NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
Pittsburgh is accustomed to competing for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, but this year they won’t be going dancing unless they pull off a late-season miracle. Louisville will be in the NCAA Tournament, but they clearly have some work to do on the offensive end. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in their last game. Which team can bounce back with a big win on Sunday?
Pittsburgh appeared to be turning things around a couple weeks ago when they put together four straight wins, but they have followed that up with four straight losses. They were manhandled at home by West Virginia, and they lost to South Florida twice in the past two weeks. Jamie Dixon’s team is known for its hard-nosed style of play, but this team just hasn’t put it together this year. The Panthers allow opponents to shoot 44.3% from the floor, which is a sign of the drop off in defensive efficiency from this team. They still rebound the ball extremely well, but they aren’t efficient on offense either.
Ashton Gibbs is the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, but he is shooting just 38.8% from the floor. Tray Woodall has helped the team since returning from his injury, but he scored just two points in 26 minutes last game against South Florida. The Panthers need Gibbs and Woodall to have a great game if they are going to win this one. Four players average at least five rebounds per game for the Panthers.
Louisville lost a tough game at Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Cardinals were very good defensively, but the offense was a mess. The Cardinals hit just 1 out of 14 attempts from three-point range. They shot only 34.5% from the floor overall. Chris Smith is the only pure shooter on this team. Smith knocks down 41% of his three-point attempts on the season. Kyle Kuric is the team’s leading scorer at 12.9 points per game. Freshman Chane Behanan is emerging as a solid player in the post. He averages 9.4 points and 7.8 boards per game. Injuries to Mike Marra and Rakeem Buckles have really slowed down this offense.
Defensively, Louisville is one of the best in the nation. Gorgui Dieng averages 3.2 blocks per game, and he is great on the defensive boards. Opponents shoot just 37.4% from the floor against the Cardinals. This team has plenty of length and athleticism, and that makes it tough for opponents to get open looks at the basket.
I don’t expect this to be a pretty game. Neither team is particularly good on the offensive end right now, but the Cardinals should win this one because of their defense.
Prediction: Louisville 73 Pittsburgh 63
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