Pitt vs. Wake Forest Pick – February 22nd

Iowa delivered us a much-needed overtime slump-buster, but we still have a lot of work to do in the final two weeks of the college hoops regular season and hopefully many more winners to stack up along the way.

Two teams whose long-lingering bubble status baffled fans were finally eliminated, like “Zombieland double-tap” eliminated, last night from at-large contention.  Indiana’s fifth straight loss officially sealed their (maybe) NIT fate, and Clemson is now 4-11 in ACC play after another tough, close loss.  Yes, it is the best and deepest conference in the country, but even if they ran the table, they’d finish 7-11 and there’s no way the Committee gives them a pass.

It’s a big night on ESPN with some of the more glamorous brands in college hoops in action.  Syracuse visits Duke in a battle of ACC foes and Team USA coaches, followed by Louisville at North Carolina in a Top Ten battle with major ACC regular season implications.  If the ACC isn’t your thing, check out Butler at Villanova on FS1 or Oregon at Cal (sneaky good game) on ESPN2.

Let’s get to today’s action.

Today’s College Basketball Pick:

 Pitt Panthers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons -6

The whole “Pitt is terrible” narrative never quite jived for me.  Sure, they lost eight straight ACC games at one point, but they weren’t ever a “free win” the way the bottom of most major leagues offer.  This is a team with wins over Virginia, Penn State, Marquette and a road win at Maryland, so “bad” was never an accurate moniker.

And suddenly, “good” might be.  The Panthers have won three of four including victories over a surging Syracuse team and a commanding 14-point win over Florida State.  Those two wins were at home, and tonight is a road game, but Pitt has been solid on the road as well.  They won recently at BC (no big deal) and their last four road games were losses to Duke, Carolina, NC State and Louisville by a combined 19 points.  Even at their worst, Pitt is pretty competitive most nights.

The improvement for Wake Forest has been substantial this year too, but I think they are going to finish JUST on the wrong side of the bubble.  They have a mirroring 15-12 record with Pitt and are a decent 6-9 in ACC play.  But they don’t have the WINS needed to get over the hump.  Their best conference win is Miami or Georgia Tech, both at home, and their best non-con win was at Richmond.  In fact, if you look at overall strength, it is hard to make a real compelling argument they are ahead of Pitt.

I think tonight should be a good game and that people are sleeping a little on Pitt because of the ugly conference record.  Again, they’ve won three of four and competed against the nation’s elite teams in their own gyms.  Wake is certainly a good and capable team, but they are not on a plane with Duke, UNC or Louisville.  I think tonight’s line is expecting them to perform like the three aforementioned squads.

I’m not calling a Pitt moneyline upset, but the six points makes them my favorite value on tonight’s awesome slate of action.

Today’s Pick:  Pitt Panthers +6