Take Visiting Pittsburgh +2.5 Our NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Florida State

Jason Lake

Saturday, January 23, 2016 12:36 PM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 12:36 PM UTC

Those Florida State Seminoles sure are lucky. But should they be 5-point home faves against the No. 20 Pittsburgh Panthers this Saturday? The NCAA basketball odds must be crazy.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Pittsburgh +2.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


Now wait just a parboiled minute. So the Florida State Seminoles turned out to be the right pick last week as 3.5-point home dogs versus the Virginia Cavaliers. Not only did the Seminoles cover, they won 69-62. Well done. That's an important victory in the ACC over a quality opponent. Florida State is definitely back in business after a down year in 2014-15.

But c'mon. Do the Seminoles really belong as 5-point home faves for Saturday's game (4:00 p.m. ET) against the Pittsburgh Panthers? That's the No. 20 Pittsburgh Panthers according to the coaches poll, by the way. As we go to press, the very first line has just gone up on our NCAA basketball odds, so this could be a sweet early-bird special – depending on how soon you read this.


A Portrait of Artis and Young as Men
It's not a slam-dunk, though. The coaches think more highly of Pittsburgh (15-3 SU, 7-8 ATS) than the Associated Press does; the Panthers are just outside the AP Top 25 this week. Florida State didn't get a vote on either poll, but noted hoophead Ken Pomeroy has the Seminoles (12-6 SU, 7-7 ATS) ranked No. 38 overall in Division I, ahead of Pittsburgh at No. 49.

Ah, but over at Sports-Reference, they've got the Panthers valued at +17.5 on the Simple Rating System, more than five points ahead of the Seminoles at +12.2 SRS. Curiouser and curiouser. Pittsburgh's roster certainly looks better on paper; junior forwards Michael Young (28.7 PER, +8.7 BPM), Jamel Artis (24.4 PER, +8.2 BPM) and Sheldon Jeter (24.9 PER, +8.3 BPM) are all performing at a high level, with Young and Artis among the top offensive players in Division I.


Everything's Better With Bacon
The Seminoles respond with a pair of outstanding freshmen guards: Malik Beasley (24.4 PER, +6.7 BPM) and Dwayne Bacon (20.1 PER, +2.5 BPM). They've added a tremendous amount of punch to head coach Leonard Hamilton's smaller, faster lineup; the 'Noles rank No. 23 in adjusted tempo at KenPom. They also expect to have senior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (16.3 PER, +4.1 BPM) back in the lineup Saturday after he was suspended for Wednesday's 84-65 loss to the Louisville Cardinals (–9.5 at home).

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, could be without swingman Chris Jones (16.4 PER, +5.0 BPM) on Saturday as he recovers from an elbow injury. Head coach Jamie Dixon is reportedly looking for ways to get freshman guard Damon Wilson (13.8 PER, +1.1 BPM) some more minutes; Wilson is 8-of-18 from downtown coming off the bench, and would give the Pitt backcourt some more bite on offense. It's a solid enough Plan B to keep the Panthers in our NCAA basketball picks this week, but make it a small bet, respecting the difference of opinion between our go-to stat nerds.

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