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Mar 19, 2024 1:00 pm

First Four: Colorado State-Virginia Preview & Props

blake buchanan

Virginia will look to avoid a third straight one-and-done NCAA Tournament when it meets fellow No. 10 seed Colorado State in a First Four contest on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

The Cavaliers (23-10) were seeded fourth in their first-round losses to No. 13 seeds Ohio and Furman during the 2021 and 2023 tournaments, respectively. Virginia’s last win in the NCAA Tournament was its overtime victory over Texas Tech in the 2019 national championship game.

The Rams (24-10) also fell in the first round in their most recent appearance in the Big Dance in 2022. They haven’t won a tournament game since 2013.

THE LINES
Colorado State opened as a 1.5-point favorite but the consensus line shifted to 2.5 by game day. The Rams also have been the more popular choice with the public, drawing 59 percent of the spread-line money at BetMGM.

However, it’s Virginia’s moneyline that has been the most attractive, with the Cavaliers (+135) backed by 77 percent of the bets and 76 percent of the money since opening at +110. By comparison, the Rams’ moneyline has moved from -135 to -160 while garnering just 23 and 24 percent of the action, respectively.

The Over/Under opened at a modest 118.5 points, but has increased to 120.5 with the Over backed by 57 percent of the bets and 56 percent of the money.

THE HISTORY
This is the first-ever meeting between these programs. The Rams were one of a record six teams from the mid-major Mountain West to make the tourney — one more than the Cavaliers’ vaunted Atlantic Coast Conference.

THE NEWS
Both teams squeaked into the field. Colorado State received the final at-large bid, according to the selection committee. And Virginia was the lowest-rated team (69th) in the kenpom.com ratings to receive an at-large entry.

It’s a long way from the First Four to the Final Four, but Colorado State coach Niko Medved reminded his team that the journey is not unprecedented. VCU did it in 2011 and UCLA accomplished it in 2021. La Salle (2013), Tennessee (2014) and Syracuse (2018) all advanced to the Sweet 16 from the Dayton play-in site.

“Every year somebody who plays in this game in Dayton ends up making a big run in the tournament. This year, why not us?” Medved said, per the Denver Gazette.

Colorado State won four of its past five games, falling 74-61 to New Mexico in the Mountain West semifinals on Friday.

Virginia is just 4-5 since having an eight-game winning streak snapped on Feb. 13. The Cavaliers lost 73-65 in overtime to eventual tournament champion North Carolina State in the ACC semifinals on Friday.

Both teams are led by veteran point guards.

Fifth-year senior Isaiah Stevens leads the Rams with 16.5 points and 7.0 assists per game. Fourth-year senior Reece Beekman paces the Cavaliers with 14.3 points and 6.3 assists per game.

“Excited to go play,” Stevens said. “… There are a lot of teams that would trade places with us in a heartbeat. Our season is continuing to march forward, and we’re excited about that.”

The deliberate Cavaliers rank third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 59.5 points per game. The Rams average 76.4 points per game but were 0-6 when scoring fewer than 65 points.

THEY SAID IT
Beekman defended Virginia’s inclusion in the field over St. John’s, Oklahoma and fellow ACC member Pitt.

“We finished third in the ACC. We’ve got some good non-conference wins as well,” Beekman told The Virginian-Pilot. “We beat Florida on a neutral court and Texas A&M at home. Those are some great wins. We stayed steady all year. Of course, we’re not the flashiest team, but I feel like we’ve got the pieces and the resume to show it.”

UP NEXT
The Virginia-Colorado State winner plays seventh-seeded Texas (20-12) on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

–Field Level Media

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