West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Pick

West Virginia Mountaineers (16-6) +3, 130 O/U at Pittsburgh Panthers (17-5) -3, 130 O/U, Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 7 PM Eastern, Thursday
by Badger of Predictem.com

The West Virginia Mountaineers mens basketball team will try to do on Thursday what the football team couldnt do, beat their rival Pittsburgh Panthers. The Mountaineers travel up the road to the Petersen Events Center for a Big East Conference battle versus the No. 21-ranked Panthers on ESPN.

Pittsburgh comes into tonights game struggling. The Panthers lost last Saturday to Connecticut, 60-53, for their second loss in their last three games. Not only do the Panthers run the risk of dropping out of the top-25 with another loss, but it would be the first time in two years that they have lost back-to-back conference games and would drop them into the lower half of the Big East standings.

West Virginia has played well in their three games versus ranked opponents, but the dont have a whole lot to show for it (just 1-2 in those three games). After losing a 1-point heartbreaker to Georgetown, the Mountaineers slept walked through an embarrassing 62-39 loss at home versus Cincinnati. They rebounded last Saturday with an encouraging 77-65 victory over Providence on the road.

The oddsmaker has opened the game with Pittsburgh as a 3-point favorite, with a total of 130. The Panthers are also favored on the moneyline at -162, with West Virginia at +149.

Pittsburghs problems lately are directly related to shooting problems. In last Saturdays loss to Connecticut the Panthers only shot 32.2 percent from the floor, and struggled badly down the stretch in the final minutes of the game. The Panthers have shot just 37.5 percent in their last three games, and have been especially bad from deep with just 25 percent accuracy from 3-point range.

West Virginia has it own shooting issues to deal with right now. In the embarrassing loss at home to Cincinnati the Mountaineers went 1- for 22 from 3-point range and werent much better from closer in either (just 20 percent from the floor). Two of their better scorers, Joe Alexander (14.8 ppg) and Alex Ruoff (14.5 ppg), are in bad shooting slumps, as both players are barely shooting over 30 percent during the recent three game slump (Alexander 31%, Ruoff 33%).

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of defense played in this game. Both teams are two of the better teams in the Big East on defense, as West Virginia allows just 60.3 points per game and Pittsburgh allows just 60.1 points per game on their home floor.

Pittsburgh has owned the recent series versus the Mountaineers, winning three straight and nine of the last 12 overall. The Panthers have covered the spread in three straight as well, including last years game in the Petersen Events Center as a 9-point favorite.

West Virginia is just 8-8 ATS on the season so far (4-3 ATS on the road), just 2-4 ATS in their last six games, and is an even weaker 3-11-1 ATS in the last 15 meetings in the head-to-head matchup.

Pittsburgh is 11-6 ATS this season, but just 2-3 ATS in their last five games. They are a solid 6-1 ATS on their home floor this season.

As you would expect with the way these two play defense, the under is a very strong play for both teams. It has cashed in for bettors in 11 of the Mountaineers 16 games, and in 10 of the Panthers 17 games so far this year.

Badgers Pick: I fully expect this game to be an ugly one. Neither
teams are shooting the ball particularly well right now, and with the defense
both of them play, there probably wont be many uncontested shots in this
game. So when in doubt, Im sticking with the home court advantage in this
game. Take Pittsburgh minus the points.