#22 Virginia Cavaliers @ Boston College Eagles – Preview & Best Bet 1/9/21

Spread: Virginia -9

O/U: 131.0

12:00pm Central – Conte Forum, Boston, MA

#22 Virginia Cavaliers (6-2, 2-0)

While the ‘Hoos picked up a 70-61 win over Wake Forest in their last outing, the fact that it was a single-digit victory while at home was a bit disconcerting. The Demon Deacons are a bottom feeder in the conference, and they weren’t even at full strength. UVA has a pair of conference wins thus far, but both have been against bottom-five teams in the conference (Notre Dame and Wake) and neither has been dominant. Aside from a 36-point victory over William & Mary on December 22, UVA hasn’t looked like its normal self since returning from a COVID hiatus in mid-December. The ‘Hoos are 3-1 since returning to the court, with the loss being a 23-point drubbing by #1 ranked Gonzaga.

UVA, like every other year it seems, plays at the slowest pace in the country, according to KenPom. They’re much improved on offense compared to last year, thanks in large part to the addition of transfer senior forward Sam Hauser (13.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG) and a balanced inside-out attack that features senior big man Jay Huff (11.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 68.5% FG%). Their defense, however, has taken a significant step back with the loss of Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key. UVA was #1 in the country in adjusted efficiency on defense last year, according to KenPom; this year, they’ve fallen down to #16.

UVA does a lot of things really well on offense, including not turning the ball over (10th in the nation in turnover %), free-throw shooting (78.6%, 17th in the country), and 2-point shooting (59.7%, 9th in the country). Unsurprisingly though, their slow pace of play makes it tough for them to pull away from teams.

Boston College Eagles (2-8, 0-4)

Boston College will look to get on the board with their first conference win today, as they’re 0-4 in the ACC, including 0-2 at home in conference games. The Eagles haven’t had much of a home court advantage during this bizarre season—they’ve lost their home ACC games to Syracuse and Louisville by 38- and 12-point margins, respectively. In fact, BC is 1-5 against the spread at home this year.

Things won’t get any easier today, as they face one of the ACC’s most talented teams, and they’ll do so without junior starter and stat sheet stuffing guard Makai Ashton-Langford (9.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.9 STL). Ashton-Langford will miss his second straight game today with a knee issue, and he was questionable coming into today. That puts added pressure on junior guard and leading scorer Wynston Tabbs (14.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and sophomore guard Jay Heath (13.1 PPG, 2.1 APG). The Eagles will look to keep sophomore forward CJ Felder (9.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG) going today, as the big man poured in 24 in BC’s 1-point loss at Duke on Wednesday.

Boston College is 68th in the nation in 2-PT FG% (53.6%), but that’s really their best trait offensively. They’re shooting 33.3% from deep, good for 173rd in the country, and their shooting will be put to the test in today’s game against Virginia’s patented Pack Line defense. The ‘Hoos do an excellent job of not fouling and keeping the ball out of the post while forcing opposing offenses to take jumpers to try and beat their defense. BC will have to knock down perimeter shots today if they’re going to spring the upset.

Best Bet

BC is coming off of a close road loss to Duke—a game in which they led by 16 in the first half and had multiple chances to win down the stretch—while UVA is coming off an uninspiring home win against Wake Forest. That recency bias is the reason for the line being at 9, rather than double digits. Virginia is, in my mind, more than 10 points better than BC, even on the road. BC looked good at Duke the other night even without Ashton-Langford, but the jury is still out on that Duke team, which was playing under Assistant Coach Jon Scheyer rather than Coach K. I think Virginia reverts to form in today’s game and handles BC with ease, even though they play to limit possessions. Take Virginia -9 (-110).

Mac is 9-11 on the season. All picks are one unit. A $100 bettor has a loss of $282.

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