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NOTRE DAME AT PITTSBURGH

NCAA BASKETBALL PICKS

1/31/09

A wise man once told me that once you reach the top, it is impossible to forget the view. The Pittsburgh Panthers are currently ranked at #3, and havenít fallen very far. They only have two blemishes on their record, with both losses coming on the road. Those losses came to Louisville and Villanova. If they want to keep their hopes of winning the Big East alive, they must put away a wily Notre Dame Fighting Irish team that will enter the game after losing a tough one to #7 Marquette 71-64.


The Pittsburgh Panthers were widely hailed as the team to beat before suffering a loss at the hands of an underrated Louisville Cardinalís team. Despite that loss they are still very tough and could still end up a #1 seed come tournament time. Their best wins include road wins over West Virginia, Florida State, and Georgetown. They will enter Saturdayís come after losing to #21 Villanova 67-57.


Notre Dame has dropped four consecutives games after starting the season off red hot. The losses came against Lousville, Connecticut, Marquette, and Syracuse. I canít really detract much from them because all of those teams are ranked #15 or higher, and the Fighting Irish played them close. Marquee wins this season have come against Georgetown and Texas.

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The hopes of the Fighting Irish may lay with Luke Harangody. The junior forward is averaging 25.0 PPG, and is dishing out 2 APG. He can clean the glass too, taking down 13.3 RPG. His 3PT% is very solid at 37.5%. Harangody has had at least one block in each of his last five games. He is better than 90% from the charity strike. When playing tough teams, he has been bringing his game, 29 against Marquette, and 31 versus Georgetown.


Harangody is only one man, and he will need help from his teammates. Likely candidates to put up points are Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson. Both are guards, and McAlarney is hitting threeís at an astonishing rate (46.4%), for an average of 16.2 PPG. Jackson can deal the ball to his colleagues, averaging 5.8 APG.
Pittsburgh didnít make the top 5 without having a few ballers of their own. You could choose several players as their best, but Iíll go with sophomore forward DeJuan Blair. His PPG is checking in at 14.7, and he is grabbing 12.7 RPG. He has been a bit cold lately, but should step his game up after his team has suffered only their second loss of the year. His best game was a 20 point, 17 rebound performance against the Hoyas of Georgetown.


Sam Young is a senior forward and a good leader on the court. His PPG is massive at 18.8, and he is getting 5.5 boards per game. While Blair has been a bit off lately, Young has been right on track. In his last five games he put up at least 14 points. Three pointers havenít been going down in the past few games, and he will need to correct that.


For the Fighting Irish to come out with a win, they will need production from their guards, and another big game from Harangody. I expect them to step on the court with blood in their eyes after suffering four losses in a row. I donít know if they will win straight up, but I HAVE to like them at +15 or so, which I believe the line will be. Itís hard to advertise Pittsburgh if the line is indeed that high. They are more likely to cover if the line is closer to 9, and I doubt it will be. Put your money on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, or sit this one out.

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