NCAAB: Virginia's national championship odds move to 15-1
Coming off a national championship win last season, the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers were one of the favorites to hang another banner in 2020. But in the fourth week of the season, the Cavaliers’ odds to win it all have shifted. They opened as the fourth choice to win the national title at +900 but have dropped to +1500 (seventh choice).
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Offense has been at a premium for VirginiaTony Bennett’s teams have cornered the market on their unique style of basketball of low-scoring, 40-minute fights. The Cavaliers played Arizona State in the championship game of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Championship on Sunday and escaped with the 48-45 win.
That win came despite a 9:43 scoring drought for Virginia, which included the first seven minutes of the second half. Though the Cavs came back and answered with a 13-4 run to retake the lead, the slow start to the second half is concerning.
The game against the Sun Devils was also the second game in the 40s for Virginia this season. The first was a 48-34 win over Syracuse on November 6.
Virginia's defense has been its calling cardAs is usually the case, Virginia’s defense will be its strongest asset. The Cavs have held five of their six opponents to fewer than 50 points. Opposing teams are averaging 42.5 points per game on 30.2% shooting from the field.
When considering this team's ceiling, it’s important to remember Virginia’s national championship run was far from dominant. The Cavaliers were a Mamadi Diakite buzzer-beater away from a loss in the Elite Eight, and a DeAndre Hunter three with 22 seconds remaining kept them afloat in the title game.
Cavaliers are thin on talentDiakite is still on the team and leads Virginia in scoring this season with 13.7 points per game (he has also taken in 7.3 rebounds per game). Hunter currently suits up for the Atlanta Hawks and last year's team leader Kyle Guy plays for the Sacramento Kings, so another grueling season in the ACC could be perilous, with No. 5 North Carolina, No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Louisville all on the schedule twice.
For the attrition, the streaky scoring and the rigorous schedule, I’m selling Virginia at +1500 to win the national title. Bennett is a top coach, and the Cavaliers will give several title contenders headaches, but the Cavaliers were just a few plays away from missing the title last season, and I don’t see playmakers like that making the difference for Virginia this time around.