Two of the top
teams in the Big East will meet in the
Steel City to wrap up the regular season on Saturday afternoon, as the Pitt Panthers
tango with the Villanova Wildcats.
Second Straight Season of Failure Down
Boy, is it really
hard right now to be supportive of Head Coach Jay Wright. The Villanova Wildcats looked to
be well on its way to challenge for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last
year before hitting the skids with just a handful of games to play. The end
result was a quick exit from the Big East Tournament, a near miss in a game
against the American Eagles which almost proved to be one of the biggest upsets
in the history of the NCAA Tournament, and one final thud in the loss to the
No. 10 St. Mary's Gaels.
Are we looking at
the same sort of path this year?
The Wildcats have
been atrocious of late, losing three in a row and seven out of 11, and there is
only one win in that stretch against a team that is certainly going to be in
the NCAA Tournament, and that's the one against the West Virginia Mountaineers
at home on February 5. The team also hasn't beaten the NCAA basketball odds
in a clash since that date with WVU, going 0-7 ATS since then.
Cats Clawing for a Top Seed
Head Coach Jamie
Dixon knew that this team really had the potential to be special this year. The Pittsburgh Panthers have survived some iffy games and a minor injury to superstar Ashton
Gibbs, and now, most feel that a win in this game and 1-2 more in the Big East
Tournament will leave them on the top line in the NCAA Tournament.
There are plenty
of weapons on the offensive side of the court. Gibbs, for example, is scoring
16.3 PPG and is shooting a whopping 46.8 percent from beyond the arc on the
campaign. Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown are combining for 23.3 PPG, while
Nasir Robinson and Gary McGhee are both making solid contributions on the
The key though, is
defense. This is a team that is allowing just 60.8 PPG this year, and teams
aren't even shooting 40.0 percent from the field for the season either. The
last time the Panthers allowed more than 66 points in a game was back on
January 8, and even though there are indeed three losses in that stretch since
that point, Dixon knows that that type of defensive intensity is going to win a
heck of a lot of ball games.
Panther Pride Should Beat NCAA
Basketball Lines on Saturday
This game is no
exception for U-Pitt. The Panthers already have one win in this series this
year, winning in the City of Brotherly Love back on February 12 57-54 in a
brutal clash of defensive wills.
The Wildcats are just 1-10 ATS in their last
11 games overall, all of which have come in the Big East. They are also just
2-6 ATS over the course of the last eight in this series.
The betting odds makers have clearly put the Pittsburgh Panthers on the right side for today's Saturday.
They'll use that defensive pressure that we have come to know and love to
dispose of a reeling Villanova squad, and they'll carry a ton of momentum into
the Big East Tournament as the top seed next week.