2023 March Madness First Round Parlay (+178): Tough Defense to Power Virginia Past Furman

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Top NCAAB Pick for the Day

NCAAB Pick: Two-Legged Parlay (+178) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

  • Virginia ML (-220)
  • Furman vs. Virginia – Under 132 (-110)

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Top sportsbooks have released their NCAAB odds for this week’s first round of the NCAA Tournament.  One game, in particular, Furman vs. Virginia interests me as worth investing in.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both the money-line and the total for this game.  Feel free to parlay both bets at an online sports betting site in order to maximize your profit. 

Remember, fans from the Old Dominion State who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated Virginia betting sites.

Furman Paladins vs. Virginia Cavaliers 

Thursday, March 16, 2023 – 12:40 PM EDT at Amway Center 

Reasoning for the “Over” 

I want to acknowledge other people’s best case for the “over” of this game in order to show how obsolete their reasoning is. 

People think that Virginia’s defense is going to struggle in this game for two interconnected reasons. The first one addresses the concept of Virginia’s defense, the pack line, so let’s break this concept down. 

Virginia’s Pack-Line Defense 

Virginia’s pack-line defense is team-oriented, and it is a gap defense. This means that defenders aren’t so much asked to defend in isolation as they are in unison with other defenders. 

Ideally, Virginia’s defenders are able to funnel opposing ball-handlers away from the baseline and to the middle of the floor where the help defense, the “pack,” is located to wall-up dribble penetration. 

Off-ball defenders are expected to help stymy dribble penetration by being well-positioned to close up gaps between individual defenders. 

Furman’s Offense  

The “over” backers point to Furman’s superb floor-spacing as a problem for Virginia’s defense. The idea is that, in spacing the floor, Furman will “un-pack” the pack-line defense. 

In other words, the Paladins can supposedly force Virginia’s defenders to have to guard in isolation, which is exactly what they do not want to do. 

The “over” backers are right to say that the Paladins will space the floor because they employ a small lineup consisting in five players who are comfortable operating behind the perimeter. They will want their spacing to negate Virginia’s help defense endeavors. 

Ideally, Furman’s three-point shooting should be hard for Virginia to defend because the Cavaliers’ defenders will, so the reasoning of “over” backers goes, have difficulty closing down Furman’s well-spaced-out shooters. 

Again ideally, Furman’s perimeter game should stretch out Virginia’s defense, which should also expose the Cavaliers’ to a bevy of cuts and other inside actions that complement the Paladins’ efforts behind the arc. 


The second and related reason for the “over” is the Hoos’ negative history in March. 

Virginia’s defense has a history of thriving in the regular season before struggling in the first round against these small lineups of low-profile schools. Examples include its near-loss to UNC Wilmington and, of course, the UMBC fiasco in 2018. 

Will Furman’s Spacing Bother Virginia? 

But it wasn’t so much, for example, UMBC’s floor spacing that bothered Virginia. It was the quickness of its individual ball handlers. They could use their quickness to break down the pack-line defense, forcing help in ways that allowed them to achieve layups or to create in-rhythm, open shooting opportunities behind the arc. 

The following year, in Virginia’s game against fellow 16 seed Gardner-Webb, the first half displayed the same problems, but Virginia was more prepared to adjust, showing the evolution of Cavaliers’ head coach Tony Bennett

The Hoos had already acquired a small and quicker ball-stopper at point guard in Kihei Clark. They had an elite defender in De’Andre Hunter whose excellent lateral footspeed was sorely missed by Virginia’s defense against UMBC. 

Moreover, they could replace slow-footed center Jack Salt with smaller players who were more suited to protect the basket in tandem with defending the perimeter. Coach Bennett has continued to evolve, so we’ve often seen lineups this year with 6’8 Ryan Dunn at the center position in addition to the 6’6 Jayden Gardner at the four. Both frontcourt players are athletic guys who can move. 

Small Ball Rules the Day

This will not be a game where seven-footer Francisco Caffaro sees the floor. While floor-spacer Ben Vander Plas would help, Virginia will be even stronger with highly-ranked shot-blocker Kadin Shedrick, who is an athletic option and not a behemoth like Caffaro. Virginia could even have wing player Armaan Franklin at the four and move Gardner to the five. 

With these small-ball tendencies, the Hoos have proven to be well-equipped against teams that space them with athletes, as evident in their success against small and positionless James Madison, against NC State’s spread ball-screen offense, and in their ability likewise to hold Duke to under 60 points. 

