Big East Tourney Picks: Gibbs, Panthers Face Freshmen-Laden St. John’s on Tuesday

2012 Big East Conference Tournament
Opening Round
Tuesday, 3/6/12, 2:00 p.m. Eastern, TV: ESPN2
#12 St. John’s Red  Storm (13-18, 6-12 Big East) vs. No. 13 Pittsburgh Panthers (16-15, 5-13)
Madison Square Garden – New York, New York
Opening Line: Pitt -4
Current Line: Pitt -5
Opening Total: 138
Current Total: 135
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. St. John's Red Storm Big East Tournament Betting Preview
Ashton Gibbs and the Panthers were the top seed in last year's Big East tournament.

What a difference a year makes.  Last season, the Pittsburgh Panthers were the top seed in the Big East Conference tournament with a 27-4 overall record and 15-3 mark in conference play.  Pittsburgh star guard Ashton Gibbs outplayed UConn’s Kemba Walker with a career-high 27 points in the quarterfinals but saw the latter hit the game-winning shot to end his team’s Big East championship dreams and begin a national title run for the Huskies.

Gibbs and the Panthers (-5, O/U 135) were then bounced by Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed.  While that was a shocking end to last season, nobody thought the junior’s decision to stay in school would result in going 16-15 as a senior, including just 5-13 in Big East action.  But that’s the case as No. 13 seed Pitt squares off against the host St. John’s Red Storm on Tuesday in the tourney’s second opening-round game at Madison Square Garden.

No. 12 St. John’s (13-18, 6-12) can probably understand the frustrations of the Panthers to some degree, starting five freshmen on a very young team that has struggled with growing pains throughout the season.  In fact, the Red Storm only saw six players take the floor in an 89-69 loss at Pitt last Wednesday – all freshmen.

D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene played every minute against the Panthers and combined for 39 points while God’sgift Achiuwa totaled 17 on 8 of 9 shooting off the bench.  None of those players were obviously involved in last year’s controversial 65-63 win over Rutgers when the Scarlet Knights were denied a final possession despite there being time on the clock at the end.

St. John’s had tied a season high with a three-game winning streak prior to that loss at Pitt, including home victories against No.3 Notre Dame, UCLA and No. 16 DePaul.  The Red Storm have exceeded the expectations of oddsmakers during this recent stretch, going 4-1 against the spread in their last five with the UNDER also cashing four times.

The Panthers have won six of the last seven meetings with St. John’s both straight-up and ATS, and the OVER is 4-2 in the past six games between the teams.  However, Pitt’s lone win over its last seven games overall came against the Red Storm.  The Panthers are 2-5 ATS in losing six of seven, and the OVER has cashed in each of their past two.

The winner will play No. 5 Georgetown (22-7, 12-6) on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. (ET).

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