Free NCAA Basketball Picks for Pittsburgh vs. Maryland

Willie Bee

Saturday, January 25, 2014 8:01 AM GMT

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 8:01 AM GMT

Jamie Dixon and the Pittsburgh Panthers had no problem with Maryland when the Terrapins visited Iron City a little less than three weeks ago. But will Pitt's first visit to College Park in more than 32 years provide an entirely different outcome for our college basketball picks?

Free NCAA Basketball Picks of the Day for Saturday

That's the question as the No. 20/19 Panthers prepare for a second contest this season against the Terps. ESPN2 provides the broadcast beginning at 6 PM (ET), and Pitt opened as 5.5 point chalk before that went quickly down to 4. We aren't seeing a total yet on SBR's live NCAA basketball odds, but expect it to be near the line for the previous meeting (135.5).

Pittsburgh cruised to a 79-59 win at home vs. Maryland on Jan. 6, easily covering a 9 point spread. It was still a close contest early in the second half before the Panthers took charge behind Lamar Patterson and Durand Johnson. The Terrapins had trouble keeping up with the quicker and more athletic Panthers, and shot themselves in the foot with 13 turnovers.

The final score just skipped 'over' the scoreboard hurdle, pushing the 138 point opener. It was the first time the schools met as conference foes, and Pittsburgh has now taken the last two meetings after Maryland won five of the first six in the series.

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Panthers Bounces Back From 1st ACC Loss

Pittsburgh (17-2 straight up, 6-8-2 against the spread) certainly didn't suffer any hangover after dropping its first and only loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference last weekend to Syracuse. The Panthers got right back into the win column on Tuesday with a dominating performance in a 76-43 victory at home vs. Clemson, hitting from all areas of the floor to triple-up the 11 point spread.

Talib Zanna led the way for Pitt with 22 points, missing just one of 10 field goal attempts while adding a pair of blocks and steals to his linescore. Just as they did against the Terps, Dixon's squad spread the floor to force Clemson defenders out a bit and open up the inside for Zanna, the Panthers passing it around to record two dozen assists. Pittsburgh leads the ACC with 17 assists per conference game.

The Panthers weren't able to do that against the Orange a week ago, nor were they able to spread things out with success in their only other loss of the season to Cincinnati at the Jimmy V Classic roughly five weeks ago. Those games are the only times this season Pitt didn't shoot at least 44% from the floor, and two of only three contests that ended with less than 73 Panther points on the scoreboard.

One key player missing for Saturday's rematch vs. Maryland is Johnson who proved so valuable for Dixon off the bench. The sophomore injured his knee in the win over Wake Forest just five days after helping Pitt beat the Terps, and will remain sidelined the rest of the season following surgery.

Terps In Spin With Three Defeats Last Four Games

Mark Turgeon would like to think playing at home provides his Maryland (11-8 SU, 8-7 ATS) squad with enough advantage to gain revenge over Pittsburgh, but he knows better after the Terrapins were embarrassed at Comcast Center by Boston University just before Christmas. In a game thought to be so one-sided the oddsmakers never released a spread, the Terriers raced to an early lead en route to an 83-77 upset.

Maryland appeared to have bounced back from that loss with three straight wins, but has since dropped three of four, including Monday's 65-56 setback at North Carolina State where the Terps were giving up two points. Turgeon's crew shot a season-low 31.4% from the floor vs. the Wolfpack who rallied from an 11-point second half deficit.

 I'm going to ride the Panthers as small road chalk for my free college basketball pick.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Pittsburgh -4

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