Villanova Wildcats vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Pick

Villanova Wildcats (13-5) +7.5, 137 O/U at Pittsburgh Panthers
(16-4) -7.5, 137 O/U, Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, 7 PM Eastern, Wednesday

by Badger of

Two Big East Conference teams that have been doing more losing than
winning of late meet for a crucial game Wednesday, when Villanova
travels to face No. 18 Pittsburgh in the Petersen Events Center.

Pittsburgh suffered a rare and embarrassing loss at home their last
time out, a stunning 77-64 defeat at the hands of the below .500
Rutgers Scarlet Knights. It was the second loss for the Panthers in
their last three games (lost at Cincinnati 62-59 on Jan. 19th), and
was just the ninth loss on the Petersen Events Center floor since it
opened in 2002 (their home record is now 91-9). The loss also ended
their 13-game home winning streak.

Villanova also finds themselves in the midst of a two-game losing
streak, with the last loss being a similar tough one at home when
they lost to Notre Dame, 90-80, on Saturday. The Wildcats previous
loss was also to Rutgers, in New Jersey, by the score of 80-68 back
on January 23rd.

These two schools have already played once this season, with
Villanova walking away with a slim 64-63 victory at home in Philly
when Dante Cunningham nailed two free throws with 11 seconds left.

The Oddsmaker has opened the rematch game with Pittsburgh as a 7-point
favorite, with an over/under total of 137. The moneyline bet varies
from book to book, but most offshore sportsbooks are listing
Pittsburgh as a -340, with Villanova as a +300.

Pittsburghs offense has suffered since the loss of two key players,
Mike Cook and Levance Fields. Cook and Fields combined for 22 points
per game and 8 assists before they were injured, and the Panthers
have struggled to get those numbers back from their replacements.

Forward Sam Young has been steady for Pitt all season (18.3 ppg), and
freshman forward DeJuan Blair is averaging close to a double-double
per game (11.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg), but without steady guard play in the
absence of Cook and Fields opponents have been sinking into the lane
and forcing the Panthers to hit shots from outside. The Panthers have
struggled to do that.

Villanova is led on offense by guard Scottie Reynolds, who averages
17.2 points per game. Reynolds has struggled in the Wildcats past two
games (just 1-of-14 from 3-point land) which explains the teams
struggles overall.

Guard Corey Fisher (11.4 ppg) and forward Dante Cunningham (10.4 ppg,
7.2 rpg) are the Wildcats best scoring options after Reynolds, but
their play has been inconsistent of late too. Forward Antonio Pena
had a breakout game versus Notre Dame last time out (17 pts., 9
reb.), and the Cats will need him to step up more down the stretch to
stay competitive in the tough Big East.

Pittsburgh is usually able to turn up the defensive intensity in big
games, especially at home, and is allowing 63 points per game. The
allow a 40.6 shooting percentage from the floor, but are better at
closing out to the 3-point shot as they allow opponents just a 31
percent average from behind the arc.

The 90 points Villanova allowed to Notre Dame in the last game was
the most they have allowed in over a year. Defense has been a weak
spot for this team, as they allow opponents to shoot 44.7 percent
from the floor and 39.7 percent from 3-point range, both extremely
high numbers for potentially top-25 team.

These teams are exact opposites for sports bettors this year. While
Pittsburgh has been good to bettors (10-5 ATS), Villanova has been a
cash drain (5-10 ATS). In fact, the Wildcats are an ultra-weak 1-8
ATS in their last nine game overall. Pittsburgh has struggled of
late, covering just once in their last three, but they had covered in
four straight prior to that including a cover as 3-point underdogs
the last time they played Villanova on January 6th.

While the head-to-head matchup has been even overall (3-3 SU in last
6 meetings), Pittsburgh has covered three straight since the 2005
season. The home team is a strong 7-3 ATS in the last 10 head-to-head

The under has cashed in for bettors in five of the last six matchups
between the two, including the last four in a row. Another strong
under betting trend is the fact that the Wildcats have come in under
the total in eight of the last nine games they have been an underdog.

Badgers Pick: The Panthers are a strong homecourt team, so how in
the world can you explain their loss to Rutgers last Saturday? You
cant. But dont let one game scare you off the Panthers. I still
think 7.5 is borderline too big of a number, but Im willing to give
Pitt the benefit of the doubt. I also like the under in this game. I
see a typical Big East game with tough defense, so the scores will
stay in the 60s. Take Pittsburgh minus the points and the under in
this game.