The Virginia Cavaliers have been one of the big surprise stories of the season in college basketball. Can they avoid another upset and continue to remain on track for at least a share of the regular season ACC championship?
The Cavaliers can win because…
They just don’t lose – and haven’t been losing – to bad teams. Virginia has been vulnerable to bad losses over the past several seasons but that just hasn’t happened this season. Head coach Tony Bennett has gotten the most out of his players as they play relentless defense without suffering the lapses that have jumped up and bitten this team in the past. The offense makes course corrections and takes the ball to the basket when jump shots aren’t falling. There’s more intelligence and consistency on this team – it minimizes an opponent’s scoring runs, and it also minimizes its own scoring droughts.
Virginia’s defense leads the way, keeping games close when the Cavaliers don’t perform well on offense, but the key point for this team is that when the defense does carry the load for an extended period of time, the offense is able to wake up and provide help. In the past, Virginia’s offense would completely collapse, thereby wasting a strong defensive effort. There’s been enough balance on this team to win all but one game in the ACC so far this season, and that game was against Duke.
The Hokies can win because…
They're playing a rivalry game on their home floor. Virginia Tech and Virginia enjoy a spirited rivalry, so the fact that the Hokies get this game at home should give them some extra energy. The fact that Virginia is unusually and atypically great this season will make this contest feel more like a Super Bowl as far as Virginia Tech is concerned.
We’ve seen some huge upsets in college basketball over the past week, such as Nebraska winning at Michigan State and Temple knocking off Southern Methodist. Favored teams get tired of being the hunted object and underdogs in the midst of terrible seasons find extra levels of inspiration and enthusiasm. It should also be pointed out that Virginia Tech just held Miami to 45 points this past Saturday. If the Hokies can hold Virginia to 45 points, they can definitely score 46 or more. If this game is ugly and Virginia Tech’s defense plays its best game of the year, we could see a big upset.
Outlook & Pick
Virginia’s machine-like consistency is the reason the Cavaliers won’t stumble in this game. Virginia Tech’s offense is also highly unlikely to find enough rhythm – or made shots – to stay close for 40 minutes.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Virginia -11.5 at Bookmaker