Xavier vs Pittsburgh March Madness Betting Preview
No. 11 Seed Pitt Bidding for Third Straight Tournament Upset
The NCAA Tournament’s second round concludes Sunday with No. 3 seed Xavier vs. No. 11 seed Pittsburgh in Greensboro, N.C. Tip-off is slated for 12:10 p.m. on CBS. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 to play either No. 2 seed Texas or No. 10 seed Penn State. Xavier is currently a 5-point favorite and -210 on the moneyline. The over/under is 152.5. (Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)
Let’s take a closer look at Xavier vs. Pittsburgh.
Xavier Musketeers: Big East Runner-Up Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief, For Now…
Following back-to-back wins to begin the Big East Conference Tournament, including an 82-60 rout of Creighton, Xavier looked to be picking up steam entering its most pivotal stretch of the season. The Musketeers seemed undeterred by star forward Zach Freemantle’s year-ending foot injury and were beginning to generate buzz as a dark horse Final Four contender.
While they still may be, they haven’t looked quite as formidable of late. On the heels of a blowout loss to Marquette in the Big East final, the third-seeded Musketeers survived a major scare in their NCAA Tournament opener, rallying from a 13-point deficit in the second half to squeak past No. 14 seed Kennesaw State 72-67. The Musketeers came in as a resounding 11.5-point favorite.
The Musketeers trailed 43-36 at halftime and didn’t regain the lead until Jack Nunge put them ahead at the free-throw line, 62-61, with 4:48 remaining. Nunge also had a pivotal block in the final seconds to preserve a one-point lead and ultimately send Xavier onto the round of 32 for the first time since 2018. Jerome Hunter led Xavier with 24 points. Souley Boum scored 17 and Nunge contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds.
As Xavier moves forward, it’s faced with some questions about its vulnerability should it struggle again from the perimeter. The Musketeers hit just two 3-pointers, four below their season average, despite shooting a modest 46% overall.
Pittsburgh Panthers: From First Four to Round of 32
Pittsburgh, a bubble team that had to play its way into the field of 64, has pulled off back-to-back upsets to add some sizzle to the Midwest Regional and improve its NCAA March Madness odds. After edging Mississippi State 60-59 in the First Four, the 11th-seeded Panthers dialed up the intensity in a 59-41 beatdown of No. 6 seed Iowa State. The Panthers jumped out to a commanding 22-2 lead and held the Cyclones to 23.3% shooting as a 4-point underdog, leaving no doubt about whether they belonged in the Big Dance.
The Panthers weren’t efficient offensively. They committed more turnovers than shots made (15-14). Then again, they didn’t need to be, not after holding Iowa State to its lowest NCAA Tournament output in 79 years.
While neither of Pittsburgh’s first two tournament opponents was renowned for its scoring — Mississippi State and Iowa State are ranked 172nd and 110th, respectively, in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom — the Panthers’ run these last few days can’t be discounted.
The Panthers are now 23-11, guaranteed to finish with their first winning record since 2015-16, and appear to have snapped out of the late-season slump that had them heading for the NIT.
Handicapping The Game
After knocking off back-to-back higher seeds, Pittsburgh now takes another step up in weight class. Xavier — ranked in the top 75 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom — is far more balanced than either of the Panthers’ last two opponents. The Musketeers, with Boum, Colby Jones and the versatile Nunge, also play at a quicker pace. They’re averaging over 73 possessions per game, the second-most of any team left in the tournament. Bottom line, the Panthers will have their hands full.
Pittsburgh’s last trip to the Sweet 16 came back in 2009, and the school is one win away from returning there. Coincidentally, the Panthers beat Xavier in the regional semifinals that year before falling to Villanova in the Elite Eight.
The Panthers tend to play slower, however, they have the right pieces in Jamarius Burton and Nelly Cummings to get up and down the floor should Xavier successfully dictate the tempo. Burton, a Texas Tech transfer, is one of five players averaging 15.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game, while shooting better than 49%. His experience has already helped, as we saw down the stretch against Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Cummings contributed a team-high 13 points against Iowa State and is one of four Panthers scoring in double figures, joining Blake Hinson, Burton, and Greg Elliott.
If Pittsburgh can maintain its usual efficiency from the perimeter — its averaging 9.2 3-pointers per game, 29th in the country — it should be able to stick with Xavier. Keep in mind, the Panthers have covered the spread in both games this tournament and are 24-10-1 against college basketball point spreads this season. Xavier vs. Pittsburgh should be entertaining. (Odds change frequently, be sure to check for the most up to date changes.)
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