Pittsburgh Panthers (25-9), +4, o/u 124 vs. Georgetown Hoyas (27-4), -4, o/u 124, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, 9 p.m. Eastern, Saturday
By Oracle at Predictem.com
Although the game between Pittsburgh and Georgetown is a rematch of last year’s Big East Championship game on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, it still can be considered the quiet before the storm.
Selection Sunday looms large for college basketball teams, and fans, everywhere. Pitt and Georgetown are two teams that don’t have to worry about whether the committee selects them for the field of 65 especially because one of them will get an automatic bid with a Big East Championship. All they have to worry about is where they’ll be seeded.
Both teams are on their last legs, especially No. 7 seed Pitt, who is playing its fourth game in as many days. The Hoyas didn’t have to play in the first round of the tournament because of their No. 1 seed.
And with that in mind, the bookmakers have opened with the Hoyas as favorites -4 with an over/under of 124.
The Panthers got to the championship the hard way, beating a pesky Cincinnati team, and two ranked opponents, including the No. 2 seeded Louisville Cardinals, and a scrappy Marquette team on Friday night, 68-61.
Meanwhile, the Hoyas had to go through an ultra bubble team in Villanova and an upset-minded West Virginia squad, 72-55, to get to the finals.
Georgetown didn’t have much trouble with either team, using a couple of second half runs to win by an average margin of 18 points in their two games. Roy Hibbert, who was held scoreless in a foul plagued game against Villanova, put up a season-high 25 against West Virginia on Friday. For good measure, he grabbed 13 rebounds as well.
For Pitt, it’s been documented that Madison Square Garden is their home away from home. They backed that up with a hard-fought win over Marquette on Friday, led by a streaking Sam Young, who scored over 20 points (22, in fact) in all three Big East Tournament games. Young has upped his season average to 18.3 points per contest.
The Panthers may be the lower seed in this match up, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance against 9th ranked Georgetown. Pitt beat the Hoyas in their only match up of the season back on January 15th, 69-60, in Pittsburgh.
Levance Fields, a New York native who has been red hot in his back yard, didn’t even play in that game because of a foot injury. Keith Benjamin filled in admirably by scoring 18 points. His backcourt teammate and senior leader Ronald Ramon also had 18 points, including four three-pointers, and four assists.
Freshman DeJuan Blair matched up well against the 7-foot Hibbert. Blair scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds while holding Hibbert to 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Meanwhile, Young was nearly a non-factor in this game with nine points.
The Hoyas shot just 3-for-20 from downtown in the game. Senior guard Jonathan Wallace, who has started every game in his collegiate career, did everything he could to keep the Hoyas in the game by hitting two triples and scoring a team-high 14 points.
Both teams have veteran backcourts that won’t make a lot of mistakes. Look for the match up of Hibbert and Blair to be exposed by both teams. If Blair gets into foul trouble against the big man, the Panthers don’t have a lot of quality depth especially quality depth with height to hold down the paint.
The game back in January saw Pitt cover as a 1-point dog. The 129-point total came in barely under the 131 point over/under mark.
A stat that may be lesser known to bettors is the fact that when Pitt plays four games in one week, they’re 6-0 ATS in that fourth game. However, they haven’t faired well this year covering on Saturday’s by going 4-11 ATS.
The Hoyas haven’t minded playing tough competition as of late, going 5-1 ATS in their last six games against teams with winning records. They’re also 5-2 ATS in their last seven overall games.
The over has been a huge trend for Pitt, which is why it was a bit surprising the under came in when they played Marquette on Friday. Nonetheless, the over is still 8-1 in the last nine games for Pitt all Big East games.
However, in the last five head-to-head meetings with the Hoyas, the under is 4-1.
The Hoyas will go for back-to-back titles for the first time in 23 years while Pittsburgh is looking for revenge of last year’s title game beat down.
Oracle’s Pick: Take Pitt who has been red hot to cover in what should be a close game throughout.