Number 10 Louisville travel to Charlottesville on Saturday to take on the 22nd ranked Cavaliers of Virginia. Should the Cardinals manage to leave with a win, it would lock-up the ACC regular season title. Virginia will also have their sights on an ACC title, but they will need some help from Boston College. If B.C. and Virginia can both pull out wins, it will result in a 3-way share of the ACC title between Louisville, FSU and the Cavaliers.
As 17-point favorites, it looks unlikely that FSU will lose to Boston College. Virginia on the other hand, looks to continue the momentum they’ve been building in winning 9 of their last 10 including a 52-50 win over Duke at the end of February. Tony Bennett’s squad will look to continue suffocating opposing offenses which has been key to their recent run of form.
When Louisville enters John Paul Jones arena on Saturday, they’ll be doing so without their strongest inside presence in uniform. Starting forward Malik Williams is doubtful to play against the Cavaliers after rolling his ankle in a loss at Florida State on February 24. Williams teammates will look to pick up the slack relying heavily on scoring from forward Jordan Nwora and an increase in minutes for center Steven Enoch.
The previous meeting of these two squads resulted in an 80-73 win for Louisville at home. Not reflected in that final score however, is that Virginia enjoyed a 2-point lead with under 3 minutes left. Louisville went on a 12-3 run to finish the game strong and secure the 7-point victory, but still did not manage to cover the spread as they were 8-point favorites.
As the reigning national champions, the Cavs know how to string together wins and they are getting hot at just the right time. Tony Bennett has his men playing better than they have all season, especially forwards Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff. Diakite has scored in double figures in 11 straight games while Huff has joined the party with 17 and 15 points in their most recent wins over Duke and Miami.
The absence of Malik Williams for the Cardinals looks to be a key factor in determining the winner of matchup. Diakite and Huff will look to continue their run of solid performances by taking advantage of the short-handed Louisville front court. The Cavs defense should also benefit without Williams in the game. In their first meeting, Virginia struggled to close out on Louisville’s perimeter shooters as they were focused on taking away the Cardinals inside game. Without Williams on the floor, the Cavs will be able to dedicate themselves to defending jump shooters without leaving their big men exposed in the paint.
Betting Line & Pick
Oddsmakers have opened Virginia as a 1-point favorite with a total of 114.5. The line itself is a strong clue as to how much different both these teams are than they were a month ago. UVA has moved from an 8-point dog to a 1-point favorite? Sportsbooks are making it clear that this Cavs team is, once again, a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t over think this match-up, the Cavs are red-hot, they’re playing at home and will be able to take advantage of a short-handed Louisville team. Lay the point and watch UVA ride their lock down defense to a W.
Pick: Virginia -1
*Odds provided by VegasInsider