Mississippi State vs Pittsburgh March Madness Betting Preview

The Tourney Tips off in Dayton, With Miss St. Slight Favorite

The NCAA Tournament will get underway Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, with Mississippi State vs Pittsburgh in one of the First Four play-in games. Tip-off is slated for 9:10 p.m on truTV. The winner will be slotted as a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region and advance to play sixth-seeded Iowa State in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday in the round of 64.

Mississippi State is currently a 1.5-point favorite and -130 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 132.5.
(Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)

Mississippi State Bulldogs: Jans has Bulldogs Dancin’ Again

Chris Jans, in his first season as head coach, has Mississippi State back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the NCAAB 2018-19 season. The last time the Bulldogs made the Big Dance, they were a No. 5 seed and lost in the first round to 12th-seeded Liberty, 80-76. This will be the 12th appearance for the Bulldogs, who hold an overall record of 11-11 in the NCAA Tournament.

How They Got Here

Mississippi State had to sweat on Selection Sunday, but the selection committee ultimately saw enough to give the Bulldogs one of the final at-large spots in the 68-team field. Mississippi State is currently 21-12. It began the year 11-0 and was one of the last undefeated teams remaining. Highlighting that hot start was a signature victory over Big East champion Marquette. The Bulldogs picked up three more Quad 1 wins over the course of the season, including an overtime victory over TCU in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Despite that, the Bulldogs had to play their way into the tournament down the stretch. They managed to finish 8-10 in SEC play after a 1-7 start and picked up a resume-building win over Florida in the SEC Tournament to cement their spot.

How Far Will They Go

Realistically speaking, the Bulldogs have already met, if not, exceeded expectations in Year One under Jans. This is their first 20-win season since 2019-20, when they may have made the NCAA Tournament if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, given how they started the season, it’d be a tad disappointing if they didn’t at least make it to the first round. Whatever happens after that would be gravy. Remember, when assessing your chances of a perfect March Madness bracket, they share the second-longest odds (+50000) of any at-large team to win the tournament.

Pittsburgh Panthers: The wait is over for Capel and Co.

Pittsburgh is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015-16, when it was a No. 10 seed and lost in the first round to seventh-seeded Wisconsin. This is the first appearance under head coach Jeff Capel. The school has been to the tournament 26 times overall, with an NCAAB record of 24-27.

How They Got Here

Like its opponent, Pittsburgh woke up Sunday sweating its postseason fate. Pittsburgh is currently 22-11, its first winning season since 2016. The Panthers picked up a Quad 1 win over Northwestern in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, then started 6-2 in ACC play.

Although they wound up going 14-6 within the conference, they remained on the bubble after dropping four of their final seven games, including a blowout loss to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals. In hindsight, their first-round win over Georgia Tech was huge.

How Far Will They Go

Let’s face it, nobody thought Pittsburgh would be here. The Panthers, picked to finish 14th out of 15 schools in the ACC preseason poll, overcame huge NCAAB odds to return to the NCAA Tournament. Sure, the ACC was down a bit — and Pittsburgh’s schedule worked out that it got to face a subpar North Carolina team twice — but winning 22 should be celebrated. Just don’t expect the Panthers to do much else this March.

Handicapping the Game

Since the tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011, many of these NCAA First Four games have looked like toss-ups on paper. Mississippi State vs Pittsburgh is not much different. The slight spread, with Mississippi State opening as a 1.5-point favorite, says as much. (Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)

Mississippi State has been stout on defense, holding opponents to an average of 60.4 points. That ranks second in the SEC and eighth in the country. In essence, the Bulldogs should be well-equipped to handle Blake Hinson, Jamarius Burton and Co.

It’s the other end of the floor, though, where the Bulldogs routinely suffer. They scored the second-fewest points on average in the SEC (66.4) and ranked 292nd overall in field goal percentage.

To improve on that, look for Mississippi State to try feeding 6-foot-11 Tolu Smith in the paint. Pittsburgh had no answer for Duke’s size in the ACC Tournament, and the Bulldogs will surely try to expose that by getting Smith some high-percentage shots. Per KenPom, Pittsburgh is just 142nd in the country in defensive efficiency.

Notably, Pittsburgh is an impressive 22-10-1 against the spread this season and has covered 68.8% of the time — best among NCAA Tournament teams. Conversely, Mississippi State is 16-16-1 against the spread. Keep them in mind when betting on Mississippi State vs Pittsburgh.

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