The ACC’s Virginia Cavaliers will face the Southern Conference’s Furman Paladins in the South Region’s 4 vs. 13 matchup.
Virginia Cavaliers (25-7)
Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers quietly had a very good season, finishing tied for first alongside Miami in the ACC. Like always, Virginia plays a drag-it-out style spearheaded by their reliable defense. They picked up quality out of conference wins over Baylor and Illinois on neutral floors.
As expected, four of the five minute-leaders for Virginia are seniors led by Armaan Franklin and Kihei Clark. The Cavaliers weren’t great away from home down the stretch, losing by double digits to Boston College, North Carolina, and Duke. This isn’t the most talented Virginia team like some past years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make it to the second weekend. They currently sit at +8000 odds to win the National Championship.
The Furman Paladins were crowned the Southern Conference regular season and tournament champions after finishing the year winning 14 of their last 15 contests. The Paladins rank 11th nationally in both effective field goal percentage and assist to turnover margin. They are a formidable 13 seed. Led by senior guard Mike Bothwell and his 18 points per game, Furman plays a smart brand of basketball that should translate nicely to the NCAA Tournament. They shoot the three-ball well and the three headed monster of JP Pegues, Jalen Slawson, and Bothwell all pitch in a balanced, efficient effort.
The South Region could be the “upset region” of this year’s tournament—and the Furman Paladins are a big reason for that. Furman matches the Cavaliers in many statistical categories and is better in some. They match up well, and will send the Cavaliers home early. We really like the Paladins to cover the +5.5 point spread.