Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-7) at Pittsburgh Panthers (18-2)
Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, P.A., 12:00PM Eastern, Saturday
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Big East conference play continues early Saturday when the No. 3 Pittsburgh Panthers host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Panthers were victim of a disappointing upset loss on Wednesday night to Villanova 67-57 and can not afford to lose any more if they plan to challenge for the regular season conference title. Notre Dame is a team that has also had some troubles of late. The Fighting Irish had nearly everything going right a matter of a few short weeks ago. The Irish were cruising with a 12-3 record and even owned as high as the number 7 ranking in the country earlier this season. However, the Fighting Irish have dropped 4 straight games plummeting out of the Top 25 and towards the bottom of the Big East.
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Pittsburgh comes in off a very poor performance against Villanova. The Panthers shot a dismal 39% from the floor during the ball game while going 3-16 (18%) from behind the arc. The Panthers fell victim to an upset for the 2nd time this season. While losses in the Big East are certain to come considering the extremely tough schedule, many thought Pittsburgh would be beaten by the premier schools in the Big East rather than Villanova. Now Pittsburgh will have to gather the composure because they will take on an eager Fighting Irish team that is ready to win again. The Panthers are one of the best rebounding teams in the country led by the young sensation of DeJuan Blair. However, Notre Dame has an extremely impressive talent in Luke Harangody setting the stage for a classic battle of big men inside the paint.
Notre Dame suffered a loss from the Marquette Golden Eagles on Monday night by the score of 71-64. The Fighting Irish did not necessarily play poorly considering they out rebounded the Golden Eagles 43-32, but turned the ball over too many times and missed open looks to close out the game. Notre Dame will have to find a way to return winning form when they travel to Pittsburgh in attempt to avoid losing their 5th straight game. The problem of late has been then Irish inability to produce from the floor. Notre Dame has shot well under 40% in 3 of their last 4 games composed to nearly 48% earlier this season. As result, the Irish scoring has also been slightly down, but they will look to put the pieces back together on Saturday.
Senior Sam Young leads the Panthers scoring attack knocking down 18.6 points per game while grabbing 6 boards as well. Sophomore DeJuan Blair is averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Blairs 12.4 rebounds rank 4th individually in the country and has really given Pittsburgh a lift at crucial times this season. Blair has amassed 13 double-doubles this season and Pittsburgh has not been beaten in any of those games. However, Blair main priority this Saturday will likely be containing Luke Harangody who has developed into one of the better players in the nation. Pittsburgh will need Blair and Young control the glass and keep Harangody contained the best they can.
Luke Harangody leads the Fighting Irish team as the only player in America to be ranked in the top 5 in both scoring and rebounding. Harangody is knocking down a very strong 25 points per game while grabbing 13 boards. Despite have at least 24 points and 15 rebounds in the Irish last 5 games, the effort still has not been enough to get the victory. Scorers Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson were both held to 10 points and under the last two games despite McAlarneys 17 point average and Jacksons 11 point average. The Fighting Irish need their scorers to get back in rhythm of knocking down shot as they did when Notre Dame was winning.
Notre Dame has dropped 5 straight against the spread while sporting a lousy 5-9 ATS record this season. Pittsburgh on the other hand has not lost at home this season, but are only 4-4 ATS in their last 8 games. The Panthers have won the last 4 out of 5 against the Irish as well.
Jay’s Pick – No line posted yet. Will post pick once lines come out.