NCAA Basketball Picks: Pitt (+5.5) has a lot to Prove vs. Gonzaga

Joe Gavazzi

Friday, November 13, 2015 7:32 PM GMT

We kick off the 2015-16 NCAA Basketball season tonight with a massive slate of games. Our focus, however, is on an intrugiung matchup between Pittsburgh & Gonzaga.

Pittsburgh vs. Gonzaga (-4) 7:00 ET Okinawa, Japan: IT AINT NO FUN WHEN THE RABBIT GOT THE GUN
The Panthers and Zags travel halfway around the world for us to find out, if the No. 10 team in the ACC (Pitt) is better than the No. 10 team in the country (Gonzaga) as rated by the prestigious 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.  My answer is definitively, yes!! 

These teams finished in dichotomous ways last season, when the Zags lost in the NCAA Elite 8 to Duke (66-52).  This, after breezing their way to yet another WCC regular season and Tourney Title.  They then dispatched a very good N. Dakota St. team, as well as Iowa and UCLA, before falling to the Blue Devils for a 35-3 SU finish. 

The season for Pitt was far dichotomous.  Early season suspension and injury to the Panthers’ two best scorers, left the Panthers scrambling from the beginning.  By March 1st, however, they were in position to make their perennial post-season move at 19-10 YTD and 8-7 in the ACC.  BUT, THE PANTHERS CLOSED THE YEAR WITH 5 CONSECUTIVE LOSSES, INCLUDING A 1ST ROUND NIT DEFEAT TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.  A season in which the Panthers lacked their usual defensive and rebounding numbers came to a depressing close. 

If you paid any attention at all to the preseason talk by the media prognosticators, you will know that the Zags are all but firmly entrenched in their 17th consecutive NCAA Tourney under veteran HC Few.  The Zags’ frontcourt of Wiltjer, Karnowski and Sabonis (may miss tonight with a back injury) is being hailed as the best in the nation.  Early on, at least, the challenge for HC Few will be to replace his dynamic backcourt trio of Pangos, Bell and Wesley, who were the corps of last year’s successful unit.   Not sure the young replacements in (PG) Perkins and (SG) Melson are ready to face the task of the rededicated Pittsburgh defense.  

The Panthers clearly have much to prove.  13th year HC Jamie Dixon (humbled by only his 2nd failure to make the NCAA) is quietly predicting good things.  For, his team is loaded with experience and depth from the addition of 3 graduate transfers and a JUCO addition.  Leading the way, however, will be senior PG Robinson, who has started all but one game in his career.  He will be complimented by interior forces Jamel Artis and Michael Young, rugged players who prospered from the ACC wars last year.  Rounding out the returners is Cameron Wright who missed the first 8 games of last year.  Rounding out the frontcourt is Vandy transfer, Jeter who will be far more settled after a year of ACC experience. 

The bottom line here is that we have a Gonzaga team with little to prove after last year’s 35-3 SU season vs. a Pitt team who has much to prove after missing the NCAA for only the 2nd time in the Dixon regime. And as the Zags will find out this evening in Japan, “it aint no fun when the rabbit got the gun!”  I invite you to join me by putting the NCAA basketball odds in your favor with our NCAA basketball pick on the Pittsburgh Panthers.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Pittsburgh Panthers +5.5 (-110) at Bookmaker