Texas Longhorns vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Texas Longhorns (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-0 SU, 1-3 ATS), 10:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 24, 2009, Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Pittsburgh +7.5/Texas -7.5
Over/Under: N/A

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Texas and Pittsburgh both won in the semifinals of the CBE Classic on Monday. Now, the Longhorns and Panthers will face off in the championship game Tuesday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Texas is one of the most talented teams in the country with a terrific mix of youth and experience. With experienced players Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason to go along with super freshmen Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton and Shawn Williams, the Longhorns are loaded and primed for a Final Four run.

The Longhorns started the season with two easy 30-point-plus wins over UC Irvine and Western Carolina. Those easy wins set up for a surprisingly close first half on Monday against Iowa. The Hawkeyes went into the locker room at the half with a 38-38 tie after a half-court shot by Iowa tied it up at the halftime buzzer. But the Longhorns came alive in the second half and absolutely blew Iowa out by a score of 47-22. Texas had a balanced scoring attack with five players scoring in double figures. Hamilton led the way with 16 points and five assists. Pittman had 15 points and eight rebounds, James had 10 points and 12 rebounds, Bradley had 11 points, and redshirt freshman guard J’Covan Brown had 14 points. Texas outrebounded Iowa 39-26 and shot 56 percent from the field, including 22-for-28 from inside the arc.

Pittsburgh lost a lot of talent from last season. DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields are all gone, so Jamie Dixon must figure out how to replace all of that production with his young team. On top of the lost experience, guard Jermaine Dixon is out for a few weeks with an injury. Pitt has started the season 4-0 and three of those games have been decent tests for the Panthers, even if that may not be a good thing since they haven’t yet faced any really tough opponents. They opened with a nail-biter 63-60 win over Wofford before easily defeating lackluster Binghamton. After that, the Panthers won 71-60 over Eastern Kentucky and then defeated Wichita State on Monday, 68-55.

In the win over Wichita State on Monday, Pitt was led by guards Travon Woodall and Ashton Gibbs. Woodall had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Gibbs had 18 points and four assists. Center Gary McGhee added 10 points and six rebounds. Nasir Robinson scored nine points, and Bradley Wanamaker, Dante Taylor and Lamar Patterson combined to shoot 0-for-9 from the field. The Panthers turned the ball over 17 times, which is not something that should happen, especially since they play two point guards together most of the time with Woodall and Gibbs. But Woodall had six turnovers himself against Wichita State. The Panthers played good defense, holding their opponent to 55 points and forcing 24 turnovers, but they must protect the ball better and value every possession.


Pitt has some solid athletes in Robinson, Taylor and Patterson and a bulky center in McGhee, but the Panthers were outrebounded by Wichita State, 27-25. If they can’t outrebound Wichita State, they will really struggle on the boards against Texas, one of the best rebounding teams in the country. If Pitt is going to have any chance in this game, it must protect the ball. If Pitt turns the ball over 15 times or more, Texas will win this game easily. On the other hand, if Pitt can force turnovers like it did against Wichita State, that will give the Panthers a huge edge and an opportunity to keep the game close. McGhee and Taylor must stay out of foul trouble because they are the only real big men for the Panthers.

Texas has covered in each of its three wins this season. Pitt had failed to cover in each its first three games before covering for the first time against Wichita State. Texas has won each of its three games by at least 25 points.

Ryno’s Pick: Pitt is a young team without much experience and does not have much depth. Texas is an experienced team with a lot of depth. Pitt will have to really work hard to stay in this game. Based on how often the Panthers turned the ball over on Monday, it’s unlikely that’s going to change much against a better defensive team in Texas. Pitt doesn’t have much of an inside game, so Texas should be able to exploit that on both ends of the court. James and Pittman should dominate the boards and get a lot of easy baskets inside. Take Texas.