Pitt hosts Syracuse in huge NCAA odds duel

By: David Schwab | Sunday, January 16, 2011

Monday night brings us a monster matchup in the Big East when the No. 4 Syracuse Orange tangle with the No. 5 Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center in Iron City. Tip-off is set for 4:30 (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Syracuse ran its conference record to 5-0 straight-up with a 67-52 romp over Cincinnati on Saturday as a seven-point home favorite. This followed a convincing 76-59 win over St. John’s as a three-point road favorite last Wednesday. The Orange are now a perfect 18-0 SU, but just 7-9 against the spread.

This team is led by one of the best trio of players north of Miami. Junior forward Kris Joseph is the team’s leading scorer; knocking down an average of 15.3 points per game. Junior guard Scoop Jardine is averaging a team-high 6.1 assists per game and 13.7 points, while senior forward Rick Jackson leads the team in rebounds with 11.7 per game and is averaging 13.2 points.

The Orange are averaging 76 points and 39 rebounds per game. They are shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three-point range. The only area that Syracuse has struggled a bit this season is from the foul line where it is converting on just 64.1 percent of its attempts.

Pittsburgh might be considered the second-best team in the Big East right now, but it is more than capable of standing toe-to-toe with Syracuse. The Panthers moved to a perfect 5-0 in the conference with a 21-point romp over Seton Hall on Saturday as a 13 ½-point home favorite. Even more impressive was their 72-57 victory over No. 19 Georgetown as a 2 ½-point road underdog this past Wednesday. Pitt is currently 17-1 SU but is also a bit shaky ATS with a record of 6-7.

Junior guard Ashton Gibbs is the Panthers’ leading scorer with 16.3 points per game and second in assists with 3.5. Senior guard Brad Wanamaker leads in assists with 4.8 and is also averaging 13 points per game. Senior forward Gilbert Brown has also been a key contributor with 11.2 points per game, while senior center Gary McGhee leads the team in rebounds with 7.3.

Pittsburgh is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and averaging 80 points per game, but its real strength has been under the boards. The Panthers are ranked second in the nation in rebounds with a per-game average of 43, giving them a distinct advantage over the Orange in this department.

Syracuse is 2-3 ATS in its last five games on the road and 4-2 ATS in its last six games overall. The total has stayed ‘under’ in four of its last five games.

Pitt is 3-4 ATS in its last seven home games and 3-2 ATS in its last five games overall. The total has gone ‘over’ in three of its last five games.

Head-to-head, the Panthers have won eight out of the last 10 games SU, covering the spread in all eight victories. Last season they beat the Orange 82-72 as an 11-point road underdog. The year before, Pitt hammered Syracuse 78-60 as a nine-point home favorite.

This time around, look for the Panthers to open as a mild home favorite. One thing to keep an eye on is the status of Joseph for Syracuse. He is currently listed as doubtful on the injury report with a minor head injury suffered in Saturday's win due to a hard tumble; head coach Jim Boeheim was adopting a wait-&-see approach to his star's status.

Regardless of his availability, stick with Pitt to keep its recent dominance over the Orange intact for another year with a big win.

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