Saturday evening in CBB will see the 23rd ranked Louisville Cardinals travel to Pennsylvania to take on the unranked Pittsburgh Panthers. The game is scheduled for a 9:00 pm tipoff and will be televised live on Espn. Currently Pittsburgh is favored by 3 points with the total being set at 128.5 for this game. Still searching for their first Big East Conference win of the season, the Pittsburgh Panthers will give it another try tonight as they play host to the 23rd-ranked Louisville Cardinals.
Free Analysis: Louisville opened the season a perfect 12-0, but the team has stumbled since the start of conference play, winning just two of its first six league bouts. The Cardinals are playing their second straight road game tonight, and they dropped a 74-63 decision to No. 21 Marquette this past Monday to fall to 14-5 overall and 2-3 in true road tests. The Cards lost more than the game against Marquette, as Rakeem Buckles (4.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg) suffered a serious knee injury and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. The low point oif this season for Louisville has to be the 31-point beatdown they suffered at the hands of lowly Providence, when the Cardinals got run off the floor on the same day Providence honored Pitino for leading the program to the Final Four 25 years ago. Pitino points to the injuries for their struggles of late with a list that includes Buckles, swingman Kyle Kuric and freshman point guard Kevin Ware - and he grows ornery when asked whether his practices may be too tough for their own good. Through 19 games, Louisville is averaging 70.7 ppg while permitting 61.6 ppg, but those numbers are reversed against Big East foes (67.3 ppg, 69.8 ppg). Kyle Kuric (13.0 ppg) continues to pace the club in scoring, and he has been even better in league play (15.0 ppg). Russ Smith has certainly made the most of his time on the floor, as despite starting just five total games and shooting below 38 percent from the floor, he is averaging 12.6 ppg. Chris Smith (10.5 ppg) and Gorgui Dieng (10.1ppg, 9.1 rpg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers. Pittsburgh's once-promising season has spiraled out of control, as the Panthers are 11-8 on the year and 0-6 in conference. A 59-54 home loss to Wagner on December 23 started the team on its current seven-game losing streak. The Panthers don't have as lengthy an injury list, but really all it's taken is one to do them in. Pitt has been out of sync since point guard Tray Woodall went out with groin and abdominal injuries in a victory over Duquesne at the end of November. Without their floor leader, the Panthers have looked lost offensively. Big East preseason player of the year Ashton Gibbs has struggled with an increased ballhandling workload and Pitt's shooting has been abysmal. Since Tray Woodall went out with a groin/abdominal injury last month, the Panthers have had difficulty scoring points. Except for an 84-81 loss at DePaul on January 5, Pittsburgh has been held to 63 points or fewer in five conference bouts, and to 59 points or fewer four times. They scored just 39 points in a January 11 home loss versus Rutgers. The Panthers are last in the league in conference play in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, numbers they hope to turn around with Woodall expected to play. Gibbs is the team's leading scorer with 16.5 ppg, but he has been successful on only 38.3 percent of his field goal attempts. He does have more than twice as many three-pointers (47) as anyone on the roster, and the team as a whole is hitting just under 35 percent of its long-range attempts. Nasir Robinson (12.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the only other active player averaging double digits in the scoring column, and he also serves as the team's top rebounder. The all-time series between Louisville and Pittsburgh is tied at 5-5, and the Cardinals have won three of the four prior meetings in the Steel City. Three of the last four encounters overall have gone to overtime.
Free Pick: Tray Woodall makes his return tonight and Pitt will be looking to avoid an 0-7 start in big East play, all with the ESPN Gameday crew at the game. This is a huge game for the Panther and the emotion in this building will be great, but we're gonna look to the under in this game. Tray is back yes, but it will take more than a game for him to be as effective as he was before his injury, especially vs this tough defensive minded Louisville squad. Pittsburgh has been held to 63 points or fewer in five conference bouts, and to 59 points or fewer four times and their low point came when they scored just 39 points in a January 11 home loss versus Rutgers. Louisville has struggles some on defense of late as they have allowed 69.6 ppg in their last 5 games, but on just 37% shooting and that helps us here as Pittsburgh has hit just 37.8% of their shots in their last 5 games. Louisville has had problems scoring on the road this year 65.2 ppg on 40.7 shooting, while Pittsburgh has allowed just 65.4 ppg on 42.6% shooting at home. Woodall's return does not mean that Pitt will go back to putting up 70+ ppg, especially vs Louisville. Pitt will look to their defense to control this game, while Louisville should have no problems keeping a weak shooting Pitt team under wraps.
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