College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Pitt vs. West Virginia: Expect Defense First in Morgantown
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- West Virginia only beat Oakland by seven in its opener despite forcing 25 turnovers and limiting Jalen Moore to four points.
- Meanwhile, Jeff Capel and Pitt flopped in their first game, as the Panthers lost to The Citadel at home.
- Charlie Disturco breaks down the matchup and offers up his best bet.
Pitt vs. West Virginia Odds
-109o / -109u
|West Virginia Odds|
-109o / -109u
Pittsburgh makes the trek to West Virginia looking to bounce back after a brutal season-opening loss to The Citadel.
The Panthers were stunned Tuesday night, trailing for all but one minute in a blowout 15-point loss. The program is in disarray, so much so that following the loss, 2022 top-50 recruit Judah Mintz decommitted. Pittsburgh is a young team and this season seems like one that will be filled with growing pains.
Meanwhile, West Virginia edged out Oakland by seven in its season opener. While the outcome was never in doubt, the Mountaineers’ once-devastating offense seems to have dissipated without Derek Culver and Miles “Deuce” McBride.
Friday provides an opportunity for West Virginia to make a statement after a sluggish performance against the Golden Grizzlies, while Pittsburgh looks to find anything positive in a disastrous start to the year.
Pittsburgh is spiraling downward and fast.
Head coach Jeff Capel needs to stabilize the Panthers’ program before it nosedives into uncharted territory. Five of his best players from a season ago are either injured or no longer with the team, leaving Capel with an extremely thin rotation just one game into the season.
It started with Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney — both announced their intent to transfer in late February. Justin Champagnie followed by declaring for the NBA draft.
To make matters worse, senior Nike Sibande tore his ACL and Ithiel Horton, who was expected to take the lion’s share of the offense this season, was suspended indefinitely after being arrested on multiple charges.
All that to say that the Panthers are in trouble and the depth is non-existent. Femi Odukale is a player to keep an eye on this season for Pitt. The 6-foot-5 point guard has high upside and scored 20 points against The Citadel.
He’s joined by sophomore big John Hughley, who was one of the few bright spots from Pitt’s season opener. The former top-100 recruit, per 247Sports, scored 27 points and added 10 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Hughley should post similar numbers against smaller frontcourts, but being able to replicate this performance against Power-5 opponents will be crucial for Pitt.
Capel also added three transfers this offseason: Jamarius Burton (Texas Tech), Daniel Oladapo (Oakland) and Mouhamadou Gueye (Stony Brook).
Burton missed the season opener and remains out after undergoing knee surgery in October, while Oladapo and Gueye will provide instant height and should shore up the paint on defense. Gueye took home America East Defensive Player of the Year honors last season.
If Pittsburgh stands any chance of pulling off the upset against West Virginia, it’ll be on Odukale.
West Virginia’s identity is set to change after last year, when it finished 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Mountaineers return just under 50 percent of their minutes, per Bart Torvik, with their two biggest losses being leading scorers Culver and McBride.
Instead of offense being their strong suit again, defense will drive this team to the finish line.
To adjust for the loss of McBride, head coach Bob Huggins dipped his hands into the transfer portal, snagging Old Dominion’s Malik Curry.
While Curry is not McBride, his quickness and ability to create his own shot should lead to open looks for Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman. Last season, the two guards provided instant offense and helped stretch the floor — a key cog in WVU’s overall offensive turnaround from years prior.
Huggins also brings in bigs Dimon Carrigan (FIU) and Pauly Paulicap (DePaul). The two won’t provide the offense capabilities Culver did, but they’ll crash the boards, provide interior defense and bolster the depth for a Mountaineers frontcourt led by the versatile Gabe Osabuohien.
Even at 6-foot-7, Osabuohien can and will succeed in plenty of battles against bigger centers in the paint. He can guard every position on the floor and is a menace on the glass.
Returning forwards Jalen Bridges and Isaiah Cottrell will provide plenty of crucial minutes on the wing. Bridges slowly made his way into the Mountaineers’ lineup last year, while Cottrell rehabbed back from a torn Achilles in December.
Both will now serve as starters and be relied upon heavily on both sides of the floor.
In West Virginia’s season opener against Oakland, the offense struggled. But the defense held Oakland to just 35.5 percent shooting, 13 percent from 3 and forced 25 turnovers. The Mountaineers’ defensive pressure disrupted the Golden Grizzlies’ backcourt and should only improve as the season progresses.
There’s plenty of new faces for WVU and opportunities for others who barely played last season to step up in 2021-22. Huggins stressed defensive improvement this offseason, the key toward West Virginia returning to the NCAA Tournament once again in 2021-22.
Pitt vs. West Virginia Betting Pick
Pittsburgh is in free-fall mode and if it stands any chance to win, let alone cover against West Virginia, it’ll come down to the play of Odukale.
The last starting point guard to face WVU? Oakland’s Jalen Moore, who went 2-of-16 shooting and had 13 turnovers.
Now Odukale is definitely more talented than Moore, but the on-ball pressure that WVU deploys will slow down this Panthers offense and leave them desperately trying to create open looks that likely won’t come.
On the flip side, West Virginia’s offense is going to take time to adjust and gel. They don’t have McBride to create and can’t rely on Culver inside.
Instead, they have to find new ways to work in Sherman and McNeil. Against a bad Oakland defense at home, West Virginia mustered up just 60 points. It struggled from 3 and only scored 22 points off 25 turnovers.
The two teams combined for 123 points in their season opener, both against lesser defenses. I expect this to be a slow-paced game, featuring a lot of defense and points coming at a premium.
I don’t think the line has adjusted enough yet for how different this WVU offense is from a season ago, and I’ll be looking to play plenty of unders from both Pittsburgh and West Virginia early this season.