Big East Betting Picks: Pittsburgh Panthers at West Virginia Mountaineers

Pittsburgh Panthers at West Virginia Mountaineers
WVU Coliseum – Morgantown, West Virginia
Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: West Virginia -6 1/2
Current Line: West Virginia -5 1/2
Opening Total: 137 1/2
Current Total: 135 1/2
Opening Money Line: West Virginia -290 / Pitt +240
Current Money Line: West Virginia -240 / Pitt +200

West Virginia Louisville Big East Preview
Kevin Jones and the West Virginia Mountaineers host archrival Pittsburgh Monday night. WVU is a 5 1/2 point favorite.

Neither Pittsburgh nor West Virginia have lived up to expectations this season. Pittsburgh especially has been a disappointment. The Panthers were #11 in the pre-season poll, but now find themselves at 13-9 and 2-7 in the Big East, ahead of only Providence. The Panthers have won 2 games in a row, including a 72-60 upset at home over then #9 Georgetown Saturday. The Panthers had lost 8 games in a row before that.  Now they travel to arch-rival West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 15-7 overall and 5-4 in conference. WVU has lost two games in a row, including a controversial 63-61 loss at Syracuse Saturday. The Orange took the lead on two free throws with 88 seconds left. West Virginia missed their last 4 shots, but the last one appeared to be goaltending that wasn’t called on the Orange. West Virginia leads the series 95-87 against Pittsburgh, including 61-29 in Morgantown. Pittsburgh has won 16 of the last 23 meetings and 3 in a row. This rivalry could end in the next couple of years as Pitt and Syracuse will move to the ACC for the 2013 season.

Pitt is coached by Jamie Dixon. The anthers have wins over LaSalle, Penn, Robert Morris, Duquesne, Tennessee, Oklahoma St, and Providence. Pitt started off the season 11-1 before the 8 game losing streak. The Panthers have losses to Long Beach St, Wagner, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Depaul, Rutgers, Marquette, Syracuse, and Louisville.

West Virginia is coached by Bob Huggins. The Mountaineers have additional losses to Kent St, Mississippi St, Baylor, Seton Hall, UConn, and St. John’s. WVU has wins over Oral Roberts, Akron, Kansas St, Miami-FL , Missouri St, Villanova, Rutgers twice, Georgetown, Marshall, and Cincinnati.

Pitt is outscoring opponents 71-67 this season. The Panthers are shooting 46.2% from the field, including 35.1% from 3 point range. Pitt makes 68.1% of their free throws. The Panthers are 9th in rebounding nationally 39 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +10.3. Pitt averages 16.4 assists, 13.4 turnovers, 4.6 steals, and 3 blocks a game. Panther opponents are shooting 44.2% from the field including 33.9% from 3 point range. Pitt forces 10.9 turnovers a game.

Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs averages 16.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3 assists a game. He shoots 35.2% from 3 point range.  Nasir Robinson averages 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds to lead the team, and 2.2 assists a game. Travon Woodall averages 10.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists a game to lead the team. He is shooting 41.7% from 3 point range. Lamar Patterson averages 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals a game to lead the team. Dante Taylor averages 6.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks a game to lead the team. Khem Birch led the team in blocks with 1.9 a game but he transferred to UNLV last month.

West Virginia is outscoring opponents 74-66 this season. The Moutaineers are shooting 45.7% from the field, including 33% from 3 point range. West Virginia makes 64.3% of their free throws. The Mountaineers average 39.1 rebounds a game, and have a rebounding margin of +6.7. WVU is averaging 15.4 assists and 14 turnovers a game. The Mountaineers average 6.9 steals and 2.7 blocks a game. West Virginia opponents are shooting 43.9% from the field including 30.5% from 3 point range. The Mountaineers force 14.7 turnovers a game.

West Virginia forward Kevin Jones averages 20.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1 block a game. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. Darryl Bryant averages 17.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1 steal a game. Deniz Kilicli averages 10.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.  Jabarie Hinds averages 8.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. He leads the Mountaineers in assists. Gary Browne leads WVU in steals. Center Pat Forsythe is out indefinitely with a back injury, and center Aaric Murray is ineligible this season.

West Virginia is 12-7 against the spread and the total is 13-6 this season. Pitt is 7-10 ATS and the total is 8-9 this season. Pitt is 9-4 ATS in the last 13 in Morgantown, and 5-2 overall against WVU. The Panthers are 10-2-1 ATS in Monday games, 4-1 against teams with winning records, overall, and in Big east games, and 6-2 in road games. The Mountaineers are 8-0 ATS after a straight up loss, 4-0 at home against teams with losing road records, 8-2 at home, and 10-4 against teams with winning records.

It is no coincidence that Pitt started playing a lot better once Tray Woodall returned to the line-up after missing 11 of the last 12 games. The offense simply didn’t flow without him. The Panthers are in a huge hole but they have the talent to dig themselves out. I think they have a good shot of pulling off the mild upset tonight.

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