Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Providence Friars Preview and Pick

No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers -8, 159 O/U (25-2) 14-7 ATS, 11-9 O/U at Providence Friars +8, 159 O/U (16-11) 8-15 ATS, 14-8 O/U Tuesday February 24, 2009 Dunkin Donuts Center (12,993) Providence, R.I., 9:00 p.m. EST, TV: ESPN (regional), FSN: Pittsburgh (local)
by Wilson of Predictem.com

Pittsburgh has won 10 or more league games and 20 or more overall contests for the eighth year in a row. The Panthers lead the series against Providence 27-16 and have won eight in a row versus the Friars. Panther coach Jamie Dixon was on the Mike & Mike show this morning discussing his teams recent success. When asked why he thought his teams were so successful, Dixon credited his staff for recruiting the right players for the program. He also said that most of their players were very successful at the high school level in which they won or were a part of state championship teams. Pittsburgh has a reputation for having tough teams and tonights game at Providence will be another opportunity for the Panthers to show their toughness on the road. Now that the Panthers are ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll they will surely feel the pressure as the media swarms and the expectations loom.

The Panthers have rallied off a seven game win streak as of late and look to get their ninth in a row versus the Friars. The last time Pittsburgh suffered a loss was at then No. 21 Villanova on January 28, but since then they have been playing like a team on a mission and it has paid off as they now sit on the top of the mountain of college basketball. Pitt is 5-3 ATS on the road and 4-4 on the total. Providence is 5-8 ATS at home this season and 7-5 on the O/U.

Pitt has dominated their opponents all year long in some major categories. The Panthers have outscored the opposition by a plus-16.0 margin. They have also won the battle on the boards by out-rebounding other teams by a plus-10.6 margin. The Panthers are ranked among the nations top ten teams in several other areas as well- assist-turnover ratio (1.56) assists per game (18.2) scoring margin (15.9). I would be a little concerned if I had to play against these guys. In addition, the Panthers also are ranked No.1 in the RPI (ratings percentage index) and their strength of schedule is ranked No. 12 nationally.

Players to watch for Pitt include DeJuan Blair who is a rebounding giant who pulled down 41 boards in a two-game set earlier this season and can fill it up on the other end as well. Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon, and Gilbert Brown can all score. This why Pitt is so good; they spread out their offense and everyone gets involved.

Meanwhile, the home team, Friars, are having a solid season under first year head coach Keno Davis. The friars are 16-11 and 8-7 in the Big East. Providence has dropped off lately by only winning two of their last seven contests. The Friars are led by Weyinmi Efejuku who pours in 14.4 points per game and Marshon Brooks who adds 12 ppg. The Friars average 79 points per game which is comparable to the Panthers 78 ppg. However, the Friars give up 76 points per game while the Panthers only allow 62.3.

Online sportsbooks and the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook have the line currently at Pittsburgh -8 with the total 159. Most bookies will agree with this line and personally I think it could be a bit more as I believe Pitt will score more than their 78 ppg as Providence simply gives up to many points. Look out for Pitts DeJuan Blair who is probably the best sophomore in the country.

Wilsons Pick: Pitt 85, Providence 73. Luck to ya.