By Charles Jay
The Virginia Cavaliers went all the way last season, winning the national title one year after suffering a humiliating defeat to a 16th seed (Maryland-Baltimore County) in the Big Dance. But they almost didn’t get there. They had to get by the Purdue Boilermakers in the Elite Eight, and probably shouldn’t have. They were unfortunate to have run into the hottest hand at the moment, Carson Edwards, who had 42 points, and fortunate to have taken the game into overtime, where they prevailed.
Now here comes the rematch, which presents us with an interesting situation as we continue with WagerWAR.
Purdue does not have Edwards anymore, and there is no one who has been in the starting lineup who can hit triples in profusion. They will have to reach into the bench to put Sasha Stefanovic into a key role. If you can’t hit from the outside, you’re going to have a very hard time with Virginia. In fact, it doesn’t really matter where you’re shooting from, they’re going to be a pain in the neck.
And so here we are, at the Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN (game time at 7:15 PM ET), and we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions – is Virginia’s perfect record strictly the product of a soft schedule?; and who will step up for the Boilermakers to upset the vise-like grip the Cavs put on most opponents?
In the basketball betting odds on this game, as we are playing in WagerWAR, the Boilermakers are the favorites:
Purdue Boilermakers -2.5
Virginia Cavaliers +2.5
Over 101.5 points -110
Under 101.5 points -110
Virginia has slowed down everybody to a crawl, and that’s not a shocker, as they have the slowest Adjusted Tempo of all 353 teams in Division I. Do they handcuff the opposition? Hmmm, I don’t know; they are the best in the country defend inside the arc (33.3%) and eighth best stopping three-pointers (24.7%). So where do you shoot from? The free throw line? The ratio of their opponents’ free throws to field goal attempts is lower than any team in the country. Are you getting second shots? Well, Purdue has a shot, with 7-3 Matt Haarms and 6-9 Trevion Williams in and out, but Virginia is eighth-best nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
What we’re trying to tell you is that none of this is an accident. The Pack Line defense works.
I think that if Virginia was laying a lot of points, I would be worried about the possibility of them being able to put some distance between themselves and an opponent, because they don’t shoot all that well, and don’t use the triple all that much. They lost some real offense, too, when Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome left. That may hurt them down the line. But for now, they have a Purdue team in front of them that, frankly, doesn’t have a real formula for victory; either that or they need to shoot a lot better than 31% from three-point range. OR, they need to establish something inside. That may be their best shot. But don’t forget that Virginia has its own seven-footer (Jay Huff), who is becoming a pretty good two-way player.
I would rather be on the side of the points in this one, so that’s where we’re going in WagerWAR tonight.
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