ACC Futures Market: Virginia, Florida State Favored, But Do They Provide Value?
Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Virginia’s Kihei Clark.
As we’re approaching the halfway point of conference play, the ACC has turned into a two-team race.
Virginia (7-0) and Florida State (6-1) are atop the league standings and are both playing their best basketball of the season.
The odds currently reflect the dominance of these two squads. Per DraftKings, the Cavaliers are the favorite at +225, with the Seminoles right behind them at +315. Louisville (+450), North Carolina (+575), Duke (+650), and Virginia Tech (+675) follow up the favorites.
Why Virginia Can Win the ACC
If Virginia wins the ACC this season, it will mainly be due to the same reason they’ve had so much success in the Tony Bennett era: defense.
Once again, the Cavaliers are elite defensively, ranking 14th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings. The Cavaliers are disciplined in their scheme and rotations, and very difficult to score on in the half-court. Virginia is allowing fewer than 60 points per game and just 41% shooting.
The Cavaliers are also playing great on the offensive end, particularly in conference play. It may come as a surprise that Virginia ranks 10th in offensive efficiency, but with the ever-efficient Kihei Clark running the point, the Cavs rarely take a bad shot.
Another key to their offensive success has been Marquette transfer Sam Hauser, who brings a new element to the offense as a true stretch four that Bennett hasn’t really had during his tenure. Hauser’s averaging a team-high 15 points per game on 51% from the floor and 43% from 3.
The offense is really clicking at the moment, with the Cavaliers averaging 77.5 points per game in their last four, eclipsing 80 points in three of those games.
The other element that comes into play when evaluating their chances is the remaining schedule. The Cavaliers currently have 10 confirmed games listed on the schedule, with three additional games that were postponed and don’t yet have makeup dates announced.
Seven of their 13 remaining games are on the road, starting with a tough test at 20th-ranked Virginia Tech on Saturday.
They close the season out with three tough road games in their last five, including a huge showdown with the Seminoles on Feb. 15 in Tallahassee.
Their remaining home schedule is much easier, with a TBD contest against the Hokies the only ranked opponent heading to Charlottesville. There’s likely a couple of losses the rest of the way somewhere, but that trip to Florida State will have the biggest impact on their ACC title chances.
Why Florida State Can Win the ACC
Leonard Hamilton has done a masterful job of reloading after losing two lottery picks and three total starters from last season. With five-star freshman Scottie Barnes meshing quickly with the returning veterans, the Seminoles have remained a premier program on both the ACC and national level.
The Seminoles have been fantastic on the offensive end this season. They currently rank just behind Virginia at 11th in offensive efficiency.
Like the Cavaliers, they’ve also been on a tear in recent weeks. In their five games since returning from a program pause, the offense has exploded for 83.2 points per game.
In their first game back from the pause against NC State, they shot the lights out, hitting 71% from the field and scoring 105 points. Outside shooting has played a huge role in their success, with the Seminoles hitting an impressive 38.7% of their 3-point attempts as a team.
While not quite as elite as Virginia, the Florida State defense is still a very strong unit. The Seminoles rank 34th in defensive efficiency. With elite team size and plenty of depth, the Noles’ constant pressure is a nightmare for the opposition to deal with. Florida State allows just a 39.8% field goal percentage against from the floor.
Florida State has 11 confirmed games on the schedule and just two that need to be made up. Its road ahead looks slightly easier than the Cavaliers’, with its road games, in particular, a lot more manageable.
Of course, getting the lone head-to-head game with Virginia at home is a huge help. However, it has a significant test in their next four games, with all four contests coming on the road. It starts Saturday with a tricky game at Georgia Tech, followed by trips to Boston College, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
As well as the Seminoles are playing, it’s hard to imagine them getting through that stretch unscathed. After that road gauntlet, things get a little easier, with the home contest versus the Cavaliers their biggest remaining hurdle.
It’s a tough call picking one of these teams over the other at the moment. I do agree with the betting market and give Virginia a slight edge, and a return of greater than 2:1 at the moment presents value.
If you feel strongly about Virginia, my advice would be to play it now. Conversely, if you like Florida State, I recommend waiting on placing your bet until after its four-game road trip.
With a loss or two very likely for the Noles during the next two weeks, +225 may be the best odds you’ll get on Virginia the rest of the season. If the Seminoles do fall behind in the standings by 2-3 games, that +315 price may jump up to +500 or better.