West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh Line at -7.5

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Feb/24/2011
West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh Line

In College Basketball Thursday, the West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh line was set at -7.5 for the Panthers with a total of 129.5 at Sportsbook.com

Normally a Pittsburgh-West Virginia game preview will be fraught with the references you’d expect (Backyard Brawl, Backyard Brawl-part deux, Backyard Brawl-The Remix!). The only issue with that, is this year in the Big East, EVERY game is being played like it’s a backyard brawl. Whether it’s 1-14 DePaul coming within a Corey Fisher three-pointer of upsetting Villanova, or 3-12 Providence battling 11-4 Notre Dame to the bitter end before falling 94-93, everyone in the Big East is giving everyone else its very best shot, regardless of record or past history. A lesson that Pittsburgh was reminded of last Saturday afternoon in Madison Square Garden. Not to say that No. 4 Pittsburgh and West Virginia won’t collectively bring their own brand of sizzle and hatred to Thursday’s game at the Petersen Events Center. One way or another, fans will get their recommended daily allowance of rivalry! (and possibly Vitamin C).

The Panthers were having a very good weekend in New York City for about 39 minutes and 48 seconds. On a day that the team saw its leading scorer and best perimeter player Ashton Gibbs return to the lineup to play brilliantly in putting up 26 points on 8-for 14 shooting (6-of-9 beyond the arc), St. John’s stole the game at the end on a Dwight Hardy driving scoop shot with 1.2 seconds left to play. "I knew my knee was fine," Gibbs said. "It was a tough loss." While the loss did put Pitt in good company, as they became the fifth ranked team to lose to the surging Johnnies at MSG this season, that was little consolation for Jamie Dixon as he watched his team score just one basket in the game’s final 3:20 of play. If they want to accentuate the positive, the Panthers can look forward to their rematch with West Virginia knowing that without Gibbs on the floor for the first game, they were able to defeat the Mountaineers 71-66 by dominating the paint area. Dominating, as in scoring 42 points on the interior, outrebounding WVU by an impressive 40-28 margin, and hauling down 18 offensive rebounds. Gibbs’ absence was evident in the Panthers’ performance from beyond the arc, as they shot just a hair under 17% on the night. That void will be filled once again come Thursday night when Gibbs takes the court in his second game back after missing three games following his February 5 knee injury.

West Virginia is coming off a much-needed 72-58 win over Notre Dame, much-needed in that the Mountaineers desperately had to defeat a quality opponent to maintain their argument for an at-large bid to the big dance. Darryl Bryant scored 24 points, as the Mountaineers erased a one-point Irish advantage at the half with a 17-4 run early in the second half to put their opponent in the rearview mirror. Bryant had been averaging six points on 24% shooting over the previous five games entering the Notre Dame contest, but broke out of that slump at just the right time to secure victory for his team. At 17-9, 8-6 in conference play, with quality wins over Georgetown, Purdue, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt, Bob Huggins’ team (RPI: 21, SOS: 4) should be feeling much better about its tournament resume. Shooting at a 43.5% clip for the season, the Mountaineers will tend to become offensively challenged for stretches at a time, which is why their in-your-face defensive game (40.8% FG defense, 53rd-best in Division I) will be key to keeping them in this game on the road. The Panthers are 15-1 at the Petersen Events Center this season, while West Virginia is 1-6 there all-time, including a gut-wrenching, triple-overtime 98-95 loss last season. A game in which the Panthers backcourt of Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker torched the Mountaineers for 24 points each.

Pittsburgh has a decided edge in this series since 1997, going 16-10 SU and 16-9-1 ATS (64%). This includes a 9-1 SU and 6-3 ATS mark when hosting WVU. This season, the Panthers are 11-11 ATS overall and 8-6 ATS in Big East play. The Mountaineers are even worse at 10-13 ATS overall and 6-8 versus conference foes. Recently, West Virginia is 1-4 ATS in its past five games, while Pitt had gone 7-2 ATS before its past two ATS defeats.

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