Virginia Cavaliers Should Beat Auburn, According to Data Models

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During a four day span in March of 2016, the United Center in Chicago, Illinois hosted two events that had served as a major crossroads in the recent history of Virginia Cavaliers basketball. On Sunday March 27, Virginia blew a 16 point lead to a #10 seeded Syracuse team that most people believed only got into the big dance due to their brand name.

The epic collapse in this Regional Final game was scarring for UVA fans. Three days later, on the same exact court, high school senior and Cavaliers commit Kyle Guy played in the McDonald’s All-American Game.

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Three years later, Virginia returned to the Elite 8, and in that game, an instant classic 80-75 overtime win over Purdue, Guy led the Virginia Cavaliers in scoring in with 25 points; adding 10 rebounds for his first career double double.

The Cavaliers have yet to play their best ball in this tournament, perhaps best exemplified by Guy himself, a junior guard who entered that game in a horrible shooting slump.

Yet here they are, back in the Final Four for the first time in 35 years and sizable 5.5-point favorites over Bruce Pearl’s streaking Auburn Tigers in the first of the two national semifinals.

While the KenPom predictions, which are based on season-long performance, predict a six-point win for UVA, the “RECENT” algorithm at Sagarin (which emphasizes recent results) predicts Auburn winning by four.

In their last three games, the Tigers have knocked off three of college basketball’s bluest blue bloods: Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky.

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The KenPom prediction should wind-up being closer to reality. In this page you can see a list of trustable sportsbooks and check which value they are given to each team, either the KemPom predictions or the Sagarin algorithm:

You might want to pick against Auburn, given how they are a team that is heavily dependent on the three ball, and this game is being played on a raised court in a football stadium, which typically tends to throw off three-point shooters. Auburn will also be without leading rebounder Chuma Okeke.

The result could be determined by Virginia’s ability to impose their style of play on this game vs AU’s ability to counter. It’s a stall ball, slow down, low-scoring manner that is just plain lacking in entertainment value. (The last game was an excessive aberration in level of fun).

If a British soccer/football announcer was calling Virginia basketball games, he might refer to their style as “pragmatic.” 

Auburn Cheerleaders college basketball

The unexciting style, plus the failure to reach the final weekend of March Madness, up until this year, has given plenty of ammunition to critics of the Virginia Cavaliers.

UVA Coach Tony Bennett has earned a top two seed five times and this is the first Final Four he has to show for it. Overall, he is 14-8 in nine NCAA tournament appearances, including a 11-6 record at Virginia.

On the flip side, Bennett has guided Virginia to four 30 win seasons and four ACC regular season titles.

Guy credited those that came through the program before him for helping provide the breakthrough this season.

“They did all the work and built the foundation,” said Guy, “and we were lucky enough to walk into a great program with the best coach in the country. So to finally get the critics off his back means a lot, and going to a Final Four.”

Added Virginia Cavaliers point guard Ty Jerome:

“And how many times Coach Bennett has been a 1 seed or a 2 seed and has had so much regular season success. To be the team that gets him to the Final Four, I think that’s what means the most.  To finally quiet the critics feels great.”

It’s been a historical season in Charlottesville, and the data modeling and prognosticators seems to believe that they are not done yet. 

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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