Louisville vs. Virginia Top Picks March 4: Hoos Are Laying Way Too Many Points

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Jayden Gardner #1 of the Virginia Cavaliers shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals on February 15, 2023. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

NCAAB Pick: Louisville +18.5 (-105) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Louisville +18.5 (-105)
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Picks Summary:

  • Louisville +18.5 (-105)
  • Under 128 (-110)
  • Virginia TT Under 73.5 (-120)

Top Sportsbooks have released their NCAAB odds for this Saturday’s game between Louisville and Virginia.

Louisville is continuing to lose games. After its 10-point win over Clemson, Louisville’s losing streak has risen to three games.

Virginia, meanwhile, finally ended its own losing streak, by beating Clemson 64-57 on Tuesday. The Hoos will look to maintain momentum by ending their regular season on a positive note. They are in a three-way tie for first place in the ACC.

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

Louisville Cardinals vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Saturday, March 4, 2023 – 02:00 PM EST at John Paul Jones Arena 

The Odds 

Virginia is favored by double digits to win Saturday’s matchup.

Earlier in the season, the Hoos faced a couple of the worst teams in college basketball. Those teams managed to score in the 40’s.

As evident in its 83-73 win against Clemson two weeks ago, Louisville is an ACC team that is much more talented than the worst of the worst. Against bottom-feeder ACC schools, Virginia has allowed around 55-60 points.

When these teams first met, the Cardinals scored 58 points in a three-point loss at home. KenPom projects Louisville to score 55 points, and this sounds reasonable to me.

What this means for the spread is that Virginia will need to score well over 65 points to cover.

Virginia’s Offensive Decline

This need to score so many points to cover the spread is created by the fact that Virginia shot beyond itself for the greater part of the season.

With amazing offensive outputs against teams like Baylor and with continued efficient offensive performances earlier in conference play against ACC teams like Wake Forest, Virginia started to become favored more and more heavily.

This tendency to overachieve has created a gift: fade the Hoos because it will take a lot of time for oddsmakers to readjust for Virginia’s lack of talent.

Betting Hoos ATS Comes With Risk

While the Hoos are still managing to cover the occasional game with a smaller spread particularly because their defense is well-coached as always and very good, they lack the offensive firepower to cover games with bigger spreads.

One should expect this lack in view of their roster — Virginia’s is filled with typically mediocre-at-best shooters, transfers from lower-profile teams, guys known primarily for their defense, and a small point guard who could easily be playing for UC Davis right now. 

So, recently, they failed to come close to covering as double-digit favorites at Louisville and against Notre Dame at home.

What Happened?

In his genius, Coach Tony Bennett seemed to find a great strategy: small ball.

Employing a smaller lineup worked for Virginia for a while because center Ben Vander Plas — who is currently playing through a back issue — was hitting outside shots, forcing opposing centers to vacate the area around the rim and guard the perimeter.

But Vander Plas cooled off, and opponents have figured out that he isn’t dangerous enough from deep to justify sacrificing their rim protection by having their center try to contest his outside shots.

It doesn’t take much rim protection, in any case, to deter tiny point guard Kihei Clark or awfully inefficient fellow guard Reece Beekman from scoring at the basket.

Small Ball’s Challenges

Virginia’s centers — besides the streaky and mediocre Vander Plas — are offensively non-existent.  Small forward Armaan Franklin will maybe reach double digits if he doesn’t lay a complete dud.

The freshmen are still developing, and freshmen also typically don’t get much playing time for Coach Bennett because his pack-line defense has a significant learning curve.

Matchup Problem Number One

Virginia’s top shot-taker is power forward Jayden Gardner, a poor man’s college version of DeMar DeRozan, master of the mid-range.

Gardner can reach the upper teens but is also a liability on defense. Besides his problems with on-ball defense, his help defense is a significant issue.

Vander Plas is too small and defensively inept to guard opposing post players by himself, so Coach Bennett will want to employ a double team against the opposing post player when he has the ball because Virginia’s pack-line defense aims to prevent easy baskets at the rim and instead to compel the opponent to shoot three-pointers.

Jayden Gardner Helps in the Middle

Gardner, as the power forward at 6-6, will be the best option to help in the post.

However, his Louisville counterpart is Jae’Lyn Withers, who is a superb three-point shooter — his three-point conversion rate this entire season is 42.6 percent and 44.9 percent in ACC play alone.

Virginia will have trouble accounting both for the post-scoring and the three-point shooting of Louisville’s frontcourt. Withers will join the list of frontcourt players who can shoot and score inside who bothered the Cavaliers.

One other recent example is Tar Heel power forward Pete Nance, who scored 22 points last Saturday against Virginia.

Matchup Problem Number Two 

The other decisive matchup problem for Virginia is created by the fact that Kihei Clark is 5-10. While he is shifty and quick, he is not shifty and quick enough to handle defenders who are so much longer than him.

Louisville is lengthy — the Cardinals are the nation’s 11th-tallest team.

They have the athleticism at their guard positions on top of having guards at least 6-3 who will contain Kihei on offense — which is relevant because he is UVA’s top distributor — and, on the other side, who will shoot over the top of him and post him up.

The Verdict 

Expect a low-scoring game in which Withers improves his shooting efficiency relative to these teams’ first meeting because he’ll enjoy favorable opportunities.

Also given the frequency with which Cardinal point guard El Ellis goes off, it seems likelier to me that Ellis and Withers both have strong performances than that either one struggles.

The duo that they form will help Louisville actually increase its scoring output relative to its 58-point output in its first game against the Hoos.

But even if the Cardinals disappoint offensively, declining Virginia lacks the shooting ability, the finishing ability, the general talent, and the general scoring power to score enough points for either the Virginia ATS or the “over” to hit.

For your NCAAB picks, you can bet on this rematch to be your classic underdog- and “under”-type game.

NCAAB Pick: Virginia TT Under 73.5 (-120) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Virginia TT Under 73.5 (-120)
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NCAAB Pick: Under 128 (-110) at BetOnline

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.