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The South Region is one of the country's most competitive regions, meaning upsets could occur anytime. One of the most exciting matchups in the 1st round of the tournament is between Virginia and Furman. The Cavaliers may seem like the easy choice, but they didn’t draw an easy 1st round contest. Furman is a physical mid-major that can take over a game on offense. Let’s get into our Furman vs Virginia preview in the South Region.
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Virginia has been reliable for bettors throughout the season from a winning perspective. The Cavaliers enter the Big Dance with a 25-7 record. Yet, they haven’t been spectacular against the spread. A significant reason for this is the quality of opponents in the ACC. The ACC was a strong group of teams this season, so a four-seed for Virginia is impressive.
The Cavaliers lost to Duke in the ACC Final. The Blue Devils exposed Virginia for their inability to score, as they only posted 49 points, shooting 33% from the field. Nevertheless, defense wins at this time of the season, and Virginia is one of the best backcourt programs in the nation.
They rank 25th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to the KenPom Ranking. They can score, but the Cavaliers have won with defense, and we don’t expect this to change in the NCAA Tournament. If Virginia has a decent offensive output, they could be poised for a deep run with their defense.
Virginia is better on defense than offense, and this is clear when you look at their statistics. Armaan Franklin, the team’s leading scorer, is a tremendous basketball player. However, he is only averaging 12.5 points per game, which isn’t anything to write home about in college basketball.
Franklin’s best quality is his hustle on the floor and smartness with the basketball. The guard forces turnovers and protects the basketball when he has possession. Jayden Garder is the noteworthy forward for the Cavaliers. He is averaging over 12 points per game and can play all over the floor.
Gardner’s most comfortable position on the floor is in the low post, where he can knock down mid-range shots and drive to the basket. These two players must have most of the touches for Virginia to get into a scoring rhythm.
Furman finished the season with a 27-17 record, rolling through the Southern Conference. In the championship game, they defeated Chattanooga by nine points to go dancing for the first time since 1980. We don’t believe the Paladins will let this opportunity go to waste and come out firing on all cylinders to start the tournament.
The Southern Conference doesn’t have the same strength as the ACC, where Virginia plays. However, Furman ranks high in the KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency metric. They need some help on defense, but the Paladins can score, and that’s dangerous during March Madness. Cinderella teams of the past have knocked down big shots, and Furman fits this standard based on what we had seen from them in 2022-23.
The Paladins are averaging over 82 pointer pa game and led the conference in field goal percentage at 48.4%. Second-chance scoring opportunities were a huge portion of Furman’s game plan this season and helped the program post an 18-13 record against the spread.
Furman has multiple players that can take over a game on offense, but the team leader has been Mike Bothwell. Bothwell is a senior guard who is 66th in the country in scoring at 18 points per game. Any team that receives 18 points out of their primary guard is set up for success.
Bothwell’s scoring number is impressive, but his efficiency is our favorite part of his game. He is shooting just under 52% from the field. The 6’3” senior waits for solid opportunities and capitalizes. Jalen Slawson is another player to watch for the Paladins. He is a 6’7” forward who thrives in the low post.
Slawson is shooting 55.6% from the field and has averaged over 7.1 rebounds this season. Virginia must keep an eye on Slawson all game in the paint to neutralize the second chances for Furman.
The biggest question to ask to make a Furman vs Virginia prediction is whether the Paladins' mid-major success will translate to the biggest stage. Furman can score in the Southern Conference, but the ACC is a different beast. The Cavaliers were tested constantly in 2022-23, while the same can’t be said about Furman.
However, if the Paladins can find open looks on the floor, they can hit shots. Virginia is laying 5.5 points in this game on Caesars Sportsbook. Our initial lean is towards the Paladins at +5.5 because of their efficiency from the field. If you place this wager, you’re banking on Furman making shots.
Bothwell is a senior who has been in big games before. His efficiency, combined with the second chance scoring chances Furman has received this season, will make the difference against the spread. We’re not saying the Paladins will pull off the upset, but taking the points is appealing. Furman was 18-13 against the spread, compared to Virginia, who finished 12-18-2. Take the points and hope that Furman’s mid-major success shows in the 1st Round.
Location: Amway Center
Game Time & Date: MAR. 16 @ 12:40 p.m ET
TV Network: truTV
Streaming: March Madness Live app
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Tanner Kern has been working in the betting industry since 2020. He currently is a social media content creator at DraftKings and contributes to multiple sites in addition to WSN, including Forbes and VSiN. He is also the cohost of the podcast Ride the Line at WSN.More info on Tanner Kern
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