For Pitt, no invitation to NCAA Tournament this season

| Thursday, March 8, 2012

NEW YORK — For the 2011-12 Pitt Panthers, NIT isn't a dirty word.

"Whatever we've got to do to be able to play more games," Tray Woodall said, "we will definitely take it."

Pitt will await its possible postseason destination after falling to fifth-seeded Georgetown, 64-52, on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in the second round of the Big East Tournament.

No. 13 seed Pitt (17-16), which has lost 15 of its past 21 games, will see its 10-year run of reaching the NCAA Tournament — the seventh longest streak in the nation — come to a screeching halt.

"It's been a nice streak and something that I guess only a few schools have done more," coach Jamie Dixon said. "But right now it's all about this game and how we feel after this one."

The Panthers, who beat St. John's in the first round, could get a bid to the National Invitational Tournament when that 32-team field is announced Sunday night.

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said the school already has looked into the logistics of hosting an NIT game. The first round is March 13-14.

The NCAA Tournament is holding second- and third-round games at Consol Energy Center on March 15 and 17, but officials said there is nothing that prohibits an NIT game being held in the same city as NCAA games, provided they are on different nights and the host school's arena isn't being used.

Dixon said he hadn't considered Pitt's postseason options.

"I was so focused on this game," he said. "It's something we are going to have to talk about."

The 16-team College Basketball Invitational is a pay-to-play event, and the Panthers are ineligible for the 24-team Tournament (CIT), which is limited to mid-major schools.

Pederson said Pitt would "talk about" playing in CBI, which costs a reported $60,000 to host a game.

"I can't imagine that we wouldn't be an NIT selection," he said. "We are already prepared to do that."

Any team that won its regular-season conference championship but failed to reach the NCAA Tournament is guaranteed a berth in the NIT. Numerous teams have been invited with 15 or l6 losses -- there is no rule that you have to be .500 or better -- including the field two years ago that included 16-16 North Carolina and 17-15 Connecticut.

"Whatever tournament we go to," Lamar Patterson said, "I want to try to win it."

If Pitt makes the NIT and wins three games, the Panthers would return to Madison Square Garden.

"It would be good to get back here," Robinson said inside a somber Pitt locker room.

The Panthers were universal in their desire to play another game and wipe out the bitter taste from yesterday's second-round loss.

Georgetown (23-7) went on a 16-2 run over the final 6:26 of the first half to take the lead for good. Pitt shot 36.7 percent from the field, including 5 of 21 from 3-point range, and grabbed a season-low 25 rebounds.

"They played harder than us," junior Dante Taylor said. "They were more physical than us."

Freshman center Malcolm Gilbert said playing in a postseason tournament, regardless of its stature, will benefit the Panthers, who have eight freshmen and sophomores.

"We are going through a building year," he said. "We've got some young guys, and it would be a good chance to come from something negative to something positive."

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