than 7.5 points per Game, but those guys always get their buckets and another player usually reaches double digits whether it’s the likes of Braxton Key, Diakite or even Jay Huff.
Notre Dame’s best defensive trait is block percentage and free throws allowed, which may not matter against this offense. It also doesn’t help that the Irish don’t defend the three or defensive rebound well. Notre Dame is at home, but the only chance it has to cover is if Guy, Hunter and Jerome all struggle to make shots. Even then, the Hoos will find a way to score.
Our Pick – Virginia -11