2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Betting Picks, Predictions: Virginia vs. Ohio (March 20)

2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Betting Picks, Predictions: Virginia vs. Ohio (March 20) article feature image

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Preston.

  • Updated odds have the Virginia Cavaliers as a 7-point favorite than the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday night in the NCAA Tournament.
  • This line has fallen since it opened six days ago thanks to uncertainty about UVA's roster amid COVID-19 issues.
  • Get our full preview and Virginia vs. Ohio pick below.

Virginia vs. Ohio Odds

Virginia Odds-7
Ohio Odds+7
Moneyline-315 / +255
TimeSaturday, 7:15 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings.

One of the most intriguing battles on Saturday is between No. 4 Virginia and No. 13 Ohio.

The Cavaliers won the ACC with a 13-4 record but only played one game in the ACC Tournament due to a COVID-19 quarantine. Virginia defeated Syracuse, 72-69, on a Reece Beakman 3-pointer as time expired (his only points of the game).

The Bobcats are one of the hottest teams in the country, steamrolling the competition in the MAC Tournament. Ohio defeated Kent State, Toledo and Buffalo by an average of 14.7 PPG. The Cats are finally fully healthy, and bring an explosive offense that ranks 11th in the country in 2-point efficiency (56.4%), per KenPom.

Which team should bettors back in this fantastic Saturday night opening-round matchup: the defending champions Cavaliers or the hot shooting Bobcats?

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Virginia Cavaliers

Mike Randle: Virginia (18-6) again battled its way to the top of the ACC standings behind an impressive 13-4 conference record.

The Cavaliers’ success has been based on superior metrics on both ends of the floor. Tony Bennett’s team ranks 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 33rd in defensive prowess.

The Cavs feature a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging between 9.5 and 16 points per game. Virginia is led by senior Sam Hauser (16 PPG, 6.7 RPG), who is shooting a blistering 43.4% on 143 attempts. The interior is anchored by 7-foot-1 forward Jay Huff (13.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG), who ranks 16th in the nation with 2.58 blocks per game.

Junior Trey Murphy (11.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 42.9% 3-point) stretches the floor, and junior point guard Kihei Clark (9.5 PPG, 4.6 APG) brings leadership and controls pace.

The Cavaliers ranked second in ACC play in offensive turnover percentage, rarely beating themselves. They also finished with an incredible 81.4% free-throw percentage in conference play.

The Cavaliers’ defense is again at a high level. Since being eviscerated by Gonzaga for 98 points on Dec. 26, Virginia held nine opponents to under 60 points, including a brilliant 68-58 win at Louisville on March 6.

Virginia earned a 4-seed in this year’s tournament despite experiencing some of the worst free-throw luck by its opponents. The Cavaliers have seen teams shoot 74.1% from the charity stripe, 305th in the country.

The biggest question for the Cavaliers is the quality of their preparation given their week-long COVID-19 quarantine.

Virginia relies on controlling the pace (last in the country in adjusted tempo) and precision on offense. If its timing is disrupted by Ohio, can it overcome a potential double-digit deficit with such limited preparation?

Ohio Bobcats

Stuckey: Led by future pro guard Jason Preston, the Ohio offense is a Corvette that ranks 13th in Effective Field Goal percentage and 29th in Adjusted Efficiency, per KenPom. It shares the ball extremely well and shreds in the half-court or transition and against man or zone.

The Bobcats have many capable shooters (including Preston at more than 40%), including stretch four Ben Vander Plas, who is hitting at more than 37% from beyond the arc this season.

Meanwhile, senior Dwight Wilson is an efficiency monster on the low block and absolute workhorse on the glass. It’s just an extremely well-balanced and smooth-operating offense.

In contrast, the defense has holes and troubling overall metrics, but the Bobcats finally seemed committed on that end at the start of postseason play. And their overall metrics have been trending in the right direction of late.

This is an Ohio team that also had to deal with COVID-19 issues during the regular season. Combine that with some improvements on defense of late, and I think the Bobcats are a bit undervalued in the market.

If Ohio is hitting its outside shots and Preston doesn't have an off night, Ohio can make a run as a 13 seed as it did back in 2012 when it made the Sweet 16 — also as a 13 seed.

This is a team that arrives in Indianapolis with an abundance of momentum and confidence after shredding three higher seeds in the MAC Tournament. It’s always nice to be peaking as you head into the dance and Ohio certainly falls into that category.

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Matchup & Betting Analysis

Mike Randle: This game has one of the biggest discrepancies between public and sharp bettors. Per the Action Network App, Virginia is receiving 75% of the bets but only 2% of the money. The big bettors are on Ohio, driving the line down from the opening of UVA -10 to the current UVA -7.

We are aligning with the sharps and backing Ohio against the unknown preparation of Virginia. It’s still unclear whether or not the Cavaliers will have a full roster, and preparing for this Ohio offense is going to be quite a challenge.

In a game the Bobcats could definitely win straight up, I’m taking the seven points with Ohio.

Pick: Ohio +7 (down to +6.5).

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