2018 Virginia Cavaliers Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
How does a team bounce back from losing in the opening round of the tournament as a No. 1 seed? I have no idea, but we are about to find out. Virginia will forever live in infamy as the first team to do what many thought was impossible. Before last year they were just a team that played wll in the regular season but underwhelmed in March. But now they are the team that UMBC ran out of the gym. Freaking UMBC! On the heels of several disappointing years in the tournament, that is the kind of thing that could really play with the heads of a team - especially one that returns a veteran lineup like this one. But it is no certainty that the team will be doomed, and they certainly have the talent to overcome their past issues. So, what does the season hold in store?
Virginia Cavaliers Additions/Losses
The Cavaliers have had much less turnover than many teams in their situation. Two stalwarts are gone from the team, but though both were starters neither were superstars. Devon Hall was a late second-round pick by Oklahoma City, but he is playing in Australia now. And Isaiah Wilkins was undrafted and plays in the G-League now. Certainly many of the teams ahead of them in the rankings lost far more.
On the flipside, the Cavaliers have also added far less than many of the teams ahead of them. Their only American recruit is point guard Kihei Clark, who had only two stars from all of the major services. They also added Australian shooting guard Kody Stattmann and Argentinian big man Francisco Caffaro. The latter will likely redshirt and the first two will provide depth - and likely not a ton of minutes worth of it. The biggest impact addition by far is transfer Braxton Key, a junior who received a waiver to play immediately after leaving Alabama. After a strong freshman year, he struggled with injury last season. However, he has a scoring touch and strong defensive, so he could be a valuable addition.
Virginia Cavaliers Outlook
One guy who can't be blamed for the loss to UMBC is De'Andre Hunter. The versatile forward with lottery talent was out with a broken wrist. He's back now and is clearly the most talented guy on this roster. But the issue he will have to accept and embrace is that he is a natural forward who is likely to have to play more like a guard. The team has a lot of depth up front and a lot of questions in the backcourt. If he can thrive in that role then the ceiling is high. Hunter is sitting on a big year, and so is wing Kyle Guy. Those two are the key to a defense that again promises to be among the best nationally. And the Cavaliers will be in a three-way fight along with Duke and North Carolina for ACC supremacy. But none of that matters. Not after last year. It's all about March and how this defense holds up then.
While backcourt depth is not great, they do have a starting point guard who is far from a concern. Ty Jerome, a junior, is not flashy, but he runs the show well, he can shoot, and he keeps his calm. He can defend up if needed as well. He and Hunter and Guy are the fuel for this team, with strong support from guys like Jay Huff, Jack Salt, Mamadi Diakite and hopefully Key up front.
Virginia Cavaliers Schedule
The Cavaliers have a much softer nonconference schedule than many of the other top-tier teams. A game against Florida in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis looms as the toughest of games they could face. Drawing Maryland in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is a reasonably lucky draw. And VCU and Marshall could both be tricky, but the Cavs get both at home. It's a very manageable stretch of games all in all.
In conference play the only really rough luck is that they have to play at North Carolina just two days after they host Duke. But in general, the ACC is manageable, and the quality of the conference drops off significantly after those top two squads.
Virginia Cavaliers Futures Odds
Oddsmakers and voters disagree - Virginia is fifth in the AP poll but just the eighth choice to win the national title at Bovada at +1800. Duke and Kentucky are favored at +500, so the team is definitely perceived to be on a different tier than the true elite.
Virginia Cavaliers Predictions
The defense is going to be special. And the ACC is manageable - it would be a shock if they finished worse than third in the conference, and they can very much beat that. They could even win it again as their veteran roster contrasts mightily with what Duke has. But they have gone into the tournament as a No. 1 three times and a No. 2 once in the last five years and have disappointed each time. I'm far too smart to trust them again in March.
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