NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (20-6)
at PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (20-6)
Petersen Events Center - Pittsburgh, PA
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -10.5, Total: 123.5
A pair of top-25 teams with 20 wins coming off double-digit losses try to get back on the winning track Monday night when No. 20 Pittsburgh hosts No. 25 Notre Dame.
These two schools have identical records, both overall (20-6) and in Big East play (8-5), and both teams were pounded on the road Saturday. The Fighting Irish lost by 17 points at Providence, while the Panthers fell to three-point underdog Marquette by a 79-69 score, allowing the Golden Eagles to shoot 57% from the floor. Despite the loss, Notre Dame is 5-2 SU in its past seven games, but just 3-8 ATS in its past 11 contests. Before Saturday's loss, Pittsburgh was 7-1 SU (5-3 ATS) in its previous eight games, holding all eight teams to under 65 points. Notre Dame has dominated this series recently with four straight wins (SU and ATS) and a 6-1 ATS mark over Pittsburgh in the past seven meetings.
Can Pittsburgh end its series losing skid with a lopsided win on Monday night? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts have been strong in college basketball Best Bets, as StatFox Scott is 61% ATS (14-9) since Feb. 8, while StatFox Gary is 57% ATS (13-10-2) since Feb. 4, improving to an impressive 56% ATS (83-66-3) for Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is at 52% ATS (133-123-4) for the season.
Notre Dame leads the nation with a 1.64 Ast/TO ratio, thanks to 17.9 APG (2nd in nation) and 10.9 TOPG (13th in D-I). The Irish are not known for using their bench, as five players average at least 29.7 MPG this season. But that's also because they don't foul much with a mere 13.7 fouls per game (5th-fewest in nation), and shoot at a high percentage both from the field (48.0% FG, 16th in nation) and from three-point range (37.6%, 37th in D-I). PF Jack Cooley (14.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, fifth in D-I) is the main man down low, making 58.4% FG for the season (9th in D-I) and posting his sixth straight double-double in Saturday's loss, giving him 18 double-doubles this season (T-2nd in nation). Cooley scored eight points and pulled down 14 rebounds (five offensive) in the win over Pittsburgh last season. Junior G Jerian Grant (13.0 PPG, 5.8 APG) has 16 assists and just four turnovers in his past two games, and had a phenomenal effort against the Panthers last season with 15 points, nine assists and just two turnovers. Junior G Eric Atkins (11.7 PPG, 5.9 APG) also had a well-rounded game in last season's win over Pittsburgh, tallying 15 points (5-for-8 FG) five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Atkins not only has a stellar 2.75 Ast/TO ratio this season (13th in nation), but also has 1.6 steals per game. This backcourt duo has had a larger burden lately without marksman Scott Martin (46.3% threes) extending opposing defenses because of Martin's lingering knee injury. Freshman F Cameron Biedscheid (7.5 PPG) has played a lot of Martin's minutes, but continues to misfire over his past 12 games, making just 32% FG (23-for-72) and 27% threes (11-for-41).
Like Notre Dame, Pittsburgh is one of the headiest teams in the country, with the second-best Ast/TO ratio in the nation at 1.59. The Panthers rank 7th in D-I in assists (17.2 APG) and 11th in the nation with a mere 10.8 TOPG. That willingness to share the basketball leads to an outstanding 48.0% FG clip (14th in D-I), but they don't score a ton of points (71.0 PPG, 85th in nation) because they make only 5.0 threes per game (281st in D-I). However, the Panthers allow just 55.4 PPG (9th in nation) on 39.5% shooting. PG Tray Woodall (10.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) is clearly the engine of this offense, and his 2.58 Ast/TO ratio (21st in nation) shows what a great leader he is. But in his team's lone meeting with Notre Dame last season, Woodall was held scoreless (0-for-5 FG) in 18 minutes, but he had missed the previous month with a groin injury and was not healthy for this meeting. The club's two other double-digit scorers are forwards Lamar Patterson (10.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and Talib Zanna (10.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG). Patterson had a pedestrian eight points and six boards in last season's loss in South Bend, but Zanna dominated the Irish with 13 points and 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. Patterson is coming off a 19-point game in Saturday's defeat, making 7-of-12 shots and 4-of-7 threes. Zanna was a non-factor against Marquette with just four points and three rebounds in 17 minutes of action. Seven other Panthers average at least 11 MPG, making this one of the deeper teams in the nation.