NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
Two of the most disappointing teams in the nation will square off Saturday in Storrs, Connecticut. UConn is the defending champion of the NCAA Tournament, but they still have some work to do to get back into the tournament this season. Pittsburgh has been extremely successful in the Big East under Jamie Dixon, but this has been their worst year in a long time. Which team can finish their regular season with a win?
Pittsburgh has lost five of its last six games. The Panthers are generally a very strong defensive team, but they have been poor on that end of the floor this year. Opponents are shooting 44.4% from the field against Pittsburgh. The leaders of this team simply haven’t been as good as most expected them to be this year. Ashton Gibbs leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game, but he is shooting just 39% from the floor. Tray Woodall has shown flashes of being great, but he has been dinged up this year and he hasn’t been himself.
The biggest strength of this team is their rebounding ability. Nasir Robinson leads the team with 6.7 boards per game, but three other guys average at least five rebounds per contest. Offensively, the Panthers lack a true low post scorer. This is a team that lacks consistency overall. They really need some leadership to pull them through the tough stretches in the game.
UConn has shown some signs of life lately, but it might not be enough. The Huskies lost a close one to Syracuse, but then they were upset by Providence earlier this week. This team doesn’t have any margin for error at this point. Jim Calhoun has talked about possibly coming back for this regular season finale, but nothing is set in stone yet. Jeremy Lamb leads the team in scoring at 17.7 per game. Lamb is a terrific all-around player who is maturing quickly in only his sophomore season. Andre Drummond has been great in his freshman season at the center spot. Drummond averages 10.2 points and 7.9 boards per game.
Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi are two guys that UConn expected more out of this year. Napier leads the team in assists, but he has been struggling mightily with his shot. Oriaki’s numbers are down in a big way all across the board from last year. Defensively, UConn has done a great job keeping opponents out of the paint, but they do allow opponents to shoot 35.3% from beyond the arc.
Pittsburgh won’t be a part of March Madness unless they win the Big East Tournament, but UConn could still get an at-large spot. I think the Huskies get amped up for this one and finish the season strong.
Prediction: UConn 75 Pittsburgh 66
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