#4 PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
SU Record: 74% (25-9)
ATS Record: 59% (17-12-2)
Over (Total): 52% (14-13)
Points Scored: 68.7 PPG
Points Allowed: 61.8 PPG
Scoring Margin: 6.9 PPG
The Panthers will look to challenge for a Big East title and more this year with a backcourt attack that will be triggered by guard Ashton Gibbs. The junior Gibbs (15.7 PPG, 39.0 three-point FG%) can be a streaky perimeter threat who was named the most improved player in the Big East. His 78 three-pointers tied for fourth-most in the league. Dishing the ball to Gibbs will likely fall on the shoulders of sophomore guard Travon Woodall (5.0 PPG, 3.2 APG). Woodall is the team’s best playmaker. Brad Wanamaker (12.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.7 APG) will log major minutes in a three-guard alignment, moving from small forward to shooting guard. Wanamaker can provide perimeter offense and inside slashing ability to compliment Gibbs’ assortment of three-point bombs and Woodall’s playmaking skills. Incoming freshmen J.J. Moore, Isaiah Epps and Cameron Wright will provide depth. Odds.
Experience and work ethic will highlight the Panthers’ frontcourt this season. Gilbert Brown, who averaged 10.7 PPG and 3.2 RPG last season off the bench, looks to move into the starting lineup this season. Joining him on that frontline is fellow senior and returning starter Gary McGhee (6.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG) and Nasir Robinson (6.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG) who started all 34 games last season. The wild card in Pitt’s frontcourt could be sophomore forward Dante Taylor. The former McDonald’s All-American averaged 4.1 PPG & 3.7 RPG. If Taylor can develop his game and make the strides in the frontcourt the way that Gibbs improved in the backcourt last season, Pittsburgh could have that missing piece that it has been looking for in March. Scores.
The sum is greater than the parts. Every coach talks about it, every team aspires to it. But year in and year out it is the Pittsburgh Panthers who seem to embody the expression than any team in the Big East. Rarely do the Panthers ever seem to boast a top-10 or top-20 recruiting class rife with McDonald’s All-Americans, yet Jamie Dixon always finds a way, his way, to win with what he can get. In seven seasons, Dixon is 188-54 (78%). He has made the NCAA Tournament and won at least 10 Big East games in each of those seasons. This year Dixon returns four starters who all know the pain of coming close to a Final Four trip without actually getting there, as was the case in 2009 when Scottie Reynolds and Villanova defeated them in an Elite Eight heartbreaker. They also know what its like to overachieve, like last season when they finished second in the league despite being tabbed to finish ninth by Big East coaches. If the Panthers and their league-best 61.8 PPG defense cannot take that next step this year, it won’t be because they are unfamiliar with being in this position. Las Vegas odds.
In eight years at the Petersen Events center Pittsburgh is 132-11, a .923 winning percentage. Last season the Panthers were 17-1 at home SU and 8-5-2 ATS (62%). As a favorite, the Panthers were 15-6 SU and 9-10-2 ATS.
Sportsbook.com Odds to Win NCAA Championship: 15-to-1