East Region NCAA Basketball Picks: Grab Wisconsin +1.5 vs. Pittsburgh

Joe Gavazzi

Friday, March 18, 2016 2:15 PM GMT

At 6:50 ET this evening, the Pitt Panthers of the ACC (the No. 10 seed) take on the Wisconsin Badgers of the Big 10 (the No. 7 seed). Who will be our sharp NCAA tournament pick?

Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin 
The aura of Jamie Dixon and his former Big East Panthers is quickly fading. After a 19 win season of last year and 21 wins this year, the record of the Panthers is a long way from their 25+ win seasons of the Big East, when they used to “bully” teams into submission with their grab and hold defense. An argument could be made that the new rule changes have hurt Pitt as much as any major school. The Panthers started the year with an experienced triumvirate of PG Robinson, wingman Artis and interior force, Young. Along with quality reserves and the experience of Dixon, that should have been enough to carry the Panthers far. As usual, they devoured an early season schedule of creampuffs. 

But, the reality is that this team is just 10-10 SU since the start of ACC play in January. Though they are an efficient offensive team averaging 76 PPG on 46% shooting with 16.9 assists per game and 75% accuracy from the stripe, there has been a major defensive decline. A Pitt team, who normally held opponents to 60 PPG and under 40% from the field, this year allows 68 PPG and 44%. Even worse, they are forcing only 11.6 TOs per game. A victory today would have us looking against them in a major way in their Saturday hookup with Xavier.  

Interim Wisconsin HC Gard did a fabulous job picking up the pieces after the resignation of Bo Ryan in December. Remember, this is a Wisconsin team that began the season losing (69-67) as a 26 point home favorite to a W. Illinois team, who finished the year with 10 victories. Behind the leadership of Koenig on the perimeter, Hayes on the wing and the emergence of Happ up front, this is a (5.1) 3* fundamental team who emerged from the Big 10 wars with a 12-6 SU record. Lone concern maybe the satisfaction of their success, as Wisconsin enters on a 0-2 SU ATS slide, including a QF CCT loss to Nebraska, after Gard learned he had gotten the full time job.  Nonetheless, we will have no part of the Panthers today!      

I invite you to put the NCAA tournament odds in your favor and join me in my NCAA tournament pick on Wisconsin tonight.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Wisconsin +1.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle