Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Pittsburgh Panthers (-10.5, 122.5)
Barring a major collapse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh can expect to be two of the 68 teams to have their names announced during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on March 17. Monday's meeting in Pittsburgh, though, could prove crucial as the winner would likely have the inside track to a better seed. But first, the Fighting Irish and Panthers are tied for fifth at 8-5 in the congested and competitive Big East, where a top-10 finish earns a first-round conference tournament bye and winding up in the top four comes with a double bye.
Both teams lost Saturday, with weary Notre Dame losing 71-54 at Providence and Pittsburgh falling at Marquette 79-69. The Fighting Irish have played three overtime games in their last five contests, including their epic five-OT victory over Louisville on Feb. 9, so Monday's quick turnaround - their third game in six days - is sure to test their fitness. The Panthers, who have won four straight Big East games at home, prevailed 62-52 at Cincinnati on Feb. 9 in their previous game prior to Saturday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (20-6, 8-5 Big East): Coach Mike Bray summed up Saturday's loss in which his team trailed by as many as 24 points: “That was the varsity versus the JV a little bit today.” Notre Dame lost its previous road game 63-47 at Syracuse on Feb. 4 after winning two straight away from home against DePaul and South Florida, who are a combined 3-22 in Big East games. Conference player of the year candidate Jack Cooley, a 6-9 senior forward, leads the team in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (11.2), and has recorded six consecutive double-doubles. Notre Dame, which has won four straight over Pittsburgh, has also received strong guard play from Jerian Grant (13 points, 5.8 assists) and Eric Atkins (11.7, 5.9).
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (20-6, 8-5): The Panthers can be excused somewhat for Saturday's loss, as Marquette has won 23 straight at home, and Pittsburgh certainly understands what it's like to dominate at home. The Panthers are 178-21 at their Petersen Events Center since it opened in 2002, including 10-2 this season. Pittsburgh averages 71 points, but hasn't scored more than 69 in its last five games. On Monday, the Panthers wrap up a stretch where they will have played five ranked opponents in their last six contests. Pittsburgh, though, sports the No. 1 scoring defense in the Big East at 55.4 points. Guard Tray Woodall (10.9 points), and forwards Lamar Patterson (10.5) and Talib Zanna (10.3) lead a balanced scoring attack.
* Fighting Irish are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Panthers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games following a S.U. loss.
* Underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
1. Ten of the 15 teams in the Big East are 7-6 or better in conference games.
2. Notre Dame is second in the country in assists at 17.9 per game, while Pittsburgh is tied for seventh at 17, led by Woodall's 5.5.
3. Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are 1-2 in the Big East in field goal percentage at 48.02 to 47.96.