It is another beautiful Saturday chalked full of college hoops action! As the calendar gets ready to turn to February, the conference races are really starting to heat up, as we inch closer to March! With the majority of the top-25 in action today, we are bound to see some upsets! The highlight of today with be the renewal of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
As is the case in most years, the Big 12 and the SEC are two of the best conferences in the nation, and they clash today in their annual challenge as the teams get a break from conference play. The early games are between Kansas State and Texas A&M and Oklahoma and Alabama. The game between the Sooners and the Crimson Tide is especially exciting as both teams are ranked in the top-25 nationally, and both teams come into today on fire.
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) January 30, 2021
The next slate of games features Texas Tech playing at LSU, Missouri hosting TCU, and the Florida Gators playing in Morgantown against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The evening games are even better as we have Baylor and Auburn squaring off in Waco, OK-State and Arkansas playing in Stillwater, and Iowa State and Mississippi State playing in Starkville. The night comes to a close with a blockbuster game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kansas Jayhawks from Knoxville.
The two leagues really outdid themselves this year, as these matchups are all sure to be competitive, and each of these teams will get one last chance of adding a signature non-conference win to their NCAA tournament resume. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to the ACC, where the Pitt Panthers host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-9) at Pitt Panthers (8-4)
- Peterson Center, Pittsburgh
- 5:00 PM PST
- TV: ACCN
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are looking to rebound after losing their last game, at home to the Virginia Tech Hokies tonight, as they head to Pittsburgh to play the Pitt Panthers. The Irish had a very slow start to their season, losing eight out of their first eleven games. Notre Dame did manage to win back-to-back games though, against Boston College and Miami, before losing to V-Tech in their last game. Wins have been hard to come by for Mike Brey’s team, and a win tonight on the road against Pitt would be one of thebest wins of the season for the Irish.
Primetime at The Pete.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 30, 2021
For Pitt, the Panthers are looking to snap a two-game losing streak tonight at home. The Panthers have a solid overall record at 8-4, and they have a winning record in ACC play at 4-3, but if the season were to end right now, the Panthers would likely be on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament. The Panthers have top-100 wins over Northwestern, Syracuse (twice), and Duke and would love to add another one to their record tonight against Notre Dame.
Pitt Panthers (8-4)
Looking ahead on the schedule for the Pitt Panthers, you see that they play five out of their next six games at home. The Panthers have upcoming home games against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, NC State, and Clemson, with a road game at Louisville squished in between. The Panthers at-large bid hopes are going to come down to this slate of games, and if Pitt can protect their home floor, they are going to be dancing in March. With the exception of the complete airball on opening night, where Pitt lost to St Francis, the Panthers have been solid at home with wins over Syracuse and Duke.
Justin Champagnie is probably the best player in the ACC you have never heard of. Champagnie has been absolutely dominant this season for Pitt, averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds a game. Against Duke, he smashed the Blue Devils for 31 points, 14 boards, and 5 blocks in the Panther’s upset victory. Against Syracuse, he had 24 and 16, and in two other games this year, he had 20/20 games with 24 and 21 against Gardner Webb and 20 and 20 against Northwestern. The sophomore forward from Brooklyn is playing himself into the NBA draft lottery conversation, and when he plays his best, nobody can stop him.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-9)
It has not been a fun year for Notre Dame. The losses are really starting to pile up for the Irish, and they don’t have a single victory over a team that is expected to make the NCAA tournament. They did save face with the recent ACC wins over BC and Miami, but at the end of the day, both of those teams are bad this year and likely won’t finish the season in the top-100.
Most of the losses for Notre Dame has come to good teams, as they have played a nasty schedule, ranked 11th toughest in the nation, but at some point, Notre Dame has to be able to win against good teams if they want to survive in the ACC. The Irish have faired somewhat decent on the road as they did beat Kentucky in Rupp Arena earlier this year, and while the Wildcats have a lot of talent, just about everybody is beating them this year, so that win hasn’t held up as the shocking upset we all thought it was early in the season.
Who Do I Like?
I think that Pitt is going to sneak into the NCAA tournament with a strong finish. They have one of the biggest difference-maker players in the ACC in Justin Champagnie, and I see him having a big game tonight at home. At home this season, he has been a monster, averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. He has also found a 3-point stroke recently as he is shooting the lights out from deep all of the sudden, making 10 3’s in his last three games on blistering hot 66% shooting from the perimeter.
This line opened up with Pitt laying -5-points. That was a big number, as, despite their struggles to win games outright, the Irish have done a respectable job of keeping games competitive. The public thought that number was too high for Pitt, and they have been backing Notre Dame most of the morning. But as is almost always the case, the public has taken it too far, and now that the line has dropped down to below a full possession’s worth of points for the Panthers, I am going to back the home team.
This game is going to come down to whether or not Notre Dame’s efficient offense can score effectively against the hard-nosed D of Pitt and whether or not anybody on Notre Dame can slow down Justin Champagnie. I have a feeling we are going to see a huge game out of Champagnie as the Irish are one of the worst defending teams in the ACC. Assuming this kid continues tearing teams apart tonight against the Irish, the Panthers should have little risk of an outright loss.
And thanks to the betting public, who moved this line far enough towards the Panthers to be reasonable, I won’t need to lay much wood to back Pitt. So, that is just what I will do. Expect the Irish to hang around much of the evening before fading late, as Justin Champagnie rips off another double-double, and the Panthers take care of business at home. Give me the Pitt Panthers tonight, laying -2.5-points against an outmatched Notre Dame team. I’ll call the final score at 74-66 Pitt!