PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (17-4)
at LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (16-4)
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Louisville -6.5, Total: 122
Coming off three consecutive losses, the formerly No. 1 Louisville is looking to get back on track in the Big East hosting red-hot Pittsburgh.
The No. 12-ranked Cardinals have one of the nation’s most frustrating defenses, forcing 19.5 turnovers per game (third most in D-I) and keeping opponents to a pithy 57.8 PPG (16th-best in nation). The Panthers also know how to play defense, allowing just 55.8 PPG during their current four-game SU win streak (2-2 ATS). They have also thrived with efficiency on the offensive end. With 10.4 turnovers per game, Pittsburgh ranks seventh in the nation, while connecting on 49.2% FG (11th in D-I) and racking up 17.6 assists per game (fifth in nation).
Can Louisville finally get a win on Monday night? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Gary has a strong 55.4% ATS (62-50-1) record for the season for college basketball Best Bets, while StatFox Dave is 52.4% ATS (99-90-3) on the year. StatFox Scott is 10-6 ATS (63%) in the past four days, and StatFox Brian has 12 non-losing days in the past 16 days. The four experts are collectively 51% ATS (278-267-9) on college basketball Best Bets this season.
Pittsburgh uses a deep rotation with 10 players earning at least 12.6 MPG and nobody logging more than PG Tray Woodall’s 27.1 MPG. As the team’s passing leader, Woodall (10.5 PPG, 5.8 APG) is the most important part of this offensive crew, which is characterized by its balanced scoring distribution. He has 16 assists and just four turnovers in his past two games, but Woodall really struggled last season against Louisville though, hitting just 2-of-15 shots and totaling four points in the two contests, both Cardinals wins. PF Talib Zanna (11.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG) paces the Panthers offense and despite his efficiency all season (56% FG), he has struggled lately, hitting just 10-of-34 FG attempts (29%) and 11-of-21 FT (52%) in his past five games. Six-foot-5 SF Lamar Patterson (10.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.3 APG) has made up for Zanna’s cold skid with 14.6 PPG in his past five, hitting 57% FG and 10-of-19 threes in this span. Swingman Trey Zeigler (6.0 PPG) has also been hot lately with an 18-point performance (7-of-12 FG) in Pittsburgh’s season-high tally of 93 against DePaul on Saturday. The defensive stalwart for this team is 7-foot freshman C Steven Adams (6.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG), who leads the team in rebounding and swats two shots per contest. He had nine points, 14 boards and three blocks in Saturday's win.
SG Russ Smith (18.4 PPG) is the leading scorer of this Louisville offense, but has been sent to the bench with his struggles in the past two games (10.0 PPG, 27% FG, 0-for-5 threes). That may be good for him against Pittsburgh, though. Last season he hit just 4-of-11 shots as a starter, but off the bench in the next game made 7-of-12 shots for 18 points. Replacing Smith in the starting lineup will be junior F/G Luke Hancock (6.2 PPG), who scored 12 points (3-of-4 threes) in the starting role on Saturday. Senior PG Peyton Siva (11.0 PPG, 5.9 APG) also has to step it up. He is supposed to be this team’s veteran floor general, but had just two assists and zero points in the team’s loss to Georgetown on Saturday. Since recovering from an early-season wrist injury, C Gorgui Dieng (9.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG) has been a workhorse for Pitino, averaging a near double-double. He’s most valuable for what he adds on the defensive end with 2.2 BPG and 1.2 SPG. The other guy to watch out for on this team is PF Chane Behanan (10.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG) who has been a key to the struggles in the Cardinals’ losing streak. During the three-game skid, he is averaging just 7.0 PPG and hitting 33% FG (6-of-18), something that must change for this team to get back on track.