|Championship Week Picks and Predictions for Thursday March 12|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 12 March 2009 06:42|
Thursday NCAAB Picks
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, March 12.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh, 7:00PM ET
Pittsburgh's strong play in recent Big East tournaments has been overshadowed by its relative lack of success in NCAA tournaments.
While ending that run of frustration is their ultimate goal this spring, the Panthers don't plan on changing their approach to the conference tournament.
The Panthers - ranked second in the nation and seeded second in this tournament - begin their defense of their Big East tournament title when they meet West Virginia in a quarterfinals matchup Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Pittsburgh (28-3) has advanced to seven of the last eight Big East title games, winning two championships in that stretch. The Panthers, though, haven't played in an NCAA regional final since 1974. Their only Final Four appearance came 68 years ago.
The Panthers won last year's Big East tournament by taking four victories in four days. After that exhausting run, they managed to win just once in the NCAA tourney before getting eliminated by Michigan State.
Syracuse at Connecticut, 9:20PM ET
After ending the regular season on a disappointing note, Connecticut is eager to get back on the court. It may not be so thrilled to open the Big East tournament against Syracuse, however.
The No. 3 Huskies look to end a three-game tournament losing streak against the 18th-ranked Orange when the teams meet in Thursday night's quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden.
UConn (27-3) fell out of the top spot in the AP poll Monday after it finished the regular season Saturday with a 70-60 loss to then-No. 3 Pittsburgh. It was the Huskies' second loss to Pittsburgh as the nation's top-ranked team.
Despite the disappointing finish, UConn begins the Big East tournament following a double-bye as it tries to snap a four-game Big East tournament losing streak. The Huskies lost to Syracuse (24-8) in the 2006 and 2007 tournaments, falling in overtime in 2006 as the No. 1 team in the country. They also opened the 2005 Big East tournament with a loss to the Orange.
Connecticut's most pressing task Thursday is to get off to a better offensive start than it did against the Panthers over the weekend. The Huskies, who are trying to make a case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, scored their fewest points and shot a season-low 37.7 percent in the loss.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 7:00PM ET
Although Oklahoma finished second in the Big 12 regular-season standings, it's considered a favorite for its first tournament title since 2003.
Blake Griffin's performance in his team's season finale might have a lot to do with that.
Griffin and the No. 6 Sooners open the Big 12 tournament on Thursday against Oklahoma State in the first meeting between the in-state rivals in Oklahoma City since 1942.
Oklahoma (27-4) finished the regular season winning two of three but it wasn't enough to catch Kansas, which finished one game ahead of the Sooners in the conference.
Oklahoma, though, has good reason to be confident about its prospects in the tournament. The Sooners closed the regular season with an 82-78 win over Oklahoma State (21-10) on Saturday, led by 33 points and 14 rebounds from Griffin.
Griffin, the unanimous Big 12 player of the year, suffered a concussion Feb. 21 in a loss to Texas and also missed the Sooners' loss to the Jayhawks two nights later. Griffin has averaged 23.0 points and 17.7 rebounds since returning and put together one of his best shooting performances of the season his last time out, going 12-of-15 from the floor.
NCAA Free Pick: Oklahoma – View Game Matchup | Best Line: -4.5 Sportsbetting
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Posted: 3/12/09 11:42AM ET