11/28/2009 12:00:00 AM
Eric Reveno and the Portland Pilots will try to make it a clean sweep as underdogs in the 76 Classic on Sunday when they meet No. 8 West Virginia.
West Virginia was expected to be in the finals of the 76 Classic. Portland was expected to be an opening tune-up for UCLA.
As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!"
The Pilots not only crushed the Bruins 74-47 as five-point pups in the opening round of the tourney out in Anaheim, they followed with a convincing 61-56 win over No. 22 Minnesota on Friday as 8 ½-point underdogs.
The run so far in this tournament left the Pilots 5-0 on the young season, covering all four of their lined games, winning three of them straight up on the short side of the lines.
Both of Portland's tournament games have remained on the low side, with totals closing at 137 and 139 ½ respectively. The Pilots held Tubby Smith's gang to just 20 of 60 from the field, three of 19 from 3-point land. UCLA was even worse in the opener, hitting just 32.7% (18-55) and sinking but five of 23 long rangers.
Portland's offense was also off a bit against the Gophers, hitting just over 39% from the field and eight of 25 from beyond the arc. But they managed to hit 17 of 21 from the line, pretty much the difference in the game with Minnesota missing nine of their 22 charity tosses.
The Pilots shot lights out in the opener against the Bruins, hitting 26 of 48 overall and making 11 of 19 threes. Senior guard T.J. Campbell leads Portland with 19 a game in this tournament, but it will be the play of fellow senior Nic Raivo that will make or break a Cinderella appearance for the little school of about 3,000.
But enough about Cinderellaalready; I always was keen on her wicked stepsisters anyway, and West Virginia is a wicked good squad. The Mountaineers opened this tournament with an 85-62 win against Long Beach State as 15-point chalk, then just missed the cover as 8 ½-point favorites in a 73-66 win over Texas A&M on Friday.
The Mountaineers never trailed against the 49ers on Thursday, leading by 16 at the half and up by as many as 28 at one point. Junior guard Casey Mitchell scored a personal--best 18 while playing just 15 minutes and West Va netted 12 of their 24 shots from beyond the arc.
On Friday, the Mountaineers fell behind by as many as six to the Aggies before Da'Sean Butler took over and scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the final 20 minutes. Devin Ebanks had 14 off the bench for WVU, perfect in five attempts from the free throw line and four of six from the field.
With the two wins, No. 8 West Virginia is 4-0 SU on the season, but just 1-3 ATS.
TheGreek and Bookmaker came out on Saturday evening with West Virginia favored by nine and that number dropping a half very quickly. Sunday's game will mark the first ever meeting between the two schools with ESPN2 broadcasting the contest starting at 10:00 p.m. (ET).