Pittsburgh Panthers (21-8) +5, 135 O/U at West Virginia Mountaineers
(20-9) -5, 135 O/U, WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, W.Va., 7 PM Eastern,
by Badger of Predictem.com
The basketball version doesnt carry quite the same amount of passion
as their rivalry on the football field, but when the Pittsburgh
Panthers travel to WVU Coliseum Monday for a Big East Conference
showdown versus their longtime rival West Virginia Mountaineers you
can bet all eyes in West Virginia and Pennsylvania will be watching.
ESPN will make it easy for them to watch too, as the game will be
part of their Big Monday coverage to start the week.
The basketball rivalry was turned up a few notches last time these
two teams met back on February 7th. Not only were Pittsburgh fans
proudly sporting signs that read 13-9 (in reference to the Panthers
stunning 13-9 upset of West Virginia in football, essentially
knocking the Mountaineers out of the BCS title game), but the game
ended with a Ronald Ramon 3-pointer as time expired to give
Pittsburgh a heart-stopping 55-54 victory.
Both teams are also coming off of vastly different outcomes in their
last Big East tussle.
West Virginia, still considered by some to be an NCAA tournament
bubble team despite 20 wins, fought hard but ended up on the
disappointing end of a 79-71 score at Connecticut Saturday. On a good
note, the Mountaineers did close a 17-point deficit down to three in
the UConn game, but they still ended up on the short end.
Pittsburgh meanwhile is coming off a huge, moral-building 82-77
victory over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. The Panthers closed an 11-
point deficit in the second half and took the lead in the closing
seconds to steal one away from the Orange. The win was just the
Panthers third victory on the road in Big East play, and was their
second straight win overall all after falling into a three game
losing streak in the middle of February.
Most offshore sportsbooks opened the game with West Virginia as 5-
point favorites, with a 135 total. Although some of the early lines
at Las Vegas sportsbooks have it listed at a more modest 4.5-point
spread, with a 132 total. The early numbers on the moneyline have the
Mountaineers listed at -222, with Pittsburgh listed at +196.
Pittsburgh is led by junior forward Sam Young, who is playing himself
into a player of the year candidate in the Big East. Young scored in
double figures for the 28th time (29 games) in the Syracuse game when
he finished with 19 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields missed the first game between the two
schools with a bad foot, but he has since returned and is finally
starting to return to form. Fields scored 13 points (on just 2-of-9
shooting though) and added five assists in the victory over the Orange.
West Virginia forward Joe Alexander is starting to assert himself as the Mountaineers
go-to guy in the clutch. The junior scored a career-high 32 points and added
10 rebounds in the Connecticut game, running his season averages up to 15.1
points per game and 6.0 rebounds per contest.
Alexander is helped out on the offensive end by Alex Ruoff (14 ppg),
DaSean Butler (12.3 ppg) and Darris Nichols (11.1 ppg), who all
average double figures in scoring. Nichols, who scored a game-high 16
points in the first meeting of these two schools, will be looking to
go out with a bang as the senior will be one of two players honored
before the game on the Mountaineers senior night festivities (along
with Jamie Smalligan).
Both teams are barely above average for sports bettors this year, as
West Virginias 12-10-1 ATS record is only slightly better than
Pittsburghs 13-11 ATS record.
The historical betting trends favor the Panthers in this matchup, as
Pitt is 11-4-1 ATS in the last 16 head-to-head meetings. The Panthers
also have a history of playing well on Monday night, as they sport a
7-3-1 ATS record in their last 11 Monday night games. But those
numbers are a bit deceiving, as the Panthers failed to cover as 3-
point favorites in the first game this season and have only covered
the number in two of their last eight games overall.
West Virginia meanwhile is 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight games, and a
strong 22-10-1 ATS in their last 33 games held in the WVU Coliseum.
The under is a strong play here too, as five of the last six head-to-
head matchups have come in under the total, including the first game
with a 131.5 closing number. Pittsburgh also plays a rough-n-tough
brand of basketball on the road, as the under is 16-7 in their last
23 games away from home.
Badgers Pick: Even though I think the total of 135 is on the cusp
of being too low, I still like the under play in this game. If West
Virginia is going to have a chance, they are going to have to clamp
down on Pittsburgh because the Panthers have more depth and better
overall talent. The same could be said for Pitt, as they will need
their typical defensive effort to stay in the game in front of a
hostile crowd. Take the under of 135 in this game.