This part of the college basketball season is always chock full of non-conference tournaments and the four-team Legends Classic from Brooklyn tips off Wednesday.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Wednesday, November 16, 2022 – 06:00 PM EST at Barclays Center
ESPNU has the telecast of the first matchup of the Legends Classic between No. 20 Michigan of the Big Ten and Pittsburgh of the Big East. There are no odds available on which team will win this mini-tournament, but clearly the Wolverines would be favorites as the lone ranked school.
Michigan (2010, 2014) is in the Legends Classic for the third time and advanced to the championship game in 2014 but didn’t win. Pittsburgh competes for the third time (2008, 2013, 2017) and won it in 2008 and 2013. UM leads the all-time series 12-6, but they haven’t played in 10 years.
Like Coach, Like Son
Coach Juwan Howard’s Wolverines are 2-0 – both those games at neutral sites as well -- and junior center Hunter Dickinson might be the best player in the Big Ten this year as he’s averaging 26.5 points on 78.6% shooting from the field as well as 9.5 rebounds. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday and Jett Howard, son of the head coach, was named Freshman of the Week. He averaged 15.0 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his first career week.
Michigan plays up-tempo and really is a “position-less” team as several players will rotate and play multiple spots during a game. Two transfers are part of the rotation in Princeton’s Jaelin Llewellyn and Duke’s Joey Baker.
Pittsburgh won its first game easily against a cupcake but was trounced at home by West Virginia last Friday, 81-56, and I think that’s why this line is as high as it is. In the second half, the Panthers went nearly five minutes without a field goal, allowing the Mountaineers to extend a nine-point halftime lead. Overall, WVU shot 53% (30 of 57) from the floor and forced 19 Pittsburgh turnovers.
Pitt returns its top two scorers from a season ago in John Hugley IV (14.8 ppg.) and Jamarius Burton (12.4 ppg.). They combined for 42.9 percent of the team’s Panthers' scoring. Hugley IV is one of two returning ACC players (along with North Carolina's Armando Bacot) to average 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds or better per game last season. Newcomers have accounted for 96 of Pitt's 136 points this year.
Blake Hinson leads the team in scoring at 16.0 points per game, while Greg Elliott is third on the team at 11.5 points per game.
The Panthers have dropped three consecutive games against ranked opponents with the last victory an 83-72 win over No. 16 Virginia Tech Feb. 3, 2021.
Pitt is a very veteran team as Coach Jeff Capel started two sixth-year players (Nelly Cummings and Elliott) and two fifth-year players (Burton and Hinson) in the season opener. Michigan is giving too many points. The Wolverines are 1-7 ATS in their past eight after a win and Pitt is 9-4 ATS in its past 13 neutral-site games.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Wednesday, November 16, 2022 – 08:30 PM EST at Barclays Center
This matchup between VCU of the Atlantic 10 and Arizona State of the Pac-12 is being streamed on ESPN+. It’s the first meeting between the programs and ASU’s first game vs. a team from the Atlantic 10 since it defeated Rhode Island 94-88 in the season opener at the 2021 Empire Class.
VCU (2014, 2018) in this event for the third time and lost the title game in 2018. Arizona State plays it for a second time and lost in the 2015 title game.
Revenge Game On the Horizon?
The Rams won 22 games last year and lost in the second round of the NIT to Wake Forest. They were picked to finish third in the A-10 this year. Junior point guard Ace Baldwin Jr. was named the Atlantic 10's Preseason First Team and sophomore guard Jayden Nunn was named to the Preseason All-Conference Third Team. VCU has had little trouble this year in home wins over Manhattan and Morgan State.
I’m somewhat hoping that VCU and Michigan both win tonight so they can meet in the title game as VSU has two Michigan transfers: Leading scorer Brandon Johns (14.0 ppg) and Zeb Jackson (7.5 ppg). Sophomore guard Jamir Watkins missed the entire 2021-22 season with a torn ACL in his left knee but looks good early in averaging 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Defenders From the Desert
Arizona State, coached by former Duke star Bobby Hurley, won its first two games at home but was upset at Texas Southern on Sunday, 67-66 in overtime. Zytarious Mortle tipped in a missed shot with 5.6 seconds left and P.J. Henry stole the ball in the closing seconds for the Tigers.
ASU is a good defensive team as opponents are shooting just 25.4% from beyond the arc against the Sun Devils, who are averaging 7.3 blocks per game, which is the eighth-highest total in the country. ASU is one of four teams in the country to have three players with 4+ blocks.
There are a couple of injury notes for ASU: Jamiya Neal has yet to play and Marcus Bagley was out with a hip pointer against Texas Southern. Desmond Cambridge, who sat out the previous game with tendinitis in his knee, was back in the starting lineup but managed just two points and three assists.
While I think VCU wins, the best play for our NCAAB picks is the total here as I don’t believe the teams combine for even 130 points. VCU is always among the nation’s top defensive teams and is allowing just 55 points per game. The under is 4-1 in VCU’s past five after a win and 5-2 in ASU’s past seven overall.
NCAAB Pick: Under 136 (-110) at BetOnline
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.