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February 18, 2013
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NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (20-6) at PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (20-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Pittsburgh -10 & 121.5
A pair of top-25 teams with 20 wins coming off double-digit losses try to get back on the winning track Monday night when No. 20 Pittsburgh hosts No. 25 Notre Dame.
These two schools have identical records, both overall (20-6) and in Big East play (8-5), and both teams were pounded on the road Saturday. The Fighting Irish lost by 17 points at Providence, while the Panthers fell to three-point underdog Marquette by a 79-69 score, allowing the Golden Eagles to shoot 57% from the floor. Despite the loss, Notre Dame is 5-2 SU in its past seven games, but just 3-8 ATS in its past 11 contests. Before Saturday's loss, Pittsburgh was 7-1 SU (5-3 ATS) in its previous eight games, holding all eight teams to under 65 points. Notre Dame has dominated this series recently with four straight wins (SU and ATS) and a 6-1 ATS mark over Pittsburgh in the past seven meetings. Notre Dame's recent series win streak includes a 5-point road win as a 10.5-point road underdog the last time the Irish traveled to Pittsburgh. The Panthers will have major trouble scoring enough to cover this big number, considering they have averaged 52.0 PPG over their past four matchups with Notre Dame and are averaging 62.6 PPG while failing to reach 70 points in any of their past five contests. While Pittsburgh is just 2-4 ATS at home against Big East opponents this season, the Irish are 3-1 ATS over the past month when coming off an ATS loss. And since becoming the Pittsburgh head coach, Jamie Dixon is a woeful 12-30 ATS (29%) versus teams who average six steals or less per game.
Notre Dame leads the nation with a 1.64 Ast/TO ratio, thanks to 17.9 APG (2nd in nation) and 10.9 TOPG (13th in D-I). The Irish are not known for using their bench, as five players average at least 29.7 MPG this season. But that's also because they don't foul much with a mere 13.7 fouls per game (5th-fewest in nation), and shoot at a high percentage both from the field (48.0% FG, 16th in nation) and from three-point range (37.6%, 37th in D-I). PF Jack Cooley (14.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, fifth in D-I) is the main man down low, making 58.4% FG for the season (9th in D-I) and posting his sixth straight double-double in Saturday's loss, giving him 18 double-doubles this season (T-2nd in nation). Cooley scored eight points and pulled down 14 rebounds (five offensive) in the win over Pittsburgh last season. Junior G Jerian Grant (13.0 PPG, 5.8 APG) has 16 assists and just four turnovers in his past two games, and had a phenomenal effort against the Panthers last season with 15 points, nine assists and just two turnovers. Junior G Eric Atkins (11.7 PPG, 5.9 APG) also had a well-rounded game in last season's win over Pittsburgh, tallying 15 points (5-for-8 FG) five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Atkins not only has a stellar 2.75 Ast/TO ratio this season (13th in nation), but also has 1.6 steals per game. This backcourt duo has had a larger burden lately without marksman Scott Martin (46.3% threes) extending opposing defenses because of Martin's lingering knee injury. Freshman F Cameron Biedscheid (7.5 PPG) has played a lot of Martin's minutes, but continues to misfire over his past 12 games, making just 32% FG (23-for-72) and 27% threes (11-for-41).
Like Notre Dame, Pittsburgh is one of the headiest teams in the country, with the second-best Ast/TO ratio in the nation at 1.59. The Panthers rank 7th in D-I in assists (17.2 APG) and 11th in the nation with a mere 10.8 TOPG. That willingness to share the basketball leads to an outstanding 48.0% FG clip (14th in D-I), but they don't score a ton of points (71.0 PPG, 85th in nation) because they make only 5.0 threes per game (281st in D-I). However, the Panthers allow just 55.4 PPG (9th in nation) on 39.5% shooting. PG Tray Woodall (10.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) is clearly the engine of this offense, and his 2.58 Ast/TO ratio (21st in nation) shows what a great leader he is. But in his team's lone meeting with Notre Dame last season, Woodall was held scoreless (0-for-5 FG) in 18 minutes, but he had missed the previous month with a groin injury and was not healthy for this meeting. The club's two other double-digit scorers are forwards Lamar Patterson (10.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and Talib Zanna (10.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG). Patterson had a pedestrian eight points and six boards in last season's loss in South Bend, but Zanna dominated the Irish with 13 points and 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. Patterson is coming off a 19-point game in Saturday's defeat, making 7-of-12 shots and 4-of-7 threes. Zanna was a non-factor against Marquette with just four points and three rebounds in 17 minutes of action. Seven other Panthers average at least 11 MPG, making this one of the deeper teams in the nation.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (13-12) at KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (20-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Kansas State -11 & 127
No. 13 Kansas State tries to retain its dominance at home when West Virginia pays a visit to Manhattan, KS on Monday night.
