NCAA Basketball West Virginia Mountaineers (21-5, 11-14 ATS) vs. Connecticut Huskies (16-11, 11-14 ATS), XL Center, Hartford, Monday, Feb. 22nd, 7 PM Eastern, ESPN
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mountaineers -3/Huskies +3
The Connecticut Huskies went to the Final Four last season, but they’re in real danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether this season. UConn gets a chance, though, Monday night to pick up a much-needed quality win when it hosts the West Virginia Mountaineers for what should be a Big East bruiser.
Several betting sites opened this game with West Virginia favored by one point, with a total of 135. But the Mountaineers have quickly been bet up to -3 at many places. And the total has dropped about a point, to 134.
West Virginia is also giving around -150 on most college basketball betting moneylines, with Connecticut getting +130 as home underdogs.
With four returning starters from a team that won 23 games last season West Virginia was considered a pre-season contender for the Big East crown, and maybe more, this year. And despite a few ups and down the Mountaineers still have a chance at realizing those goals. WV started 13-0 this season before losing at Purdue, then started 2-2 in the Big East. They then won six in a row, before losing consecutive games to Villanova and Pittsburgh. But the Mountaineers have since won two straight after dispatching of Seton Hall Saturday 75-63.
Even after losing three starters from last season’s Final Four squad, UConn was expected to have enough for a top-four finish in the Big East this season and another NCAA tournament berth. But the going has been a little tougher than expected for the Huskies. Connecticut started 11-3, but then lost eight of 11 games, as the team dealt with some injuries and the absence of Coach Calhoun. The Huskies have kept hope alive, though, with consecutive wins at Villanova and Saturday at Rutgers 76-58.
So while West Virginia is playing for seeding in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments, the Huskies are playing for their post-season life.
At 10-4 in Big East play the Mountaineers sit in a tie for third place with Pittsburgh, two games behind first-place Syracuse. Meanwhile, at 6-8, the Huskies are mired in a five-way tie for eighth place, and really need a couple of victories to break free of that logjam and enhance their tournament resume.
On the season West Virginia is shooting 44% from the field, 35% from 3-point range and 69% from the free-throw line. Defensively the Mountaineers are allowing opponents to shoot 43% from the floor, although they’re outrebounding foes by seven RPG.
Connecticut is shooting 46% from the floor this season, 33% from beyond the arc and 69% from the stripe. The Huskies are also limiting foes to 38% FG shooting, and are outboarding them by 4.2 RPG.
West Virginia is 6-3 straight up but only 4-5 ATS on the road this season. And they’re 4-4 vs. the numbers as chalk on the road.
Connecticut is 13-3 SU but only 5-9 ATS at home this season. But they are 1-0 both ways as a home dog.
This is the first and possibly only meeting between these two teams this season. Last year, UConn beat the Mountaineers 61-55 in Morgantown in a game that stayed well under its posted total of 138.
West Virginia is 12-11 on the totals this season, as their games have averaged 139 points.
Connecticut is 11-13 on the totals, as their games have averaged 138.5 points.
Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rate the Mountaineers at +6.6 over the Huskies. Factoring in Sagarin’s CBB home-court advantage figure of 3.9, and West Virginia is a three-point home favorite over UConn for Monday’s game.
Z-Man’s Pick: Uconn appears to have a fire lit under them. This game opened with West Va. at -1 and has gone as high as -3 but I’m bucking that thinking that Uconn stays hot and wins this game straight up.