Pitt Panthers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish Open Big East Play in South Bend

#22 Pittsburgh Panthers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center – South Bend, Indiana
Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: Pitt -1
Current Line: Pitt -1 1/2
Opening Total: 136 1/2
Current Total: 133 1/2
Opening Money Line: Pitt -125 / Notre Dame +105
Current Money Line: Pitt -135 / Notre Dame +115

Pittsburgh Notre Dame Big East Preview
The Pitt Panthers try to break a three game losing streak to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Big East opener for both teams. The Panthers are slight favorites on the road.

The 11-2 Pittsburgh Panthers, coached by Jamie Dixon,  are #22 in the latest poll. However, the Panthers are coming off a 59-54 upset loss at home against Wagner last Friday. The loss snapped a 9 game winning streak for the Panthers since an 86-76 loss at home to Long Beach St November 16. The Panthers have wins over Penn, LaSalle, Robert Morris, Duquesne, Tennessee, and Oklahoma St.

The Panthers try to rebound as they open Big East play Tuesday night in South Bend against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are 8-5 under coach Mike Brey this season. Notre Dame has losses to Missouri, Georgia, Gonzaga, Maryland, and Indiana. The Irish don’t really have a quality win this season unless you count Detroit or Sam Houston St. Notre Dame leads the series 29-27 including 17-9 in South Bend. The Fighting Irish have won 3 straight against the Panthers.

Pitt is outscoring opponents 76-65 this season. The Panthers are shooting 49.3% from the field, including 38.6% from 3 point range. Pitt makes 67.5% of their free throws. The Panthers average 39.6 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +13.2. Pitt averages 17.6 assists, 12.5 turnovers, 4.2 steals, and 3.8 blocks a game. Panther opponents are shooting 43.6% from the field including 34.2% from 3 point range. Pitt forces 10.3 turnovers a game.

Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs averages 17.2 points, 3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a game. Travon Woodall averages 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 8.3 assists a game to lead the team. He is doubtful with a groin injury after missing the last 6 games. Nasir Robinson averages 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds to lead the team, and 2.3 assists a game. Lamar Patterson averages 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 0.9 steals a game to lead the team. Dante Taylor averages 8.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks a game. Khem Birch leads the team in blocks with 1.9 a game.

Notre Dame is outscoring opponents 73-65 this season. The Fighting Irish are shooting 45.1% from the field including 35.4% from 3 point range. Notre Dame makes 72.1% of their free throws. The Irish average 34.5 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +0.4. Notre Dame averages 15 assists, 10 turnovers, 5.4 steals, and 3.8 blocks a game. The Fighting Irish force 11.5 turnovers a game.

Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis is out for the season with a knee injury after playing in only 2 games. Last year he averaged 15.4 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Eric Atkins averages 13.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.3 steals a game to lead the team. He makes 50% of his 3 point attempts. Jerian Grant averages 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists to lead the team, and 1.2 steals a game. Jack Cooley averages 9.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks a game. Cooley leads the team in rebounds and blocks. Scott Martin, Alex Dragicevich, and Pat Connaughton also contribute to the scoring.

Notre Dame is 0-5-2 against the spread and the total is 2-5 this season. Pitt is 3-5 ATS and the total is 4-4 this season. The Panthers are 4-0 ATS in road games and as a road favorite, 13-4-1 following a straight-up win, 5-2-1 in road games after 3 or more straight home games, 15-6-1 after failing to cover, 2-5 against teams with winning records, and 1-6 in Tuesday games. The Fighting Irish are 4-1 ATS after scoring 90 points or more, and as a home underdog of 6.5 points or less, 20-8 in Big East, 7-3 in home games against teams with winning road records, 1-4 as an underdog, after scoring 100 points or more, and as a underdog of 6.5 points or less, 1-5 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 1-8-2 overall, 0-5-1 in Tuesday games, 0-4-2 in home games, 0-5-2 after a straight up win, and 0-7-1 against teams with winning records.

Notre Dame is not the same team without Abromaitis, and has lost to every good team they have faced. That trend should continue against an angry Pitt team who was embarrassed in their last game.

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