South Region NCAA Tournament Picks: (8) Colorado Buffaloes vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers
Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada
The Colorado Buffaloes finished 23-11 with a 10-8 record in Pac-12 play, but the Buffaloes lost badly to Arizona last time out, 63-43. Taking on a tough ACC team in Pittsburgh is unlikely to reverse that fortune according to college basketball oddsmakers at Bovada. Pitt is favored by 6.5 points in second round action
Pitt finished the season 25-9 and held its own in the tough ACC, posting an 11-7 conference record. The Panthers nearly were able to take the ACC crown, defeating then-No. 15 North Carolina before falling 51-48 to Virginia. The Panthers, though, have seemingly got it right when it matters most after struggling through the month of February, going 3-4.
The Panthers have a focused offense that results in a lot of good shots. The team ranked 79th in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 46.1 percent. Lamar Patterson is Pitt’s leading scorer at 17.6 points per game. The 6’5″ senior forward is a very good, well-rounded player. He also averaged 4.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game while hitting nearly 40 percent from three-point range, and shooting them at volume (5.7 attempts per game). Patterson struggled in both of Pitt’s last two contests, though, hitting just 10-of-26 from the floor. Prior to that, he had been on a tear, scoring 54 combined points against Wake Forest and Clemson (30 points on 10-of-19 shooting against Clemson).
The Panthers also have some toughness on the interior in the form of 6’9″ Nigerian Talib Zanna. Zanna averaged 12.9 points per game and led Pitt in rebounding with 8.8 boards per game, while also coming up with 1.4 combined steals/blocks. He doesn’t take a lot of shots, but he hits the ones he does attempt, at a 57.5 percent clip.
Colorado may be closely matched in seeding with Pitt, but the numbers don’t really back up that assertion. The Buffaloes shot poorly this season (43.7 percent) and don’t have a particularly effective offense, ranking 187th of D-1 schools in scoring (70.9 points per game). The Buffaloes are a strong rebounding team, but a lot of that is the result of offensive rebounding its own poor shooting. The team finished 2-6 against ranked opponents, and while Pitt may not be quite of that caliber (debatable), Colorado’s record is pretty inflated by its weak opening schedule. Outside of Baylor and Kansas, the Buffaloes faced very JV-like competition.
Colorado does have a balanced attack. Four Buffaloes average double-figure scoring, paced by Spencer Dinwiddle’s 14.7 points per game. Dinwiddle, though, is out for the season with a knee injury. It’s a big loss for the Buffaloes because the 6’6″ senior had made genuine improvements in his final NCAA season.
Josh Scott will be relied upon heavily in his stead. Scott averages 14.1 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game, and also shoots an outstanding 51 percent from the floor. His size could give Pitt problems, at 6’10″ 245 pounds, he is a force on both ends of the court, averaging 8.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Even so, Scott is the Buffalo shooting over 50 percent from the floor and the Buffaloes’ second-leading scorer, Askia Booker, shoots under 40 percent from the floor, while also attempting 12.3 shots per game. Booker shoots just 27 percent from three point range, yet still attempts nearly four per game. While this game may not be a complete blowout, the Buffaloes will need just about everything to go its way to come out on top against a tougher team from a stronger conference.
PITT Trends: 2-6 ATS in last 8 vs. Pac-12; OVER 8-3 in last 11 neutral site games.