Big East Conference Tournament Championship Game Picks: #4 Cincinnati vs. #7 Louisville

2012 Big East Conference Tournament
Saturday, 3/10/12, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, TV: ESPN
#4 Cincinnati Bearcats (24-9, 14-6 Big East) vs. #7 Louisville Cardinals (25-9, 12-8)
Madison Square Garden – New York, New York
Opening Line: Louisville -1.5
Current Line:
Louisville -2.5
Opening Total: 123.5
Current Total: 124
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Louisville Cincinnati Big East Championship Game Betting Preview
Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals are in the Big East Tournament title game for the third time in four years.

The seventh-seeded Louisville Cardinals are in familiar territory, back in the Big East Conference tournament title game for the third time in four years.  The fourth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats are not, playing for the championship at Madison Square Garden for the first time in school history.  The Cardinals (25-9, 12-8 Big East) and Bearcats (24-9, 14-6) have both defied the odds in New York, and one of them will be crowned tourney champ on Saturday night.

Louisville (-2.5, O/U 124) was actually favored by 3.5 points on Friday in the semifinals against No. 3 seed Notre Dame after upsetting No. 2 Marquette 84-71 as a 3.5-point underdog in the quarterfinals on Thursday.  Much like in their win over the Golden Eagles, the Cardinals got off to a fast start and led by double-digits at halftime against the Fighting Irish before cruising to a 64-50 victory.

Cincinnati’s road to the title game was not as easy despite building a 17-point lead in the first half against top seed Syracuse.  The Bearcats connected on eight 3-pointers before halftime and then held on in the final seconds as the Orange nearly completed an improbable comeback, pulling within one point before time simply ran out on them.  Cincy won 71-68 as an 8-point underdog and covered the spread for the sixth time in a row.

Ironically, that streak for the Bearcats started with a 60-56 home victory against Louisville on February 23.  They covered as 2-point favorites in that game, which was the lone meeting between the teams this season.  The Cardinals have dropped three straight meetings with Cincinnati, including a 69-66 loss in the 2010 Big East tourney, the only year of the previous three that they didn’t play for the title.

Louisville had lost three of four to end the regular season but has quickly turned things around with three consecutive wins over the last three days.  The Cardinals have bounced back by continuing to play great defense, as the Bearcats are one of two teams to score as many as 60 points against them in their last seven games.  The UNDER is 6-1 over that stretch.

Cincinnati’s strength lately has been scoring, with the team putting together a four-game streak of scoring 71 points or more.  The Bearcats have needed every one of those points too, especially in their last three games that have all been decided by four points or less.  They have not managed to score 70 though in any of the past seven meetings against Louisville with the UNDER also going 6-1 in those games.

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