Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 9:04 PM
The Pittsburgh Panthers have to be one of the biggest mystery teams right now in all of college basketball. They head into Monday Night’s nationally televised showdown with Louisville as a team that nobody can quite figure out. The computers say one thing. The polls say another. Sports bettors know this team is just 2-5 ATS as favorites in the Big East…but that they also won at Villanova by 15 when both Louisville and Syracuse failed to win on that court.
Check this out…as of Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh was:
#6 in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings
#12 in the nation according to Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings at USA Today
#38 in the nation according to the AP poll, where they only registered ONE POINT last week…meaning one pollster stuck them at #25 and nobody else voted for them!
The computers would have them fighting for a #2 or #3 seed. The polls would have them playing in an 8-9 game in the Round of 64. Which one is it? How good is Pittsburgh? Can they beat Louisville tonight in Big Monday action?
Let’s review the ups and downs of Pittsburgh’s play in the Big East so far…
*Pittsburgh (-7) lost at home to Cincinnati 70-61
Cincinnati’s a good team, so losing to them isn’t an embarrassment. But, losing at home when favored by that much is certainly a strike against the Panthers. Horrible way to set the tone for Big East action. And, a legitimate blemish that can’t be ignored as you make your assessments.
*Pittsburgh (-7.5) lost at Rutgers 67-62
You can see why pollsters soured on this team so quickly. They started out 0-2 in the Big East. They missed market expectations by 16 and 12.5 points. You don’t get to be on the short list of Big East powers with performances like this.
*Pittsburgh (+1) won at Georgetown 73-45
Holy Cow! What a slaughter. This will probably go down as Pittsburgh’s most impressive performance of the season. They beat a good, if not great team on the road. They beat the market by almost 30 points. You can at least see here that greatness is possible for this Panthers team.
*Pittsburgh (-10.5) lost at home to Marquette 74-67 in overtime
The nuclear yo-yo races back down. Pittsburgh is a double digit favorite and can’t even win straight up. They miss expectations by 10.5 points in regulation, making this their third double digit non-cover in Big East play…amidst a set where all results have missed the mark by that much. Very tough to get a read beyond not trusting Pitt as a favorite.
*Pittsburgh (-4.5) won at Villanova 58-43
Wow! We’re back in national championship for here…with a result that may have misled the market significantly regarding how good Villanova was. After losing big to Pitt by that kind of margin, it was tough to see them beating Syracuse and Louisville on this floor. Villanova pulled that off. Apparently they were in the wrong place at the wrong time for the Dr. Jeckyll version of the Panthers. You can see why computers would respect Pittsburgh…as the Panthers crushed a team that beat both Syracuse and Louisville.
*Pittsburgh (-10.5) won at home vs. Connecticut 69-61 (non-cover)
Here we have the first Big East game where the line was within double digits of the result. Maybe that means Pittsburgh is ready to calm down and play to their Power Ratings. Or, maybe it was just a one-time thing for an erratic team. Beating Connecticut by this kind of margin is nothing to be ashamed of, even if it didn’t quite reach oddsmaker expectations.
*Pittsburgh (-6.5) won at Providence 68-64 (non-cover)
Almost a replay of the UCONN game. Pittsburgh played well, won the game, didn’t cover, and with a gameflow that was almost identical (132 points here after 130 vs. UCONN). Things are calming down with Pitt still a touch overrated.
*Pittsburgh (-16) won at home vs. DePaul 93-55
Pitt drew the doormat of the Big East in their last game, and obliterated them. Not sure what that means in the big picture because the size of blowout margins are often determined by the mood of the team or the coach that day. This did lift Pittsburgh from 1-5 ATS as Big East favorites to 2-5 ATS as Big East favorites.
That brings us up to Monday Night, where Pittsburgh is a dog against the Louisville team that has shockingly lost three straight games after reaching #1 in the AP Poll. Let’s see how these two teams stack up amongst the best in the Big East in the computers.
BIG EAST COMPUTER RANKINGS
Louisville: #4 with Pomeroy, #6 with Sagarin
Pittsburgh: #6 with Pomeroy, #12 with Sagarin
Syracuse: #8 with Pomeroy, #7 with Sagarin
Cincinnati: #18 with Pomeroy, #17 with Sagarin
Marquette: #29 with Pomeroy, #22 with Sagarin
Georgetown: #37 with Pomeroy, #23 with Sagarin
Notre Dame: #47 with Pomeroy, #31 with Sagarin
Connecticut: #49 with Pomeroy, #38 with Sagarin
That’s eight teams who all register as top 50 in both computers…and who all are expected to earn invitations to the Big Dance come March. Note that Sagarin would have all of these teams in his top 40, as his ratings give more respect to that second hunk of teams. It’s amazing that Sagarin has all eight of those teams in his top 38, when last week’s AP poll had Pittsburgh way down at #38!
Note that Villanova isn’t included because their historic week hasn’t put them on the right side of the bubble yet. Pomeroy still has them down at #67 as of Sunday afternoon, while Sagarin’s friendlier gradings for the Big East have them at #51.
Did that help solve our Pittsburgh mystery? Not really!
Pittsburgh grades out as #2 or #3 in the Big East in the two computer approaches. Yet:
*They haven’t played Louisville yet (that test is Monday Night)
*They haven’t played Syracuse yet
*They lost at home to Cincinnati
*They lost at home to Marquette
The Panthers are 0-2 straight up and ATS within the top four even though both games were at home. The evidence that’s boosting Pittsburgh into the stratosphere comes from blowout victories over lesser teams. As handicappers, you’ll have to decide whether that means they’ll be in trouble vs. a quality team like Louisville…or poised to pound a slumping team on a downhill slide. And, as every marquee matchup over the next month is a potential litmust test for the tournaments, you need to be paying close attention so you’ll know whether to back or fade each of these two teams in the Big East tourney and the Big Dance.
JIM HURLEY has been studying this matchup very closely because he knows how important Mondays are to your bankroll. He watched every second of Louisville’s loss to Georgetown this past Saturday, and found a key he thinks will rule the day here. You can purchase BIG MONDAY here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask how you can add the Super Bowl to any basketball package.
Other games of interest for us tonight include Kansas at West Virginia in Game Two of the TV doubleheader, and Houston at Utah in the NBA in a game that has playoff race implications for those teams and the big name stars behind them in the current Western Conference standings.
Back with you tomorrow with more basketball coverage. Big things are happening EVERY DAY in both college and pro basketball, so you owe it to yourself to be here with us in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s REALLY happening. Our in-depth stat preview for the Super Bowl will run later this week. Whether it’s basketball or football, don’t make a move until you hear WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!