After a rare NCAA Tournament miss for Virginia last season, Tony Bennett’s team is a lock to return to the madness. The Cavaliers look like the best team in the ACC, and their place atop the conference isn’t on solid ground with Pittsburgh and Miami close behind. A win over a struggling Notre Dame team would take Virginia one step closer to an ACC regular season title.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in Charlottesville.
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Prediction & Pick
Notre Dame has a real chance to at least keep this game within reach. Virginia has a decisive talent advantage, but the Fighting Irish play a similarly slow-paced style of basketball, shoot well from three against an unusually weak Cavaliers three-point defense, and don’t turn the ball over much.
A very uninspiring offense for Notre Dame should be the difference in this game, which could be tighter than expected. Virginia just has many more options on that end of the floor and is set up well to overwhelm Notre Dame’s defensive frontcourt.
Outside of that mismatch, Notre Dame matches up fairly well here and won’t be shell-shocked by Tony Bennett’s unusual style of play. Fighting Irish +13 is the pick.
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Odds
Virginia enters as a 12.5-point favorite, sitting at -970 on the moneyline. The over/under is 129.5 points.
The Cavaliers are a pretty heavy favorite despite an unexplainably close game against 3-win Louisville this week. It’s possible that game woke something up in this Virginia team that escaped Duke in controversial fashion a week ago. Still, Notre Dame is coming off its own impressive effort and plays a similar style as Virginia.
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Key Matchups
This has been billed as a Virginia team that doesn’t have the dominant defense it did in the past, but that says more about past Cavaliers teams than this one. Virginia is still 10th in the nation with 60.3 points allowed per game and has standouts on that end of the floor.
The biggest reason for that number is pace. The Cavaliers actually average fewer possessions per game than any other power-conference team. They’re still playing Tony Bennett ball and forcing teams to play slower. That’s something Notre Dame is used to, which may benefit the Fighting Irish. A high-pace team like North Carolina had a tough time against Virginia in January.
Notre Dame might also have one major matchup advantage here. Virginia is 240th in the nation in opponent three point percentage, and the Fighting Irish shoot very well as a team (36.7%) from beyond the arc. Days after the Cavaliers barely escaped 3-22 Louisville, they can’t allow their limited offense to fall behind Notre Dame and its shot-making ability early.
The Fighting Irish are not a strong offensive team outside of the three, but they are a smart team. Notre Dame averages only 8.2 turnovers per game, the best mark in the nation, though the Irish don’t force many turnovers either. Virginia isn’t forcing as many turnovers as usual this year, so this might not be a wake-up call for Notre Dame in that department.
Neither of these teams rebound very well, so there’s another area a Notre Dame deficiency shouldn’t be a huge issue.
Notre Dame has had a rough year defensively, with opponents shooting 53.3% on two-point attempts and 47% overall – a bottom-25 mark nationally. Virginia is averaging 69.6 points per game, its best mark since the 2019 title season, and there’s a good chance the Cavaliers will hit the 70-point mark in this one.
The Fighting Irish got abused by the frontcourts of Virginia Tech and Duke recently, which means Jayden Gardner and Ben Vander Plas could be in for big performances. If strong three-point shooters Armaan Franklin (15 PPG in last nine games) and Kihei Clark can stay hot in the backcourt, Virginia is set up very well on the offensive end.