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Pittsburgh favored big over Maryland on Monday
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 1/6/2014  at  4:36:00 AM
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Petersen Events Center - Pittsburgh, PA
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -9.5

Both on three-game winning streaks, Pittsburgh and Maryland will tip-off Monday night at the Petersen Events Center, where the Panthers are 9-0 this year.

Despite its 9-0 SU mark at home, Pittsburgh is just 1-4-1 ATS there, with its only home cover coming way back on Nov. 12. But the Panthers are coming off a nice 74-62 road win at North Carolina State, where they easily covered the 3.5-point spread by outshooting the Wolfpack 48% FG to 39% FG. Their lone loss this season came to Cincinnati, when they lost a gritty 44-43 contest at a neutral court. The Bearcats were able to hold Pittsburgh to 11 field goals on 31% shooting that day, but the Panthers have shot very well this season (48.0% FG, 47th in D-I) thanks to excellent passing (17.0 APG, 16th in nation). The Terrapins have played a tougher schedule and already dropped five games, including ones to then-No. 18 Connecticut and at then-No. 5 Ohio State. But they also lost at home to both 14-point underdog Oregon State and Boston University in a game that didn't even have a line. For the season, they are 7-4 ATS, including 5-2 ATS in non-home games and 2-1 ATS as an underdog. With this being Pittsburgh’s first season in the ACC, these two programs have only met once in the last 10 years when the Panthers (ranked No. 5 at the time) prevailed 79-70 on a neutral site in 2010, also covering a 7.5-point spread. Although Pittsburgh is 0-7 ATS at home versus good teams (60% to 80% win pct.) in the past two seasons, Maryland is 0-7 ATS in this same timeframe after having won 5 or 6 of its past seven games.

Can Pittsburgh roll to a comfortable home win on Monday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 62% ATS (137-83-5) mark, including a stellar 69% ATS (86-39) record since Dec. 3. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 66% ATS (29-15-1) on Best Bets this season, including 74% ATS (23-8) since Nov. 25, while StatFox Scott is 64% ATS (27-15) for the season and 73% ATS (19-7) since Dec. 2. StatFox Gary is 61% ATS (26-17-2) for the season and 72% ATS (18-7) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Brian is 61% ATS (27-17-1) for the season and 67% ATS (20-10) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (26-18-1) for the season and 75% ATS (9-3) since Dec. 18.

Maryland might be able to hang with the Panthers on the boards (39.3 RPG, +6.8 RPG margin), but its offense has not been very efficient this season with just 12.5 APG (210th in nation), leading to pedestrian numbers of 74.5 PPG on 45.1% FG. The Terrapins' recent three-game winning streak came with the return of sophomore PG Seth Allen (10.3 PPG, 3.0 APG), who missed the first 12 games of the season with a broken foot. In his three games, he knocked down 7-of-14 threes and committed just four turnovers. Junior swingman Dez Wells (15.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG) leads the team in scoring and can return to his more natural off-ball position now that Allen is healthy. He has scored in double-figures in 11 straight games and has made 54% FG during the three-game win streak. This team is chock-full of shooters with guys like sophomore F/G Jake Layman (13.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG), who at 6-foot-8 can play down low, but is hitting 2.5 threes per game on a 42% clips. Michigan transfer SF Evan Smotrycz (12.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG) is cut from the same mold, leading the team in rebounding, but adding 1.8 threes per game on a 39% rate. Junior SG Nick Faust (10.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG) is also an aggressive shooter who has caught fire during the three-game win streak, averaging 16.0 PPG on 58% FG (9-of-16 threes). Sophomore PF Charles Mitchell (7.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) is an important rebounder, grabbing those boards in only 18 MPG. In Saturday’s 77-61 blowout win against Georgia Tech, he played only 15 minutes, but collected 11 rebounds. Another potentially key player down low is 6-foot-9 sophomore C Shaq Cleare (3.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG) whose minutes fluctuate, but with a 265-pound frame he has the potential to be menacing down low. Maryland limits teams to 66.9 PPG on 40.4% FG, but has more turnovers (197) than assists (188) this season.

The Pittsburgh offense scores 76.7 PPG overall, and 78.8 PPG on 49.3% FG at home. The team's three-point shooting isn't great (33.0%), but it does knock down 74.6% of its free throws and rarely turns the ball over (10.0 TOPG, 15th-fewest in D-I). The Panthers are led by senior swingman Lamar Patterson (17.2 PPG, 4.6 APG), who paces the team in both scoring and passing, making 52% FG (42% threes) with a 2.1 Ast/TO ratio. He’s averaging 22.0 PPG over the team’s past three contests, during which he’s hitting 57% of his shots. On the perimeter, he and junior SG Cameron Wright (11.1 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.3 SPG) form a strong defensive duo, combining for 3.8 SPG. Wright has scored in double-figures nine times this season, but is 2-for-17 from three-point land (12%). Sophomore PG James Robinson (7.6 PPG, 3.9 APG) takes care of much of the ball handling. Though he isn’t much of a scorer, he takes great care of the ball with less than a turnover per game and a whopping 5.0 Ast/TO ratio (55 assists, 11 turnovers). Down low, senior PF Talib Zanna (12.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG) is the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder. He came up big against N.C. State’s sizy frontcourt on Saturday with 15 points (4-of-6 FG, 7-of-11 FT) and nine boards. He was also the star when these teams last met in 2010, recording a double-double against the Terps (14 points, 12 rebounds) as a freshman. Pittsburgh's defense has been stingy all season, allowing just 58.9 PPG on 39.5% FG, while outworking opponents on the glass by a hefty +9.2 RPG margin, which jumps to a +14.2 RPG margin at home.

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