Is #1 Virginia is a Winning Betting Pick for the 2018 NCAA Championship?

#1 Virginia is a Winning Pick for the 2018 NCAA Championship?

Written by on March 8, 2018

The 2018 NCAA Tournament starts a week from today – Thursday, March 15. Sorry, I don’t count the First Four play-in games as officially part of the Big Dance. After all, when you check out the March Madness betting odds & play bracket contests like at MyBookie, those four games aren’t part of them. The No. 1 team in both polls heading into the conference tournaments is ACC regular-season champion Virginia. UVA joined fellow ACC team Duke as teams to be unanimous No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this season. Terrific year for a Cavs team that was picked to finish sixth in the ACC during the preseason. Despite weekly carnage around them, the Cavaliers enter the ACC tournament with only two losses — a one-point overtime defeat to Virginia Tech and a seven-point loss at West Virginia.

Is #1 Virginia is a Winning Betting Pick for the 2018 NCAA Championship?

The Wahoos will be a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance regardless of whether the win the ACC Tournament or not. Currently, they are +450 favorites to win the first national championship in school history. Is Virginia a winning pick to do so? Short answer: no.

Defense Is Amazing

First off, you should rarely bet the No. 1 team in the polls entering the Big Dance to win it all because it rarely happens. Second, recent Final Fours have shown schools only get there under a coach who has been to the national semifinals at least once. Virginia’s Tony Bennett never has. I also worry about Virginia’s offense. Defensively, the Cavs have no peer. They rank No. 1 in just about every major defensive category nationally. Virginia’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 83.9. That means with the data adjusted for the tempo played by the Cavaliers’ opponents, teams scored 83.9 points every 100 possessions. (A top 50 offense this season scores at least 113.8 points every 100 possessions.) If this holds through the end of the season, UVA will have played the most dominant defense since stats guru Ken Pomeroy began tracking these stats in 2002. UVA ranks first nationally in scoring defense (52.8 ppg), turnovers per game (8.8) and winning percentage (93.3%), second in fouls per game (13.9), third in field goal percentage defense (37.6%), fifth in 3-point field goal percentage defense (29.9%), seventh in scoring margin (14.5), ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.52) and 11th in turnover margin (4.2). Is Virginia a safe betting pick to win March Madness? Isaiah Wilkins capped a tremendous regular season by being named the ACC’s defensive player of the year. The 6-7 Wilkins has taken a team-high 11 charges and has 36 steals this season, second only to sophomore guard Ty Jerome at UVA. Among ACC players, he ranks 10th in blocked shots and 17th in rebounding. That “Pack-Line” defense is why the Cavs became the first program to win 17 ACC games in a single season and to go 9-0 on the road in the conference. UVA’s last road triumph was the most unlikely: Trailing Louisville by four with 0.9 seconds left in the second half, Virginia scored the final five points unanswered, including De’Andre Hunter’s three-pointer off the glass at the buzzer, for a 67-66 road win.

Offense Not So Amazing

Offensively, this team struggles to score. Against regular competition on a Wednesday night in the ACC, it’s really not an issue. But as the foes get better and better in the Big Dance, you have to be able to put the ball in the basket when it matters. Virginia has played the slowest tempo in Division I each of the past two seasons. This year, their adjusted tempo is 59.0 possessions per 40 minutes. By comparison, the power school with the fastest tempo is Oklahoma at 75.9. Virginia has not had a player miss a game because of injury or illness, but it did receive a scare Saturday when starting sophomore guard Kyle Guy collided with Notre Dame forward Martinas Geben. Guy is fine. He better be as one of the team’s true scorers. Last year, UVA was a No. 5 seed but almost as good as defensively as this year’s team. So what happened? The Cavs were crushed 65-39 by Florida in the second round. UVA had season-low 17 points in the first half and 29.6 percent shooting on the night. The Cavaliers hadn’t scored fewer than 40 points since December 2013, a 48-38 loss to the Badgers. Terrible offensive games seem to always pop up. How about the 2015 second round when UVA lost to Michigan State 60-54? Or 2014 when it also lost to the Spartans, this time managing 59 points? Or in 2012, when UVA had 45 points in a loss to Florida? Noticing a trend here? Defense can only carry a team so far.

Expert NCAA Championshup Betting Prediction

UVA again comes up short of the Final Four and could be the first No. 1 seed ousted.