The Virginia Cavaliers are working on killing the hobgoblin of early-round March Madness exits, and are poised after 2 easy victories at the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
The Oregon Ducks, UVA’s opponents in the South Region on Thursday night, are the only double-digit seed remaining alive in the Big Dance this year.
#1 seeded Virginia’s point spread for the Sweet Sixteen contest in Louisville is only (-8) at Bovada Sportsbook, representing the respect earned by the Ducks after a miracle conference run and 2 March Madness wins. But the Ducks are also coming from a miserable Pac-12 that has a horrid reputation in Vegas this year. That, and the school’s #12 seeding in the South, has handed Oregon a (-800) futures line to reach the Final Four, at least according to the handicappers and the action at Bovada.
— Virginia Men’s Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) March 27, 2019
UVA enjoys a (-125) line to win the next 2 games and advance to Minneapolis.
Those numbers don’t seem right for a number of reasons.
Virginia doesn’t always score in the 70s or the 80-point range, and it seems odd (excuse the pun) for such disparate lines to exist between schools playing against a single-digit spread.
If we have learned anything from this year’s tourney, it is there is just no telling when an underdog will emerge and cover a wide spread over a favorite. Despite the lack of Cinderella victories so far, bettors are getting wise and are not suckered into thinking that a #14 or #15 seed (or especially a #12 seed) is in bigger trouble than it actually is due to seeing a (-15) spread on the favorite, and figuring (subconsciously) that Vegas knows its sports.
Oregon, in large part thanks to guard Ehab Amin and forward Louis King’s combined efforts from beyond the arc and in leading in the transition game, has won in convincing fashion, upsetting the Wisconsin Badgers and roundly beating a heralded UC Irvine squad.
— Chris Webber (@realchriswebber) March 27, 2019
Virginia can’t be faulted for anything in the first 2 rounds, despite dealing with little fight from Oklahoma in the Round of 32. The Sooners offense was strangled in the 1st half, and Mamadi Diakite stepped up to deliver a 14-point, 9-rebound performance.
But the Cavaliers are not only going around online betting sites as a minus-line wager to win the South, but a 4-to-1 bet to win the tourney outright.
UVA’s defense is fun to watch. I like Tony Bennett’s squad, heck, I even like some of his old pop records. (I keed, I keed.) I just don’t think the Cavaliers are a 4-to-1 shot to win March Madness.
My reasoning is big-picture. Jack Salt has been injured and isn’t contributing many minutes, giving the Oregon drive-and-kick game plan a chance to work against a less-imposing lineup. This is also the time of year when we can essentially forget the seedings and the regular season. Murray State wasn’t a “high seed” anymore within minutes of their game against Marquette in the Round of 64, and Oregon likely won’t look like a #12 taking on a bigger-yet-unproven roster from Charlottesville.
Suppose the Cavaliers reach the Elite Eight. They’ll face either Purdue or Tennessee – neither a picnic. Would you parlay UVA to win 2 straight against the best of the Pac-12 and the SEC during the season? If not, then the (-125) Region line makes no sense.
The memory of last year’s UMBC upset of Virginia lingers for me not because of the fact that an unheralded D1 squad beat Bennett’s team, but because of the way his team was beaten that day. The Cavaliers’ preferred leisurely pace opens the door for an up-tempo, hot-shooting team to get ahead in the 1st half and never look back.
Is the squad prepared to get out wonderful starts in the next 2 games? It better be.
I don’t know if Oregon is the best “sleeper” line on any futures board going into the Sweet Sixteen, but you’ve got to like the underdog’s long-term odds a hell of a lot more than Virginia’s at this hour.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.