(18-0, 7-9 ATS)
(17-1, 6-7 ATS)
If the NCAA basketball betting clash between the Villanova Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies was the appetizer on Monday, the nightcap between the Syracuse Orange and the Pittsburgh Panthers is sure to be a hearty main course. These two teams only have one loss between them this year, and they are sure to be giving us a real treat on the hardwood in the Steel City on Monday night.
There aren’t many people that really believe that Head Coach Jim Boeheim has a team that has what it takes to make it all the way through the Big East slate anywhere near unscathed this year, and this is the type of game that the Orange are expected to lose. We must admit that there really aren’t any “Wow!” wins on this slate, though victories against teams like the Cincinnati Bearcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Michigan State Spartans are noteworthy. This is the first really, really big time road test of the year though, as the only real roadies that the ‘Cuse have played were ‘W’s at the St. John’s Red Storm and the Seton Hall Pirates. Kris Joseph has a head injury that might keep him out of the lineup in this one, and if that’s the case, the Orange are in a lot of trouble. Joseph is the team’s leading scorer at 14.6 points per game this year, and Boeheim knows that he cannot be missing in the fold to beat the Panthers. Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson, and Brandon Triche are all double digit point scorers, and there is plenty of depth on this team, but there isn’t anyone else that brings the same type of tenacity to the game as Joseph does for Syracuse.
This is the biggest game of the year for the Panthers as well, and though they do have one loss to their credit, they are also a tested team that has some tremendous wins, particularly here at home. They beat the Connecticut Huskies here at the Petersen Events Center to start off Big East play, and they did so by 15 points. They also have triumphs of note over the Marquette Golden Eagles and Georgetown Hoyas, and their most recent ‘W’ was a 74-53 victory over the Seton Hall Pirates in the prep for this one. The starting five for U-Pitt is just downright nasty. Ashton Gibbs is averaging a team high 16.3 points per game this year, and Brad Wanamaker is capable of some huge numbers as well at 12.8 points per game. Gilbert Brown is the quiet assassin that is averaging 11.2 points per game, while Gary McGhee gets the job done in the post at 7.2 points and 7.4 boards per game. The Panthers play fantastic defense, holding teams to 62.6 points per game this year, and if this keeps up against the Orange, it is going to be a great day to be a Panther.
Call us crazy, but we think that the ‘Cuse have what it takes to win this game. This wouldn’t exactly qualify as the shocker of all shockers, but if Joseph is in the lineup, we tend to think that the Orange are the better team here. Pittsburgh is a great squad and will run deep into March this year, but this is going to be a signature day for Syracuse, which will pull off the upset if Joseph is in the fold.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Syracuse Orange