After opening this NCAA tournament with a pair of wins/covers, the Virginia Cavaliers are now 7-1 against the spread over their last eight games. They'll try to keep the cash flowing when they meet Iowa State in a Midwest Region semifinal Friday night in Chicago.
Point spread: The Cavaliers opened as 4.5-point favorites; the total was 140.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
March Madness pick, via Odds Shark computer: 69.8-63.8 Cavaliers
Why pick Iowa State to cover the spread?
The fourth-seeded Cyclones also advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in the last three seasons by getting past Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday, 78-61. ISU, which some believed to be ripe for an upset, led the Trojans by 12 at the half, then scored 13 of the first 15 points out of the locker room to take total control on its way to an easy cover as a five-point favorite.
On the evening, the Cyclones shot a hot 57 percent from the floor, including 11-of-21 from three-point range while holding Little Rock to just 37 percent shooting from the field.
Iowa State opened this Dance two days earlier by shooting 50 percent in a 94-81 victory over Iona, covering the seven points. On the season, with five players averaging in double figures, the Cyclones rank third in the country in field-goal shooting at 50 percent.
Why pick Virginia to cover the spread?
The top-seeded Cavaliers are back in the Sweet 16 for the second time in the last three seasons after beating Butler Saturday, 77-69. Virginia trailed the Bulldogs by a bucket at the half and, despite great shooting, only led by three with 30 seconds left.
But the Cavs then hit five free-throws in a row to not only secure the victory but also the cash as seven-point favorites. On the night, UVA shot 56 percent from the floor, made 17 of 21 from the line and outrebounded Butler, 32-22. Two days before that, the Cavs bombed Hampton, 81-45, shooting 55 percent from the floor, breezing to the cover (-23).
So Virginia is now 7-1 both straight up and against the spread over its last eight games, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database. On the season, the Cavaliers rank second in the country in scoring defense, allowing just under 60 points per game, while holding foes to 42 percent field-goal shooting.
Smart betting pick
Iowa State likes to push the pace, while Virginia prefers to slow it down. Ultimately, the Cavaliers get the check mark for the better defense, and they're shooting 75 percent from the stripe, which could come in handy near the end of this game. The smart money here wagers the Cavaliers.
March Madness betting trends
Virginia is 10-3 ATS in its last 13 games.
Virginia is 5-0 SU and ATS in its last five games as a favorite of 5.5 or less.
Iowa State is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 games as an underdog of 5.5 or less.
Iowa State is 0-6 SU in its last six games as underdogs.
All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, and all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app for iOS or Android.
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