NCAA Tournament Picks: Belmont vs. Virginia

David Lawrence

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:59 PM GMT

The Belmont Bruins came very close to beating Duke and Mike Krzyzewski in a 15-versus-2 game in the NCAA tournament several years ago, in 2008. They will try to break through in another such seed matchup against an ACC school, Virginia…or at least cover the college basketball betting line.

The Belmont Bruins Can Win Because…
Their shooting ability is certainly good enough to not only beat a number two seed, but to beat Virginia’s defense. Virginia’s whole identity is based on and around its defense, which is one of the nation’s very best. The Cavaliers have a top-10 defense in terms of lowering opponents’ shooting percentages, especially from two-point range. However, Virginia wasn’t quite as strong in terms of limiting a team’s three-point field goal percentage. The Cavaliers were very good, but they weren’t dominant the way they are as far as two-point field goal defense is concerned, so think about this when checking out the NCAA Basketball odds.

Belmont, then, can shoot the three in a way that will force Virginia to come out and defend the Bruins 25 feet from the basket. In Belmont’s most recent game, an excellent performance against Murray State in the Ohio Valley championship game, the Bruins hit 39.5 percent of their three-point shots. Craig Bradshaw hit 5 of 10 long-distance attempts. Nick Smith hit 4 of 10. Taylor Barnette hit 3 of 8, including a 25-foot game-winning shot. This team has a lot of artists, players who can find a way to put the ball in the basket from all sorts of angles. Virginia’s defense is excellent, but Belmont is creative and talented, a very tough version of a 15 seed, a team a lot more threatening than another 15 seed in the tournament, New Mexico State or (as another example) North Dakota State.

 

The Virginia Cavaliers Can Win Because…
Their defense is just too tough. Virginia can go through extended periods of games without scoring many points, but the Cavaliers have lost only three games this season, which tells you something about how consistently they’ve been able to overcome their weaknesses on offense. The Cavaliers have been able to win nine games this season when scoring under 60 points, and several more games when scoring under 62 points. That’s uncommonly good for a team that struggles to put the ball in the basket. Virginia has the backcourt which can rotate defensively and work around screens to stay with Belmont’s shooters and not allow them to get free. Virginia is so physical and active on defense that it can smother a smaller and less powerful Belmont team.

Then, at the other end of the court, Virginia has a lot more size than what Belmont is ready to deal with. Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill have the size and length which mid-major teams such as the Bruins cannot counter. The Cavaliers should dominate on the boards in this game, and they should also be able to get relatively easy shots by feeding the ball into the low post. If Belmont comes with double-teams, Virginia’s big men can pass the ball out to the perimeter for open three-point shots.

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Outlook
Virginia will win the game (and face the winner of Michigan State vs. Georgia), but Belmont will keep the game close. What will also matter is that Virginia’s style of play lends itself to close games. Virginia won’t score enough to cover the number. It will win by 12, which means Belmont covers the college basketball betting line, so back them with your NCAA Basketball picks.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Belmont +16.5 at Pinnacle