Stephen Nover Free CBB Saturday Play

On January 30, 2016, in Free Picks, NCAAB, by Stephen

Virginia plus 6 1/2 at Louisville

When two very good teams meet, especially two that rank among the top 11 defensively, taking points isn’t a bad way to go. That’s especially the case here getting this many points with 11th-ranked Virginia against 16th-rated Louisville. It’s the first time the Cavaliers are an underdog in 44 games, The last time the Cavaliers were a ‘dog was last season against VCU on the road and they beat the Rams, 74-57.

OK, that was last season when the Cavaliers had the most efficient defense in the country. Virginia’s defense isn’t as stifling this season. But it’s still very strong ranking 11th in the nation surrendering fewer than 62 points a game while also ranking No. 1 in defensive rebounding. The Cavaliers make up for their slight defensive decline with a very efficient offense. Virginia rates in the top 20 in field goal percentage and top 10 in turnover percentage. The Cavaliers commit the fewest turnovers per game in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9.3. Louisville turns the ball over more than 10 of the 15 teams in the ACC.

Virginia has stepped up when asked going 3-0 versus ranked opponents. The Cavaliers held 15th-ranked Miami to 58 points in an eight-point home victory five games ago. The Hurricanes average more than 79 points on the season.

Current form and contrast in styles are factors, too, why Virginia should cover if not win straight-up. Sparked by a hot Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia has won three in a row shooting 52.7 percent from the floor during this span. Brogdon is averaging 23 points during the win streak. By contrast, Louisville hasn’t been sharp defensively beating Virginia Tech, 91-83, and Georgia Tech, 75-71, during its past two games. The Cardinals are shooting only 44.7 percent from the field during their last eight games. Their season shooting percentage is 49.1. Louisville has failed to cover in seven of its last nine games.

Virginia’s offense is predicated on patience working to get the best shot. That helps make the Cavaliers very tough in this point spread range as they are built more for covering as a ‘dog than as chalk. The teams split last season with Virginia beating the the Cavaliers, 52-47, at home while losing at Louisville, 59-57. The Cardinals were a 2 1/2-point home ‘dog in that game. So you can see the line adjustment from a year ago, which I believe is overcompensated way too much. Only once in their four losses have the Cavaliers lost by more than five points. Their average losing margin is by 4.5 points.

The Cardinals run more and rely on offensive rebounding. One of their keys is 6-foot-10 center Chinau Onuaku, who has to deal with Virginia’s talented and tall frontline. Onuaku has had problems avoiding foul trouble and also has been sick this week. Note, too, that the Cardinals have a huge home game on deck when they host No. 2 ranked North Carolina on Monday.

Going back the past four seasons, the Cardinals have covered only 25 percent of the time as a single-digit home favorite averaging 64 points during these games.


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