After experiencing deja vu in the first half against No. 16 Gardner-Webb, the Cavaliers pulled it together in the second half and cruised to victory. One year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed, Virginia is looking like the national title contender it was billed to be entering the tournament. Coach Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers playing at an elite level on both ends of the floor.
The Ducks, on the other hand, are the hottest team in the nation. They’ve won 10 straight games, including the Pac-12 Tournament, and finally seem to be clicking. Coach Dana Altman has his group playing well at the perfect time and Oregon has rode the momentum all the way to the Sweet 16.
Date/Time: Thursday, March 28, 9:59 p.m. ET
kenpom.com projection: Virginia def. Oregon 64-54
Betting Line: Virginia -8.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
No. 1 seed Virginia
Virginia fans were surely sweating at halftime during the team’s opening game against Gardner-Webb. The Cavaliers were down 36-30 (they were tied 21-21 with UMBC a year earlier) and looked out of sorts. But this time, Virginia got going in the second half and eventually cruised to a win.
The Cavaliers are inside the championship curve with the second-best offense and third-best defense in the country, according to kenpom.com. They shoot well from the perimeter and defend the 3-point shot well. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome have been phenomenal, but De’Andre Hunter is showing why he’s considered an NBA lottery pick. Hunter is averaging 16.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament and provides the third scorer Virginia didn’t have last March Madness.
Virginia’s defense has been excellent after the first half against Gardner-Webb. The Cavaliers crushed Oklahoma in the Round of 32 and appear to have their winning formula figured out. With the trio of Guy, Jerome and Hunter setting the tone, the Cavaliers are locked in on the defensive end.
No. 12 seed Oregon
The Ducks are red hot. They’re playing their best basketball of the season despite Bol Bol’s absence and suddenly look like a contender. On top of that, Payton Pritchard and Louis King are combining to average 35.0 points per game in the tournament.
During the Big Dance, Pritchard is averaging 7.5 assists per game and taking over as the top offensive player for the Ducks. He’s generating offense for everyone and has been incredibly efficient from the floor. In the last 10 games, Pritchard is shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from deep. Going into that stretch, he was hitting 39.1 percent of his shots and 32.7 percent of his 3-pointers.
King is also in the middle of a nice groove. He averaged 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 20 games while recovering from some early injuries. But in the last 10 contests, King is putting up 14.2 points and 5.2 boards per game and hitting 42 percent of his 3-pointers.
The Ducks are strong defensively and have held each of their previous tournament opponents to just 54 points. Oregon, like Virginia, plays slow. It also defends the 3-point shot well, which is one of Virginia’s strengths. If Pritchard or King get hot and put the Cavaliers in an early hole, the pace and style of the game might not bode well for Virginia.