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College basketball betting - Pittsburgh at Villanova (7:00pm ET ESPN)
While no one figures Villanova to not make the Big East post-season tournament, a home loss tonight gives the Wildcats five losses in the conference, putting them among the teams in the lower echelon. This would obviously cause discomfort for a team who expected to be no worse than in the middle of the pack. Tonight, Pittsburgh will look to add to that uneasy feeling in the City of Brotherly Love.
This contest marks the halfway point of the conference schedule for Villanova who has six remaining home left in league action. At this juncture they are two games out of second place and one game out of 12th. The Wildcats have a fragile situation concerning depth and coach Jay Wright knows it. Only recently has freshman Reggie Redding turned into a reliable resource off the bench, giving them seven players in a rotation. Curtis Sumpter, whose brilliance coming into the university has been short-circuited by one injury after another is only now getting after a deep thigh bruise that caused him to miss one game this month and limited his effectiveness in two others. Scottie Reynolds is now improving game by game as freshman freeing up Mike Nardi from all the ball-handling duties and making him more effective scorer.
For these two longtime Big East members, surprisingly they have not in the regular season since 2005. They have met each of the last two years in the conference tournament, splitting those games. Villanova has to rely on a swarming defense that is designed to create steals (8.5 per game) and limit the number of good shots the opponent takes. The dilemma for the Wildcats is 7-foot senior Aaron Gray. Pittsburgh has more offensive then any team in memory creating problems not only for Villanova but all teams in the conference. Guards Antonio Graves and Levance Fields are both capable scorers and most nights Ronald Ramon is instant offense off the bench. From a match-up standpoint they can contain the ‘Cats strength. Villanova’s trapping style defense does leave them susceptible to open three point attempts and the Panthers make 40.2% from beyond the arc.
Pittsburgh despite its lofty number 9 ranking is a 1.5-point underdog to Villanova according to Sportbook.com. The first place Panthers need to prove to the country and themselves they are not paper tigers. The three losses they have are against the three most difficult teams on their schedule this season in Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Marquette. Thou Villanova is not ranked, they are a known quantity who is 12-5 ATS in their last 17 home games vs. a team with a winning road record. Unquestionably something Pittsburgh must overcome to be taken seriously as a team that can make it to the Final Four.
To start the festivities for Big Monday the StatFox staff leans towards Villanova in game that goes to the wire. The Panthers are 12-4 ATS in road games against Big East opponents and have Gray as the outlet factor if things don’t go their way early. Villanova expends a significant amount of energy on defense and is playing with just one day off a forty minutes hard fought loss at Notre Dame. The home crowd will help the Wildcats, as will the knowledge of 9-1 ATS mark in home games when playing against a top-level team (Win Pct. > 80%) over the last 3 seasons. Villanova is the hungrier team and has one distinct advantage in close games. The ‘Cats from Philly make 77.1% from the charity stripe, Pitt a paltry 63.3% in road games.
ESPN has tonight’s tripleheader on the family of networks starting at 7 Eastern. The Live Betting Odds page is a must with an unusually high amount of college contests to start the work week.
About the Author: Peter is an experienced sports writer and handicapper, who has written for the sports industry for over 10 years. He has years writing for Sports Scene, sports consulting on 33 Made for Television and Major Motion Pictures.