NCAA Basketball Pick ATS: Pittsburgh to Cover +12.5 vs. Virginia, as Cavaliers Struggle without Top Scorer

Joe Gavazzi

Monday, February 16, 2015 3:36 PM GMT

Take advantage of this expert's free betting advice for one of tonight's closest NCAA Basketbal matchups, between the Pittsburgh Panthers & the Virginia Cavaliers. 

Pittsburgh vs. Virginia (-17) 700 ET ESPN
The Pitt Panthers travel to Virginia, Monday night, for this 7:00 ET tipoff on ESPN at the JP Jones Arena.  The contest features league leading Virginia, who has a 2 game lead (and tiebreaker advantage) over Notre Dame for the top spot.  The Cavaliers are 23-1 SU, including 11-1 SU in ACC play with their lone loss coming on this floor January 31st to Duke.  At 17-9 SU, 6-6 SU in league play, the Pitt Panthers have played themselves onto the bubble, with a recent string of home court success.  When these two met twice last year, Virginia prevailed (48-45) on this court and (51-48) at Pitt.  With the circumstances as outlined below, this figures to again be a closely fought game.

Check out our top NCAA Basketball picks of the day.

Virginia is unquestionably the best defensive team in the nation.  They allow foes just an average of 51 PPG and 36% from the field.  Credit 6th year HC Tony Bennett and his pack-line defense!  This is meant to pack 5 players inside the foul line, preventing touches in the painted area.  But, they close quickly to the 3 point line, when an opposing shooter is taking aim.  Clearly, it has been highly successful for Bennett in his tenure at Charlottesville.  Led by Brogdon and Perrantes, this is a Virginia team that plays with great chemistry and unity on both ends of the floor.  Since the Duke loss at the end of January, Virginia has reeled off 4 consecutive victories.  All, however, have been less than perfect for Virginia during this stretch.  Three games ago, Virginia lost their leading scorer, Justin Anderson, to a finger injury.  He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.   Virginia has won the 3 games in his absence, but those victories have come by a total of only 3 points over Louisville, NC State and Wake Forest.  Virginia was already beginning to be overpriced in NCAA Basketball odds, based on their 18-0 SU, 12-4 ATS start.  Tonight, they enter on a 1-5 ATS slide, failing to cover 3 consecutive games as home chalk, a role in which they were 41-25 ATS prior to that slide.  

This has been one of the most challenging seasons of all for 12th year Pitt HC Jamie Dixon.  In 10/11 previous years, Dixon guided the Panthers to the NCAA Tourney.  Following a stunning 70-67 loss at Virginia Tech on January 27th, the Panthers slipped to 13-8 SU, 5-14 ATS, including 3-5 SU in league play.  On the heels of that losing streak, Pitt has responded with a 4-1 SU, 3-1 ATS run.  They are now 6-6 SU in ACC play and are clearly on the bubble for NCAA consideration.  The Panthers will enter tonight with great confidence and motivation.  Confidence will come from the fact that in the last 2 weeks, Pitt defeated Notre Dame (76-72) and N. Carolina on Saturday (89-76).  In that contest, the Panthers shot 65% from the field and dished out 30 assists.  Much like Bennett, Pitt HC Dixon has built his program on the pillar of defense.  Though the Panthers have slipped a bit in that area this season (due to the lack of an interior presence), they nonetheless have maintained a solid record in the underdog role.  Under Dixon, Pitt is 51-29 ATS as dog to -1, as well as 28-14 ATS in the game following a double digit home victory.  Having lost twice last year by identical margins of 3 points, gives the Panthers not only the confidence to play with this team, but also the motivation of failing to beat them.  

Before placing your NCAA Basketball pick, understand that this double digit impost simply too many for a Pitt team, playing their best basketball of the season, and with great motivation, against a Virginia team who has struggled to create margins with the loss of their top scorer!

NCAA Basketball Picks: Take Pittsburgh +12.5 at BookMaker