Last Updated: 2019-03-23
Through 15 minutes, it looked like history might repeat itself. Fans of the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers had to be apoplectic. No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb was beating Virginia 30-16, and even UMBC’s Twitter account was getting in on the action. However, the Cavaliers eventually calmed down and clamped down on defense to close the gap and enter halftime down just six points. The break was all the Cavs needed to settle down, and a 25-5 run to start the second half ended the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ upset dreams. Virginia avoided a disaster and is now a heavy favorite heading into its game with No. 9 seed Oklahoma Sooners in the South Region Second Round.
After a scare like the one Virginia received, I was expecting to see a single-digit line. The oddsmakers have disagreed, and instead the Cavaliers are 11-point favorites over the Sooners and the total has been set at 128. This is the second game of a doubleheader in Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina. It will be broadcast on TruTV at 7:45 p.m. on Sunday, March 24. The winner of this game will head to the South Region Semifinal where they will face a double-digit seed in either Oregon or UC Irvine.
How They Got Here
The Sooners had one of the toughest schedules in the country. Oklahoma didn’t play any Quad 4 teams, and that was enough to get the Sooners in the NCAA Tournament comfortably despite a marginal 19-13 record and a 7-12 mark against Big 12 teams. This team put on a shooting display against Ole Miss in the first round, scoring more points than any other team. Oklahoma shot the lights out from the floor, hitting more than 60 percent of their field goals in a 95-72 win where four players scored at least 18 points.
Virginia was one of the best teams in the year all year long, and the Cavaliers deserved a No. 1 seed. They won the ACC in the regular season after only losing to Duke (twice) throughout their campaign, and they scored a number of big wins. The Cavaliers were upset by Florida State in the ACC Tournament, but there was little doubt they would still be a No. 1 seed. Mamadi Diakite was the man of the hour against Gardner-Webb, as Virginia repeatedly turned to him in the paint after a slow start, and he responded by going 8-10 from the floor.
Trae Young has been missed. Even though Oklahoma was incredible on offense on Friday, the Sooners have not shot well from the floor this year. They have been an average or below average team in every category except turnover percentage. Oklahoma doesn’t shoot a lot of threes and hits just 34.5 percent of them, and no one with at least 100 threes is hitting better than 36 percent.
Defense has been the key for Oklahoma to get to this point. The Sooners don’t foul shooters, allowing the third-best free throw percentage to field goal percentage in the country, and they defend the interior well too.
Did I say defense? Since Tony Bennett’s arrival, Virginia has perennially had the best defense in the country. The Cavaliers defend the three-point line better than anyone in the country (allowing opponents to hit just 27.5 percent of their threes), and most of their defensive numbers rank in the top ten in the country. They don’t give up cheap fouls, don’t allow offensive rebounds, and swat a decent number of shots.
Virginia has shooters too. Diakite was the star on Friday, but the go-to guys are usually Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter. Only Hunter had a solid game on Friday, but all three hit at least 40 percent from three, and Hunter and Guy hit better than 45 percent from downtown.
Pick: Virginia -11
Congratulations to Oklahoma for getting hot at just the right time to pull off a bit of an upset in the first round, but this is a terrible match-up for the Sooners. They aren’t going to be able to get anything done on offense and Virginia will light them up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see UVA win by 20.
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