Pittsburgh +1 at Butler O/U 127.5
I’ll buck the line move here which probably had everything to do with perceived line value when it opened. It’s true that Pittsburgh was a shell of its former self during the regular season, but now things have changed. Head coach Jamie Dixon has kept an upbeat mantra all season and after finally practicing with his full contingent of players for the very first time last week, Pitt looks more like the team we all expected. Through the first two rounds of this CBI Tournament, the Panthers have obliterated their foes by an average score of 81.5-62.0. Their FG% shooting margin of +17.5% (53.6%-39.1%) in those games is excessively good. The Panthers have the look of a hot and confident team right now which by the way, will be seeking revenge tonight for last year’s closing 1.4 seconds of NCAA Tournament debacle. Butler got the win that that night en-route to their NCAA Championship appearance and they too have turned the corner somewhat on a disappointing 2011-12 regular season. The difference is, Butler never got over the hump this year with all of their pieces in the lineup. The Bulldogs’ CBI victories over Delaware and Pennsylvania aren’t nearly as impressive as those of Pittsburgh when you notice that their FG% margin is -2.0%. Butler’s 41.0% and 37.7% from the field against those smallish squads indicates their season long shooting woes have not gone away. Perimeter defensive wizard Ronald Nored has been able to lead the defensive charge as Delaware’s #1 scoring option Devin Saddler and Penn’s #1 option Zach Rosen were held to 10 and 11 points respectively on combined 5-of-17 shooting. Expect Nored to be assigned to Pittsburgh’s leading scorer Ashton Gibbs here but the Panthers interior duo of Lamar Patterson and Nasir Robinson (50 points, 30 rebounds in CBI) present an imposing interior challenge neither Delaware or Pennsylvania possessed. With that huge advantage through their first two games now neutralized, just can’t see Hinkle Fieldhouse being enough (Butler 6-8-1 ATS at home) in this spot. Pittsburgh has the better overall personnel and they’re playing with a purpose (getting to Big East mega stage Madison Square Garden would be huge for them) which makes +1 worth taking here.