From the defense’s success in two games against Duke, Virginia will already be used to dealing with a frontcourt player who operates as somewhat of a point guard by distributing to teammates in the middle of the floor — power forward/center Ryan Young did this for Duke and power forward/center Jalen Slawson will do it for Furman. 

Furman Offense’s Resume  

In terms of defensive efficiency and by the general eye test, Virginia has by far the toughest defense that Furman will have dealt with. The pack-line defense that helps slow the game down — the Paladins would rather play fast, and this tempo contributes to the higher total — will thus present a shock to Furman’s system. 

The Paladins will need to get used to using up the extent of the shot clock, and their inability to achieve quick baskets will result in several contested three-point shots where their mediocre efficiency will not help them. Furman has not dealt with a ball-stopper like Clark and someone like All-ACC Defensive Player of the Year Reece Beekman. These guards are quick and therefore built to contain the dribble penetration of Paladin ball handlers. 

Wingman Franklin Could Be Key

Cavalier wing Armaan Franklin has, going back to his days at Indiana where he bothered talented scorers like Florida State’s Scottie Barnes, been known for his success as a perimeter defender. 

Virginia’s mobility and athleticism in the frontcourt, in line with its developed small-ball tendencies, further keep the defense from being vulnerable to Furman in ways that prior Cavalier defenses would have been — in containing Furman’s movement inside easily enough, this year’s group of defenders will remain able to close hard on the Paladins’ shooters behind the arc. 

While Furman and “over” backers point to the Paladins’ offensive efficiency numbers, one must acknowledge the softness of the defensive challenges that Furman has overcome to make those numbers as attractive as they look.

How to Stop Virginia’s Offense  

Virginia features its mover-blocker, or “sides,” offense. This offense positions two bigs on the blocks who operate as screeners for the three “movers.” 

The team has a high assist rate because its scoring is predicated on ball-handlers locating teammates coming off ball screens, using those screens to cut toward the basket, or freeing themselves up for an open shooting opportunity. Given UVA’s reliance on ball screens, defenses succeed against the Cavaliers by switching and by being long. 

Can Furman Stop Virginia’s Offense? 

Furman with its positionless sort of lineup can switch on screens, but the Paladins are not long — they rank 257th in height. With their lack of length, they fail to resemble Duke and Florida State defenses that characteristically give Virginia trouble. The length of those teams’ athletes allowed them to recover and contest shot attempts anywhere on the floor and to minimize driving and passing space inside the arc. 

Virginia won’t score too many points, because the Cavaliers are not a good shooting team — their offenses under Tony Bennett are anyhow often tense in opening round NCAA Tournament games — and because Furman can apply some ball pressure on the perimeter to make passing harder for the Hoos than it was when they recently sliced up Clemson’s defense. 

But I can’t imagine Furman’s defense doing any better than NC State and Miami teams — these other ACC teams are smaller and like to apply ball pressure — that held Virginia to 63 and 64 points, respectively. Both of those ACC teams rank significantly higher in terms of defensive efficiency than the Paladins even though, metrically speaking, the Paladins have had a monumentally easier strength of schedule. 

Against the one ACC team they faced, NC State, the Paladins allowed over 90 points. Asking the Hoos to score 65 seems like a very modest ask. 

Parlay Verdict  

Virginia’s offense will use off-ball screen after off-ball screen to wear down Furman’s weak and vulnerable defense, which will be spaced out against the small-ball lineups that this year’s Cavalier squad is eminently comfortable employing. 

Even if Virginia’s shooters do not settle in and assuming that they do not recover their early-season efficiency levels, their well-tuned and now also crucially well-rested motion offense will eventually produce too many easy baskets. 

Plus, this is a good game for Gardner to thrive in, because he loves the mid-range and won’t have to deal with the sort of length with which Duke’s defenders bothered his shots. Defensively, Virginia’s pack line will present a shock to the Paladins’ system, as they fail to out-quick and out-athlete the Hoos’ unit of stout on-ball defenders, which will hold Furman to below 60 points. 

In sum, I see something like a 65-57 Virginia win. Virginia will triumph in a low-scoring contest. For your best bets, parlay the Virginia ML along with the “under” for your top NCAAB pick.

Be sure to use our trusty parlay calculator for your parlay betting needs. 

  • Virginia ML (-220)
  • Furman vs. Virginia – Under 132 (-110)

NCAAB Pick: Two-Legged Parlay (+178) at BetOnline

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