Opinion on the idea of the First Four matchups aside, it’s an exciting opening night matchup when the Pittsburgh Panthers take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a battle to advance as an 11 seed. The Bulldogs and their tenacious defense are currently the favorite, sitting at -2. With Pittsburgh’s offense being able to give them fits with their scoring versatility, my prediction is that the over of 132.5 cruises to the ticket window.
Pittsburgh Vs. Mississippi State Prediction
You almost have to feel bad for Pittsburgh. Once having an opportunity for the top seed of the ACC tournament, bumping down to fifth, and now having to get through the play-in game for March Madness. A brutal ending to the Pittsburgh season, yet hope still shines at the end of the tunnel as they have the offensive scoring versatility to get past the Bulldogs vaunted defense. Their defense is a cause for concern, yet plays right into our over tickets hands as the Bulldogs will need all the help they can get to do their part for our over.
It’s a matchup that features a contrast of styles as Pittsburgh ran as a very efficient offensive unit while struggling on defense and Mississippi State has been the complete opposite. Pitt’s offense clocked in at 24th in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom, playing a spread out style with heavy guard play. That guard play is crucial against the Bulldogs sixth ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, stretching them out towards the perimeter and opening up gaps in the interior.
That battle at the perimeter will be a key metric to watch as the Bulldogs clock in as one of the best perimeter defenses. They hold opposing offenses to 30.8% from three, good for 27th best in the nation per TeamRankings. The issue for them is that they have reeled mightily in that area, slipping to 34% in their last three contests. Still an impressive defensive metric, yet nowhere near as elite as it once was.
Should Blake Hinson and Jamarius Burton get cooking early, the Bulldogs will have no other option but to creep up. Hinson especially, shooting an astonishing 38.4% from deep. Once that happens, Pitt will find more success in their screens across the middle to get higher-quality looks at the rim for better scoring opportunities. Burton plays as more of a slashing guard, shooting nearly 50% in the interior while also being able to facilitate back out towards the perimeter for an open shooter.
Pittsburgh Vs. Mississippi State Prediction: Over 132.5
Pittsburgh Vs. Mississippi State Odds
Oddsmakers have this as an exciting night cap for our Tuesday viewing pleasure, opening Pittsburgh as a +0.5 underdog. Bettors were quick to hammer the Bulldogs, taking them up to -2.5 as of writing. Any value in Mississippi State has been zapped as this number is now in line with projections, making this a pass for me. Offense has been an issue for Miss State, now getting the opportunity to bounce back against a weak Panthers defense.
Speaking of offense, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 132.5. Bettors have slowly backed the over, taking it up to as high as 133.5 in some shops. This has been an odd one to track as this has opened as high as 135 in Kambi books, yet still can find the opening number in most shops. Not exactly a middle opportunity with a two-point cushion, yet worth monitoring to say the least.
Pittsburgh Vs. Mississippi State Key Matchups
Tolu Smith vs Pittsburgh interior defense
Almost any and all problems for the Bulldogs can be pinpointed towards their offense as this unit was brutally bad all season. They finished the year 142nd in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, as well as shooting a laughable 26.6% from the perimeter.
Tolu Smith has been their lone highlight as the only player to average more than double digits in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game. He gets an opportunity to make a statement in this one, attacking the pedestrian Panthers defense.
Should Smith command attention up top, he can use his playmaking ability to shift the defense and hit his players in stride. With higher quality shooting opportunities should come with a higher chance of scoring success.
WHAT AN ENDING!! Tolu Smith puts up a Game Winning layup with 4.1 seconds left and (9) Mississippi State beats (8) Florida 69-68 in OT to advance to the SEC quarterfinals
— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) March 9, 2023
Take the over at no higher than 133.5 as this game should see an uptick in points due to Pitt’s versatility in scoring than what Mississippi State’s defense is accustomed to.