The No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers will host the Bradley Braves to open the Charleston Classic. Below is the Virginia vs. Bradley prediction and game preview.
Virginia vs. Bradley Game Preview
Date: Thursday, Nov. 19
Game Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Venue: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
Why You Need To Care
Virginia fell victim to Tom Izzo’s Spartans in last season’s NCAA tournament when Michigan State knocked out the Cavaliers in the Round of 32. UVA has three starters returning from that 30-4 team, including its leading scorer Malcom Brogdon (14 ppg).
The Cavs are trying to rebound after surprisingly dropping a close game to unraked George Washington on Monday, 73-68. UVA was one of the best defensive teams in the country last year — allowing the least amount of points per game (51.6 ppg). They were No. 7 in blocks (71) and No. 10 in steals (97).
Bradley finished 9-24 last season, which was the first time since the 2001-02 season the Braves finished with less than 10 wins. They haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 10 years, but first-year coach Brian Wardle is hoping to change that.
Why Virginia Will Win
The Cavaliers may have lost their leading shot blocker, Darian Atkins, to graduation, but Tony Bennett will still preach defense to his team. UVA held GW to 4-of-15 shooting from three. It was a matter of not keeping their hands to themselves that plagued the Cavs, who let the Colonials go 23-of-28 from the free throw line. Brogdon carried the load offensively against GW with 28 points, but the Cavs need more than that to consistently win. If they control the glass and play their game — predicated on high-percentage shots and getting to the rim — then the Cavs will come out with a win.
Why Bradley Will Win
The Braves were destroyed in the rebounding department in their loss to Arizona (39 to 26) on Monday. They’ve also gone 7-of-25 from three so far this season. If Bradley is going to compete against a team like UVA, it needs to make sure — absolute sure — it’s getting good looks. Every possession is important against a team like the Cavs. Wardle has to preach defensive communication and rotation because allowing 52 free throw attempts like the Braves did against the Wildcats just won’t cut it. If Bradley improves in those three areas, it might be a good game.
Players Who Matter
Brogdon has to be the guy on the offensive end for UVA. Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill are going to get their looks, too, but Brogdon needs to be “the guy” for the Cavs — especially if they want to go deeper into the tourney this time around. As for this game, Brogdon should do just fine. Bradley doesn’t have anyone who can guard the UVA senior. Look for Tobey to set the tone on the boards as well. He’s leading the team with 7.5 rebounds per game.
Bradley’s top two scorers are both freshmen, so that should tell you a lot right there. Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and Ronnie Suggs are definitely a backcourt designed to score the basketball (22 ppg combined), but they’re combining for only 5.5 assists per game. Look for Lautier-Ogunleye to attack the basket while Suggs leans more on his perimeter game.
What’s Going To Happen?
This is UVA’s game to lose. Bennett’s guys have to be ticked off about losing to GW. That’s just now what a top 10 team is supposed to do, especially if three starters are returning from the previous year. Brogdon will have a game-high total in the points department — probably in the 20-25 range. Bradley won’t match the point production and shoot itself in the foot by putting the Cavs on the free throw line often.
Virginia vs. Bradley Prediction
Line: UVA -24, o/u: 127.5