2020 Virginia Cavaliers NCAA Basketball National Championship Odds with Predictions
It was straight out of a Disney movie. A year after becoming the first ever top seed to lose to a No. 16 - an accomplishment many thought was impossible - Virginia came back and won it all last year. The ultimate redemption story. It was fueled by the stars of the 2016 recruiting class -- the best the school has ever had. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, Jay Huff and De'Andre Hunter were all top 100 recruits. Only Huff is still around, a largely disappointing player hoping for a breakout this year. Now the team reloads in a big way, but that is more of a concern for other programs than for one like Virginia that adheres with such determination to a system and a set of values. Expectations aren't quite as high as they have been the last couple of years, but this is still seen as very much an elite program. Our job is to figure out how much of a step back they will take. How much of a championship hangover there will be.
Virginia Cavaliers Additions/Losses
All three of the stars of that 2016 recruiting class were drafted this year as underclassmen. The first to go was the lowest-rated recruit - Hunter, a small forward, was the fourth overall pick. He was taken by the Lakers technically, but wound up in Atlanta via New Orleans. Jerome, the point guard, was also a first rounder, and was also well traveled - he was taken 24th by the Sixers, but then traded to Boston and then Phoenix before the night ended. And Jerome's backcourt mate, Guy, was a late second rounder, going 55th to the Knicks on a pick that came from Houston, and then traded to the Kings. It's not an exaggeration to say that those three were the offense for the team - they were the three leading scorers and combined to score 62 percent of the team's points. And they all played at least 32.5 minutes per game. Needless to say, their departure leaves big holes.
The team had one more departure of note. Forward Francesco Badocchi redshirted two years ago and played sparingly last year. He was seen as a guy who could have broken out this year, but he retired from basketball in August to focus on music.
The team will rely on guys taking big steps forward if they want to have a big year. Senior Mamadi Diakite is the second-highest-rated recruit the team has ever had and will likely have to be the centerpiece of the offense this year after being a distant fourth in scoring last year. Braxton Key was a transfer from Alabama who was a secondary player last year but is going to have to step up in a big way this year. And Huff is going to have to take big steps forward. In the front court, they will be joined by two recruits. Kadin Shedrick is a scrawny big man who needs to fill out but could still get some opportunities. And Justin McCoy, the lowest rated of the three high school recruits, and will have to work hard to find a short-term role. They also have seven-footer Francisco Caffaro coming off a redshirt. He has more short-term upside than the two new arrivals.
Replacing Jerome and Guy in the backcourt is a monumental task and one that is far from certain to go well. Kihei Clark, who is tiny, played both positions as a freshman last year and will have to step up. He's easier to trust defensively than offensively right now. Casey Morsell, the team's top-rated recruit, ranked 56th nationally, will have a chance to earn starting minutes. And Tomas Woldetensae, a rare junior college transfer into this program, will have a big chance to step up. However they fit the guards together, though, there will be growing pains.
Virginia Cavaliers Schedule
The Cavs open up with, oddly, a conference game at Syracuse. It's a good measuring stick against a team that should be second best here. Their early-season tournament, the Hall of Fame Tip Off, is hardly a hall of fame field. Arizona State or St. John's loom as the toughest tests, and neither is great. We'll really find out where the team is at in early December, though, when they play at a ranked Purdue team in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then host North Carolina three days later . Once conference play starts in earnest, they have an interesting stretch, with four straight road games between home games on January 11 and 28.
Virginia Cavaliers Futures Odds and Trends
Virginia is tied with Louisville as the second choice to win the ACC at +400, behind only Duke at +250. That seems a little generous. They are at +2000 to win a second straight national title, which has them tied with Gonzaga and Villanova as the ninth choice. Again, someone likes this team more than I do. Their season win total sits at 23.5, which is the most accurate number posted. That's a big drop from their 35 wins last year.
Despite being strong from start to finish last year, the team was a treat to bet on, going a stellar 26-12 ATS. They went under the total 21 times and over 17, so they were less useful on that front
Virginia Cavaliers Predictions
I am far more skeptical about this team than a lot of people seem to be. The backcourt is a concern, the frontcourt isn't a lot more certain, and the faith in their coaching is the only thing that gives me any serious hope at all. I just don't see them as the second-best team in the conference, or ninth best in the country. I am very bearish about this squad.
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