Everything was going well for Mick Cronin and the Cincinnati Bearcats when the 2012-13 college basketball betting campaign started.The 'Cats raced out to a perfect 12-0 start that lifted them to No. 8 in the country just before the Christmas break.
Life has been anything but sweet for Cincinnati since then, however, with five losses in 11 games, the most recent setback this past Wednesday at Providence where shooting woes continued for the Bearcats. That's the bad news.
The good news is despite a 6-4 record in the Big East, the conference race remains wide open with a month to go with nine teams separated by just two games. The Bearcats will also enjoy their next three games at home inside Fifth Third Arena where they are 10-3 this season.
It all starts Saturday when the Pittsburgh Panthers come to town for a critical Big East battle. And a battle is exactly what is expected as a quick check of SBR betting odds shows the Bearcats to be slight favorites of 1 to 1.5 points at various betting outlets. The scoreboard tally is set at 123.
Pitt Playing With Revenge In Rematch With 'Cats
Saturday marks Pitt's first trip to Cincinnati in more than three years, which was also the last time the Panthers were listed as underdogs vs. the Bearcats. While it has been several years since they set foot on this court, the Panthers have seen Cincinnati already this season with the schools opening their Big East schedules against one another on New Year's Eve.
Jamie Dixon's troops were 6 point favorites at home in Pittsburgh that evening, came out strong and took a 7 point advantage into the locker room. Cincinnati's couldn't buy a bucket for most of the first nine minutes of the game when the 'Cats converted just one field goal attempt.
The second half was an entirely different story. Cincinnati clawed back to tie it midway through the final stanza, and used a 12-2 spurt to assume command and never look back.
Neither team could sink a long-range jumper in the first meeting as the Bearcats netted just 3-of-16 attempts from beyond the arc while the Panthers were shut out on a 0-for-10 performance. Pitt isn't a strong 3-point shooting team to begin with, and doesn't rely on the bombs to begin with. But the Panthers will need to at least make a few in this game if they are going to exact some revenge.
Pitt also left 10 points on the free-throw line where Cincinnati outscored the Panthers 25-15. Lamar Patterson and Steven Adams played much of that game in foul trouble, and that hurt Pittsburgh on the glass, something they can't do against a solid rebounding team like the Bearcats.
Bearcats After Third Straight Win In Series
Cincinnati's victory a few weeks ago gave the Bearcats a 9-8 lead in the all-time series vs. Pittsburgh, and also their second consecutive cover as the underdogs. Cronin's squad has struggled to cover spreads at home this season, however, with a 2-8 ATS record at Fifth Third Arena.
The Bearcats are also 0-4 ATS as home favorites against Big East teams, and have failed to cover their last six on this floor, each time giving up points. Pitt comes in 3-2 straight up on the Big East highway, and has covered three of its last four away from home in conference play.
Cincinnati has been a strong UNDER team this season, and the last three for the Panthers have also failed to reach the total. But this series has trended OVER in recent years with six of the last seven skipping above the tally, and that is the way I'll play this one in my basketball picks today.
NCAA Basketball pick: Pitt-Cincinnati OVER 123 at The Greek.