Pitt Panthers get NCAA odds nod over Volunteers

By: Adam Markowitz | Friday, December 10, 2010
Tobias Harris

Freshman Tobias Harris is coming off a 21-point game for the Vols.

Of all of the duels on the Saturday college basketball betting slate, the one that you certainly aren't going to want to miss is the tussle in the Steel City between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Tennessee Volunteers, the showcase game in the SEC/Big East Challenge.

What a fantastic job that head coach Bruce Pearl has done with his Vols in a year in which there are all sorts of potential NCAA violations that are being investigated! Pearl has a team that is 6-0 already on the season, including a huge upset in the NIT Season Tip-Off against fellow Big East dwellers Villanova, 78-68.

Tennessee is always a team to watch come NCAA Tournament time, but this year, waves are being made early, as a 'W' in this one will certainly march the boys from Rocky Top into the Top 10.

Freshman F Tobias Harris has made a tremendous impact, leading the way for the Vols in scoring at 16.7 PPG. He is shooting a whopping 53.1 percent from the floor and canned six of his eight tries from behind the arc. Harris was good for 15 points and nine boards in that 10-point win over the Wildcats, proving that he isn't afraid of big showcase affairs.

As always, veteran F Scotty Hopson is going to be crucial as well. Hopson is averaging 16.3 PPG, just a shade behind Harris, and he is always a threat for the big-time games as well. Keep a close eye on Brian Williams in the low block, as he is going to have a real fight on his hands against the bigs of the Panthers. Williams is averaging 6.3 points and a team high 8.2 boards per game.

Pitt has been tested a few more times this year, as it is 10-0 on the campaign. However, its schedule hasn't been nearly as tough as that of the Volunteers. The only challenges came against the Texas Longhorns and Maryland Terrapins, and the Panthers put those games away just as they should have, splitting the proceedings on the college basketball lines.

Maryland is the only team in the country that has scored even 70 on Pittsburgh whose defense has been stifling, keeping teams to just 60.1 PPG. The real domination has come on the glass. The Panthers are outrebounding their opponents by a whopping 20 boards per night, winning the battle 45.1 to 25.2.

Head coach Jamie Dixon has a plethora of options that he can turn to on a regular basis off of his bench. Ten different players are averaging at least ten minutes per game, and nine of the 10 are good for at least 10 points, rebounds and assists combined per game, a truly amazing statistic.

If you like star power though, this is also the squad for you. Ashton Gibbs is averaging 17.4 PPG, while Brad Wanamaker is at 12.8 PPG. All of this is happening without Gilbert Brown really doing much for the squad either. The big man has struggled this year, scoring just 8.8 PPG and pulling down 4.7 RPG, and he really has to get his shooting touch in stride. Brown is shooting just 39.2 percent from the field, the second lowest percentage amongst qualified shooters on the team.

These two teams have only met twice in recent memory, clashing in 1998 and 1999. The Vols won both of those games, but this could be a significantly different story. Those UT squads were both significantly better than what the Panthers could offer at the time, and now that the tables have turned just a bit, we wouldn't be surprised to see the No. 3 team in the country offer up a big time beat down to its SEC foe on Saturday.

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