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UVA looks to avoid 1-16 upset
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UMBC vs. Virginia ATS Picks

The Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers pulled the shocker of all shockers by disposing of the Vermont Catamounts at the buzzer in the America East Tournament finals as 9.5-point underdogs. Their reward for doing so is a first round matchup with the NCAA Tournament top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers.

Big dogged UMBC is more than likely to face a steep uphill climb in this one with UVA’s “pack-line” defense expected to have its way against such an overmatched opponent.

No. 16 UMBC Retrievers vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Date and Time: Friday, March 16, 2018, 9:20 p.m. ET
Location: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
Opening NCAA Tournament Odds: Virginia -23, O/U 120.5
UMBC vs. Virginia TV Coverage: TNT

The Retrievers won 24 games in the regular season and went a commendable 12-4 in conference play. They entered the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed where it went on to dispose of UMASS Lowell and Hartford as nine and 3.5-point favorites respectively. Then in one of its biggest wins of the season, UMBC controlled its matchup with the Catamounts taking a 37-35 lead with it into the break before punching its ticket to the dance at the game’s death.

Most shocking about the outright win was the fact that Vermont romped them by an average of 21.5 points per game in both regular season skirmishes. UMBC currently checks in as the No. 184 ranked team in the country per the current Pomeroy Ratings. It played to an overall schedule strength ranked No. 296 and a non-conference schedule strength ranked No. 278.

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It’s toughest opponent played to date came in the form of the Arizona Wildcats whom they pushed against back on November 12 as 25-point underdogs. Remember, it took the Wildcats about a month before they started firing on all cylinders yet they still had no problem disposing of the Retrievers.

There’s not much to report on the Cavaliers here. They proved to be the best team in the country over the course of the regular season, and they look to be every bit as good as their 31-2 straight up and 20-9-1 against the spread records suggest.

In year’s past, the defense is what allowed for UVA to be successful in both non-conference and ACC play. While Tony Bennett’s stop unit is still one of the best in the country, he finally has an offense to pair with it that should allow for the program to make its deepest run in the NCAA tournament since taking over the reins in Charlottesville.

The unit has shot better than 46 percent from the field, knocks its long range attempts down at a 39.0 percent clip ( No. 29 ) and has been nothing short of money from the charity stripe ( No. 39 ). All those facets paired with a defense allowing the fewest points in the country ( 53.4 PPG ) is the main reason why Virginia is one of the heavy favorites to cut the nets down in April ( +555 ).

Matchup to Watch

In its 65-62 win over Vermont, the Retrievers connected on 10 of 22 long range attempts. The 3-ball is a huge component to the offense’s overall success. It knocks them down at a 38.7 percent clip ( No. 34 ), and accounts for 40.7 percent of the 73.9 points the team averages per game. Good luck coming close to those outputs against a Virginia defense that allows just over a 30 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc ( No. 5 ) and an average of just 6.2 3-point makes per game ( No. 17 ). Take UMBC’s long range prowess out of the equation, and they’ll have no shot of keeping this game competitive or covering the hefty amount of points oddsmakers have given them in this first round matchup.

UMBC vs. Virginia Free Picks

UVA has teams like Kentucky, Arizona, Tennessee and Cincinnati in their region. In other words, the Selection Committee did them absolutely no favors in their trek to win the title. What they did however do was serve up a softy for their first round matchup, and I fully expect the Wahoos to take full advantage. This is going to be an all-out massacre that finds Virginia likely ahead of the full game spread 10 minutes into the game. While I have no reservations laying the lofty chalk, I do worry about the bench warmers coming in late and mucking it up. With that, I’d look to ride UVA in the first half larger than I would the full game spread. It’s seriously possible the Retrievers fail to reach 40 points in this game and I’m typing that with a straight face.

NCAA Tournament ATS Pick: Bet Virginia - at BookMaker.eu
NCAA Tournament Score Prediction: Virginia 75 – UMBC 38

  
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