The Mountaineers enter Monday having won four of their past five games, but have dropped three of their past five road games by double-digits. They fell by 27 points at Purdue, lost by 14 at Oklahoma State and after winning at Big 12 cellar dwellers Texas Tech (2-10 in Big 12) and TCU (1-11 in Big 12), suffered a 20-point blowout defeat at Baylor last week. The Wildcats have been outstanding at home this season, sporting a 13-1 SU record, including 8-3 ATS. In their past three home games, Kansas State has blown out Baylor (by 20), Iowa State (by nine) and Texas (by 26). These schools played a thriller in their most recent meeting Jan. 12, with KSU prevailing 65-64 in Morgantown. The Wildcats have been perfect as a favorite (15-0 SU, 9-6 ATS), winning these games by 16.3 PPG. West Virginia is 1-9 SU (4-5-1 ATS) as an underdog, losing these contests by 11.7 PPG. The Mountaineers are also 7-18 ATS (28%) on the road versus great teams (8+ PPG margin) over the past three seasons. Despite Saturday's big win, Kansas State is not prone to letdowns, going 13-3 ATS (81%) at home off a blowout win of 20+ points since 1997. WVU is shooting a dreadful 39.6% FG away from home this season, and KSUis allowing just 55.6 PPG on 38.6% FG in Manhattan.
West Virginia's offense has averaged just 66.3 PPG (201st in nation), due mostly to poor shot selection. The Mountaineers have just 12.4 APG (200th in D-I) leading to 40.9% FG (283rd in nation) and 31.6% threes (252nd in nation). They have also shot horribly from the foul line in the past three games at 63% FT (52-for-83). WVU also plays undisciplined defense with 19.4 fouls per game (287th in D-I) and has a pedestrian +2.0 RPG margin (120th in nation) despite having great size with its 6-foot-10 duo of C Aaric Murray (9.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG) and PF Deniz Kilicli (8.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG). This pair both came off the bench in last month's loss to K-State, with Murray playing pretty well (11 pts, 5 reb, 2 blk) and Kilicli scoring six points (3-of-4 FG) in 11 minutes. But Kilicli exploded on Saturday with a career-high 25 points (9-of-11 FG) plus eight rebounds versus Texas Tech. Freshman SG Eron Harris leads the team with 9.2 PPG this season, scoring at least 10 points in nine of the past 10 games. Since February began, Harris has 15.8 PPG on 47% FG in five games, helping his team win four of those contests. SF Juwan Staten (8.7 PPG, 3.1 APG) and SG Jabarie Hinds (7.9 PPG) are both important to this team, but both shoot less than 40% FG and are a combined 17-for-78 (22%) from three-point range this season. Staten didn't play against KSU due to disciplinary reasons, while Hinds scored 15 points in that meeting, but made just 1-of-6 free throws. Sophomore SG Gary Browne (6.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG) has replaced Staten in the starting lineup recently, but has more fouls (11) than points (9) over the past three games. West Virginia has lost nine straight games versus ranked opponents, including 0-4 SU against Top-25 teams this season.
Kansas State doesn't have a ton of great offensive weapons, leading to just 69.0 PPG (134th in nation) on 43.4% FG (172nd in D-I). But the Wildcats are merciless on the defensive end allowing a mere 59.4 PPG (31st in nation) on 41.4% FG this season. The team's leading scorer is senior SG Rodney McGruder (15.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and he has been excellent in the past four games with 17.5 PPG on 48% FG. McGruder had 17 points and six rebounds in last month's win over WVU. Junior G Shane Southwell (8.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.6 APG) had a huge night against the Mountaineers with 17 points (5-of-7 FG, 5-of-6 FT) and four rebounds. And after five straight games of scoring under 10 points, Southwell netted 18 points on a career-high six threes in Saturday's win over Baylor. PG Angel Rodriguez (10.7 PPG, 5.0 APG) has a strong 2.45 Ast/TO ratio (33rd in nation), but needs to do a better job running the offense than he did in Morgantown earlier this season when he had two assists and a season-high-tying four turnovers. His offense has really picked up in the past four games though, as Rodriguez is averaging 18.0 PPG (44% FG). He also has 8.0 APG and 3.0 SPG in the past two contests, dishing out a career-best 10 assists in the win over Baylor. Senior PF Jordan Henriquez (4.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG) also played outstanding basketball on Saturday with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, upping his season average to 1.92 BPG. Kansas State is seeking its 14th straight home win versus non-ranked schools on Monday.
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