Pittsburgh faces Xavier in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Pitt is coming off a blowout win against Iowa State, while Xavier escaped against Kennesaw State at the last second. My prediction is that Pitt covers the 5-point spread and potentially wins outright against Xavier. Pitt was the best candidate to advance more out of the First Four because of their offense, and Xavier’s defense is a concern. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for this game!
Pittsburgh vs. Xavier Prediction
Pitt was a team that was inconsistent all year, but when they were on they looked great and they have a decent matchup here against Xavier.
Pitt’s lead by Jamarius Burton in the backcourt this season. He’s tied for the lead in scoring at 15 points per game and in steals at 1 per game. Blake Hinson is a great wing player for the Panthers and can do it all too. He averages 15 PPG and leads the team in rebounding at 6 per game. Nelly Cummings and Greg Elliott are the only other players that average in double figures in scoring. Cummings scores 11 PPG and leads the team in 5 assists per game. Greg Elliott then averages 10.5 PPG too.
Pitt’s been solid on both offense and defense this year due to their depth with four players averaging double figures. They score 75 PPG and give up 69 PPG on defense.
On the other side, Xavier has been very good in Sean Miller’s first season back as the head coach.
The Musketeers go as Souley Boum goes this season. He leads the team in scoring at 16.5 PPG, in assists at 4 per game, and in three-point shooting at 41.8%. Colby Jones has been great next to Boum this season too in the backcourt. He averages 15 PPG on the season. With Zach Freemantle out due to injury, Jack Nunge has had to step up and do more and he has so far. He averages 14 PPG and leads the team in rebounding at 8 per game and in blocks at 1.2 per game. Adam Kunkel provides some much needed help in the backcourt and can shoot it well too. He averages 10 PPG and 39.7% from three-point range.
This is going to be an offensive force of a game because of how well each team can score. Pitt’s going to keep this game close because of the Xavier’s defense, and I might pick them to win outright. The versatility of Pitt’s offense with their guards and wings might be the difference and this is where Zach Freemantle being out comes back to haunt the Musketeers. Pitt wins a very close game to go to the Sweet 16.
Pittsburgh vs. Xavier Prediction: Pitt +5
Pittsburgh vs. Xavier Odds
Xavier is a 5-point favorite against Pitt and is at -210 on the money line. The over/under is also listed at 151.5. Xavier being favored makes sense because they’re the better team and the higher see, even though they struggled in their last game. The over/under also makes sense even if it seems high because both of these teams can really score and struggle at times on defense. This spread should also stay where it’s at before tip-off too.
Pittsburgh vs. Xavier Key Matchups
Can Adam Kunkel matchup with Jamarius Burton? Can Nelly Cummings matchup with Souley Boum?
Jamarius Burton vs Adam Kunkel
Jamarius Burton has been great for Pitt this season. He averages 15 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds per game for the season. He’ll be matched up against Adam Kunkel most of the game, who averages 10 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game for the season. Kunkel has been solid this year, but Burton is a difficult matchup. Burton is the best individual player for the Panthers and is a huge reason why I like my prediction of the Panthers to cover the 5-point spread.
Souley Boum vs Nelly Cummings
Souley Boum has been the best player for Xavier this year. He averages 16.5 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds per game for the season. He’ll be matched up against Nelly Cummings most of the game, who averages 11 points, 5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game for the season. Cummings has been very good for the Panthers, but Boum is on another level of competition. Boum is the best player for Xavier, but I still think Pitt’s combination of length and guards on offense is enough for them to cover.