Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Pick

Pittsburgh Panthers (19-6) +4, 145 O/U at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(19-5) -4, 145 O/U, Joyce Center, South Bend, Indiana, 7 PM Eastern,

by Badger of Predictem.com

Two Big East Conference teams going in opposite directions clash
Thursday night on ESPN when the falling Pittsburgh Panthers travel to
the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind., to take on the 21st-ranked
Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Pittsburgh, a top-10 team at the start of the season, has struggled
so bad of late they actually fell out of the top-25 rankings all
together last week after an embarrassing 72-54 loss at Marquette last
Friday. The Panthers are now 4-4 through their last eight games, this
after starting the season with a 15-2 record.

Notre Dame started the season in the shadows of the Big East giants,
but a string of six wins out of their last seven games has moved the
Irish into the top-25 the past few weeks. After winning five games in
a row staring in late January, the Irish split their two games last
week, losing a nail-biter to Connecticut 84-78 on Wednesday before sneaking past Rutgers on the road Saturday, 71-68.

Notre Dame will also be looking to add to the current 34-game winning
streak on the Joyce Center floor. Ironically, the Panthers are the
one team that has given the Irish fits of late, beating the Irish in
five straight games (but not since 2006) including two of those games
at the Joyce Center.

The oddsmakers opened the game with Notre Dame as 4-point favorites, with
a 145-point total. The moneyline at most offshore sportsbooks will
vary, but it currently has the Irish at -200 with Pittsburgh listed
at +170.

Its no secret what the Irish want to do with the ball on offense,
get it into the hands of forward Luke Harangody. Harangody leads the
Big East with a 20.4 points per game average and is second in
rebounding with a 10.3 per game average. He has been averaging 26.2
points and 13 rebounds during Notre Dames run up the rankings (last
six games), but he struggled with his shooting in the Rutgers game
hitting on just 5-of-16 shots.

Luckily for Harangody, he is not the only scoring option for the
Irish lately. Point guard Tory Jackson had a near triple-double
versus Rutgers (17 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) and is averaging
14.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 7.3 apg in his last three games overall. The
Irish also lead the Big East in scoring (80.3 ppg), thanks in large
part to their stellar 40.5 percent shooting accuracy from 3-point range.

Pittsburgh just flat-out looked tired in their last game versus
Marquette. Their shooting was flat (just 37.3 percent from the floor;
an atrocious 9.1 3-PT%), they were out-rebounded and the rarely won
any of the 50-50 matchups for loose balls. That is just simply not
the way Pittsburgh plays basketball, period.

The Panthers will likely be ready for the Irish tonight though. Guard
Levance Fields returned in the Marquette game (only 4 points in 20
minutes), so he will be back to take some of the scoring pressure off
of forward Sam Young (17.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Fields return will move
Ronald Ramon back to shooting guard for some of the game too, so
Ramon will likely increase his 8.0 ppg output down the stretch.

Defensively Pittsburgh has the edge on the Irish. The Panthers play a
more physical brand of basketball and it shows on the scoreboard
usually (Pitt allows 62.7 ppg; ND allows 68.5 ppg). Although those
numbers do tend to even out when you look at the home/away splits for
both teams (Pitt allows 67 ppg on the road; ND allows 66.4 ppg at home).

Despite beating the Irish in five straight head-to-head matchups, the
Irish have actually covered the spread in three of those five games
including the last time out as 9-point dogs (a 100-97 win by Pitt in
double OT).

But neither team comes into tonights contest on anyones betting
radar. Notre Dame has failed to cover in three straight games and has
covered just once in their last six overall (9-12 ATS on the year).
Pittsburgh meanwhile has covered just once in their last four games
and is just 2-4 ATS in their last six despite holding a respectful
12-8 ATS record for the season.

The over/under betting trends are opposites as well. Notre Dame has
gone over the total in nine of their last 10 games overall, and in 13
of their last 16 Big East games. While Pittsburgh comes in under the
total in 16 of their last 21 games on the road. Although, the last
three head-to-head meeting between these two have come in over the
total (all three around the 130-mark).

Badgers Pick: If Pittsburgh is going to have any chance in this
game, they are going to need to keep this a low scoring game. I think
the Panthers can do it, as they will be determined to save face from
the egg they laid last time out versus Marquette. Therefore, the best
bet in this game is the under of 145. Look for it to be a typical Big
East battle royale in the paint, so take the under in this game.