Gonzaga vs. Virginia Odds & Picks: Betting Value on Cavaliers in College Basketball’s Marquee Matchup
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images. Pictured: Jay Huff.
- Saturday's marquee college basketball matchup will see two very different styles of play go to battle as Gonzaga faces Virginia.
- Gonzaga plays at a quick pace with an efficient offense, while Virginia prides itself on playing stellar defense.
- Tanner McGrath explains which side will win out on Saturday below.
Gonzaga vs. Virginia Odds
|Gonzaga Odds||-8 [BET NOW]|
|Virginia Odds||+8 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-391 / +295 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||136 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 4 p.m. ET|
Saturday’s marquee matchup will feature arguably the two biggest contrasting styles of play we’ll see this season.
Gonzaga is an offensive powerhouse that plays at the fifth-fastest pace in the nation, while Virginia is predicated on defensive prowess and plays at the slowest pace in the nation. Something will have to give in this battle.
The last time these two played was in 2007, three years before Tony Bennett assumed the Cavalier head coaching job. The two met three times in the 2000s, with Gonzaga winning twice.
Given this year’s performance, Gonzaga is rightly favored and should win. However, it’s not often that Virginia is catching as many points as it is today. Bennett’s track record as a big underdog shouldn’t be ignored.
Gonzaga entered this season with very high expectations. So far, Mark Few’s team has wildly exceeded those expectations.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the nation and are 6-0 with neutral-court wins over Kansas, Auburn, West Virginia and Iowa. They’ve bulldozed through a very tough schedule.
The Bulldogs’ offense is incredible. Corey Kispert and Drew Timme are both averaging over 20 points per game, while Jalen Suggs adds 16 points and six assists. They’re ranked second in offensive efficiency and fourth in 2-point percentage (64.7%). Gonzaga is scoring 94.7 points per game, which ranks third in the country.
The key for Gonzaga today will be in transition. The Bulldogs run the floor better than anyone, and they should be looking to score before Virginia sets up its stifling half-court defense. However, that may prove difficult to achieve, as Virginia turns the ball over at the sixth-lowest rate in the nation.
Additionally, while the Bulldogs have been dominant on the interior, they haven’t shot the 3 well. West Virginia managed to cover against Gonzaga by holding the Bulldogs to just 4-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc.
Bennett’s Virginia team is an anomaly.
Virginia wins with long offensive possessions and dominant interior defense. Since the beginning of last season, Virginia has held opposing offenses to less than 40% shooting from 2-point range. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers aren’t producing a lot of offensive possessions or points. Their 54 points per game last season was third-lowest in the nation.
In an era marked by offensive firepower, how the Cavaliers continue to be competitive with this style of play is incomprehensible. But they finished second in the ACC last season and produced February wins against Duke and Louisville.
This season, Virginia ranks third in defensive efficiency and fifth in points per game allowed (54). However, the Cavaliers have played a really soft schedule. They’ve played only one KenPom top-100 team, in San Francisco, and they lost. Additionally, they needed overtime to beat Kent State at home.
Bennett has had a total roster turnover since Virginia’s 2019 championship run. The departures of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite has left a crater-sized hole in the roster.
However, three experienced players have stepped into those roles with success. The trio of Sam Hauser, Jay Huff and Trey Murphy are scoring a combined 35.6 points per game and shoot over 50% from the field. Bennett won the 2019 championship with Guy, Jerome and Hunter scoring at a similar rate on similar efficiency.
Betting Analysis & Pick
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
From inside the arc, Gonzaga is shooting over 60%, while Virginia’s opponents shoot less than 40%. Virginia’s perimeter defense isn’t quite as dominant, but Gonzaga hasn’t been shooting the 3 very efficiently. Neither team turns the ball over much and both are adept rebounding teams.
The line opened at Gonzaga -7 and has since moved to Gonzaga -8. At the current line, this will be the largest underdog Virginia has been in a game since 2012 against Wisconsin. Virginia won that game, 60-54.
Moreover, per our SportsInsight database, Virginia is 19-8 against the spread as five-point underdogs or more since Bennett took over in 2010. Nine points is a lot for a defensive team like Virginia. Plus, West Virginia — another great defensive team — managed to cover 8.5 points when it played the Zags.
At the time of writing, the public is betting Gonzaga. Per Action Network public betting data, 67% of the tickets are on the Bulldogs. However, the big money is on the Cavaliers, with 91% of the total money landing on Virginia.
While I believe Gonzaga will win, I think the Virginia defense will challenge the Bulldog offense and keep it within single digits.
I’m taking the Cavaliers with the points here.
Pick: Virginia +8.