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Pittsburgh takes on Colorado on Thursday afternoon
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 3/20/2014  at  2:41:00 AM
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PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (25-9)

vs. COLORADO BUFFALOES (23-11)

NCAA Tournament - Round of 64
Amway Center - Orlando, FL
Tip-off: Thursday, 1:40 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -6.5, Total: 128

No. 9 seed Pittsburgh enters its Thursday Round of 64 matchup against No. 8 seed Colorado as a sizable favorite for a likely matchup against No. 1 overall seed Florida in the next round.

After a hot 16-1 SU start to the season, the Panthers hit a rough patch and at one point lost five out of seven games. Their biggest win came in the ACC Tournament against then-No. 15 North Carolina, while they played other teams such as Syracuse, Virginia and Cincinnati closely in losses. Pittsburgh finished the season 12-16-3 ATS, going 5-2 SU (4-2-1 ATS) in neutral-site games. The club finished the season going 3-0-1 ATS in its final four games. This season, the Panthers are 9-2 ATS in non-home games versus teams forcing 14 or fewer turnovers per game, such as Colorado (12.3). The Buffaloes had a couple of marquee wins this season, including victories over Kansas and Oregon, as well as tourney-bound Stanford. Colorado went 18-15 ATS this season, including 3-3 SU (2-4 ATS) in neutral-site tilts. Over the past two seasons, the Buffaloes are 15-4 ATS after scoring 60 or fewer points, as they did in their 63-43 blowout defeat in the Pac-12 Tournament to Arizona.

Can Pittsburgh win and cover the tough spread on Thursday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts opened the NCAA Tournament with a perfect 7-0 ATS mark in First Four games, making them a stellar 60% ATS (278-185-16) in college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Brian is on an amazing Best Bets run of 23-3-2 (89% ATS) since Feb. 6, 32-6-3 (84% ATS) since Jan. 17, and 74% ATS (57-20-3) since Nov. 26 to give him a robust 70% ATS (64-27-4) record in Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is 65% ATS (41-22-1) since in Best Bets Dec. 18 and 61% ATS (58-37-2) this season, while StatFox Scott is 70% ATS (14-6-2) since Feb. 16 and 59% ATS (54-38-4) for the season. StatFox Gary is 61% ATS (50-32) on Best Bets since Nov. 22 and 57% ATS (54-40-2) for the season, while StatFox Zach 64% ATS (7-4) since March 2.

Pittsburgh teams are most known for their stingy defense, this season giving up only 62.4 PPG (22nd in Div. I) on 41.3% shooting (72nd in nation) while outrebounding opponents by a whopping +6.3 rebounds per game. Offensively, the Panthers score 72.5 PPG (125th in Div. I) on 46.1% FG (79th in Div. I), with an unselfish 15.6 APG (21st in Div. I). Their go-to-guy on offense is swingman Lamar Patterson (17.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.3 APG), who is a natural scorer, but also the teamís top passer. With a forwardís body, he can score from all over the court and is averaging 6.0 RPG over the teamís past four contests. Sophomore PG James Robinson (8.0 PPG, 3.9 APG) is the teamís primary ball handler, even though Patterson leads the team in assists. SG Cameron Wright (10.6 PPG, 2.6 APG) rounds out the backcourt, snagging a team-high 1.8 SPG. Down low, 6-foot-9 PF Talib Zanna (12.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG) is the reason why the Panthers dominate their opponents on the glass. He had a monstrous 19-point, 21-rebound effort in the teamís recent win against the Tar Heels, and is averaging 15.3 PPG and 12.3 RPG over the teamís past four games.

Colorado also wins by dominating on the glass, pulling home 37.5 RPG (50th in Div. I) to outrebound opponents by a stellar +6.2 RPG margin. The Buffaloes need that edge because they're not particularly efficient on the offensive end, averaging 70.9 PPG (187th in nation) on 43.7% shooting (209th in Div. I) and 32.0% threes (291st in nation). Defensively theyíre not too strong either, allowing 67.9 PPG (116th in Div. I) on 42.9% shooting (133rd in naiton). PF Josh Scott (14.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG) is the teamís leading scorer and rebounder, giving opponents problems with his 6-foot-10 frame. He has struggled lately, however, shooting just 30% from the field over his past four games. He gets help on the glass from sophomore SF Xavier Johnson (12.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG), who also possesses skills as a shooter (37% threes), and freshman SF Wesley Gordon (5.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG), who also has a team-high 1.4 BPG. On the perimeter, PG Askia Booker (14.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.4 APG) is the leading man, though he has struggled mightily with his shot this season, making only 28% of his 3.9 long-range attempts per game. He is just 2-of-15 (13%) in his past five games from behind the arc.

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