Virginia and Oregon entered the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament with different expectations. The No. 1 seeded Cavaliers were also the top-ranked team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy but needed to vanquish memories of last year’s historic loss to No. 16 UMBC.
Any other wins for the Ducks were gravy, as they surged to the Pac-12 Tournament title with an 8-game win streak. On Feb. 23, Dana Altman’s crew was 15-12. Now, they are 25-12 after a pair of double-digit wins over No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 13 UC Irvine.
After a minor scare against Gardner-Webb in the first round, the Cavaliers are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016 after a 12-point victory over Oklahoma Sunday. It sets up a 1 vs. 12 battle between a team trying to prove doubters wrong and another flying high and unshackled by expectations.
The winner of this game will face either the Purdue Boilermakers or Tennessee Volunteers, the former of which obliterated defending champion Villanova behind 42 points from star guard Carsen Edwards.
Virginia vs. Oregon Preview
*Note: Betting info and updated lines courtesy of OddsShark
- Virginia Cavaliers (-7) vs. Oregon Ducks on March 28 (9:57 p.m. EST, TBS)
- Over/Under: 119
The only major injury on either roster is Oregon center Bol Bol, who has been out for the season since breaking his left foot back in December. Since the Ducks have organized the rotation for 3 months since his absence, this will have absolutely no effect.
In fact, Oregon’s frontcourt is probably its strongest aspect. 6-foot-9 sophomore center Kenny Wooten is a defensive specimen, blocking 7 shots versus UC Irvine. Before that, he swatted 4 more against Wisconsin center Ethan Happ and 4 more in the conference tournament final against Washington. His 12.9 percent block rate ranks No. 8 nationally.
He’ll be needed in force again, as Virginia counters with De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite. The former scored 23 points to save the game against Gardner-Webb, and the latter has averaged 15.5 points per game in the tournament. Against the Sooners, he filled the box score with 14 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks.
Virginia vs. Oregon Prediction & Pick
This figures to be a defensive rock fight, which the 119 line suggests. Both teams allowed just 108 points each during the first weekend. Virginia allowed just 56 and 51 points in its game against the Runnin’ Bulldogs and Sooners. Oregon, meanwhile, ceded just 54 in each matchup.
Per Ken Pomeroy, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers boast the 3rd-best efficiency defense, while Altman’s ranks No. 15.
Who’s going to make shots then? Virginia trots out a trio of guys that can over 40 percent of their 3-pointers (Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter). The Cavaliers main weakness last year was a solid but unspectacular offense (No. 30 nationally). This year, it’s the 2nd-best.
Nobody for Oregon connects on over 40 percent of 3’s. Paul White and Louis King are the closest at under 38 percent. Overall, the Ducks rank outside the top-100 in effective field goal percentage.
The No. 1 Kenpom team has won the national title in 6 out of the last 10 seasons. Virginia hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1984. It’s possible the monkey is off the back after surviving the first weekend. However, Wooten and the Oregon defense will keep this close, which will test the Cavaliers’ resolve.
Due to a better offense, they should survive and advance.
Prediction: Virginia Cavaliers 62, Oregon Ducks 56
Pick: Oregon +7