Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern Predictions, Odds

  • December 9, 2020
  • By Thom Cunningham
  • VegasInsider.com

This season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge continues Wednesday night with the Pittsburgh Panthers on the road against the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off on ESPN2 is slated for 9:15 p.m. (ET), taking place of Michigan State vs. Virginia which was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.


Pittsburgh-Northwestern Betting Odds

Line Movements

  • Spread: Northwestern -3.5
  • Money-Line: Northwestern -185 Pittsburgh +165
  • Total: 143

Odds Subject to Change

Northwestern enters this home game as the slight favorite, given a -3.5-point spread against a struggling ACC team. Yes, Pittsburgh is 2-1 after only three games which is hardly struggling. However, Pittsburgh lost its season-opening game to St. Francis-Pennsylvania.

Northwestern is 2-0 SU, but has also faced Chicago State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Neither club has been tested thus far, which could make for an intriguing matchup. This is actually a deceivingly big game, with both schools fighting in a stacked conference and looking to get off to a good early season start.

It will be a tough season for both teams, so it's very important to both schools that they find a way to win tonight. Both will be at the bottom of their respected conferences, so it's important to start strong. The season will only become more difficult for the two schools as conference play begins.


Betting Analysis – Pittsburgh Panthers

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 2-1
  • ATS: 1-2
  • SU - Home: 2-1
  • SU - Away: 0-0
  • O/U: 3-0

Jeff Capel's team has a lot of work to do, failing to cover the spread twice an even dropping a home game to an NEC school. The only game Pittsburgh has covered was in its last game against Northern Illinois, winning 89-59. Although the score is impressive, the opponent isn't.

There is a strong possibility Northern Illinois finishes last in the MAC this season, as the Huskies are 0-4 which includes a home loss to SIU-Edwardsville. The measuring stick for Pittsburgh has not only been lackluster, but it's also been disappointing.

Good news for Pitt fans though is that the offense is playing well, eclipsing 80 points in two straight games. This will be the first road test for Capel's bunch however, and they'll be facing the best opponent they've seen thus far. If Pittsburgh wants to win this road game, they will need more production from players outside the big three.

The big three includes Au'Diese Toney, Justin Champagne and Xavier Johnson. Each player is averaging 17 or more points per game, but the production concern for Pittsburgh comes on the defensive side of the ball.

Pittsburgh is currently allowing 71 points per game against lackluster competition, which ranks 168th nationally. The defensive rating for Pittsburgh is also 100, which ranks 194th in the nation. These numbers are not awful, until you look at who the Panthers have played.

Betting Analysis – Northwestern Wildcats

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 2-0
  • ATS: 2-0
  • SU - Home: 2-0
  • SU - Away: 0-0
  • O/U: 2-0

Northwestern has the luxury of playing at home tonight, but it's tough to gauge a read on this team after just two blowout victories. The Wildcats are averaging 101.5 points per game after posting 111 on Chicago State, which brings their national ranking to fourth.

This stat should be taken with a grain of salt, as its unlikely Northwestern will stay within the top 25 of nationally productive offenses once the competition picks up. However, the Wildcats offense is currently rolling, as well as the defense.

The Northwestern defense is allowing 57.5 points per game (25th nationally), with a defensive rating of 72.8 (seventh). A formula for successful March Madness teams includes high ranking offensive and defensive ratings. Northwestern is currently fifth in offensive rating (128.5).

The Wildcats also have production outside of just three players. Northwestern has five players that average double-digit points, including two sophomores that averages nine points with 6.5 rebounds and 8.5 points with seven assists, respectively.

Inside the Stats – Pittsburgh Panthers

  • PS/G: 80.7 (70th)
  • PA/G: 71 (168th)
  • Off Rtg: 113.6 (49th)
  • Def Rtg: 100 (194th)

Inside the Stats – Northwestern Wildcats

  • PS/G: 101.5 (4th)
  • PA/G: 57.5 (25th)
  • Off Rtg: 128.5 (5th)
  • Def Rtg: 72.8 (7th)

Key Players to Watch

  • PITT - Au'Diese Toney (18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4 APG)
  • PITT - Justin Champagnie (17.7 PPG, 8 RPG)
  • NW - Chase Audige (18 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
  • NW - Miller Kopp (17 PPG)

Pittsburgh-Northwestern Predictions

Neither school has been truly tested yet, but of the early season tests Northwestern gets the edge over Pittsburgh. The Wildcats production from seven or eight different players might be limited based on stronger level of competition, but Northwestern still presents the better roster overall.

Pittsburgh might have a few more talented players, but the Wildcats just have more. There are a few concerning trends for both teams entering this game. Northwestern has lost 15 of its last 16 prime-time games, while Pittsburgh has lost the first half in nine of its last 10 prime-time games.

Based on the trends and low level of conviction in betting both teams, there is a hedging opportunity here. Northwestern should win this home game, so go with the Pitt struggles in the first half. If Pittsburgh is leading at halftime for some reason, feel free to then hedge Northwestern to win (which will see plus-value).

Pittsburgh's loss to St. Francis-Pennsylvania should have most bettors lean with the home Wildcats. Wagering on the first half allows yourself to buy more time if the Wildcats struggle early, as its very unlikely Pittsburgh wins both the first half and the game.

With the uncertainty surrounding both teams, taking this game one half at a time might be the smart play - but if push comes to shove then Northwestern should be the team to focus wagering around.

  • Score Prediction: Northwestern 68 Pittsburgh 66
  • Best Bets: Northwestern 1H

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