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This is one of the more interesting lines of the opening rounds as Pittsburgh comes in as -4.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook and SBO.com. While many people think they are under seeded at the eight spot, it should be noted that Wichita State has a higher RPI for what it's worth.
The Panthers started the season better than most expected, but once they hit the Big East, it's been mostly up and down for them. Their best win out-of-conference is either Lehigh or Detroit, while they only lost by five points to Michigan. In their first tourney game, they caught a Syracuse team that was out to prove they weren't in a funk. How much can you trust a team without a dominant player, especially in the NCAA Tournament?
Luckily for them, Wichita State is a very similar team. The difference for the Shockers is that their schedules were the opposite. WSU played a harder out-of-conference schedule, beating Iowa and Southern Miss in neutral sites while winning at VCU. Of course, they also finished with the same conference record as Pitt even though they competed in the Missouri Valley and have losses to Southern Illinois and Evansville (twice).
Both teams attack the glass, have balanced scoring and play in your face defense. Both teams can go 10 deep on their bench which you don't see too often. Both teams are led by senior point guards that run the show, Tray Woodall for Pitt and Malcolm Armstead for Wichita State. Even with all of these similarities, the Panthers are five-point favorites, all because they played in a better conference.
Woodall is joined by Lamar Patterson on the offensive end, their only other scorer in double-digits. While most of the scoring comes from guard play on these two teams, the more interesting battle may take place down low. Big men Steven Adams and Talib Zanna lead Pittsburgh in rebounding with just over six per game. The two will likely have to deal with Ehimen Orukpe and Carl Hall for the majority of the game. If Pitt does put Zanna on Hall, he's going to have to play tough because Hall is one of the Shockers best scorers and is very active on both ends of the floor.
Off the bench, Cleanthony Early is a difference maker for Wichita State as he actually leads the team in scoring and is their second best rebounder even though he's averaging less than 25 minutes per game. Pitt doesn't have a player like that which is why they've had offensive problems throughout the year.
Pittsburgh missed out on the tourney last year while Wichita State lost as the No. 5 seed against VCU. The Shockers lost a lot of players from that team so you can't really compare the two. Plus, Armstead didn't even play last season as he was a transfer from Oregon.
We've run this game through our model using stats from the entire season, the last 5 games and the last 7 games. Three different predictions based on different periods of time. You can get all of our predictions for all of the tournament games, including the NIT and CBI, as well as our Key Releases thru the final 4. Details here.
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