ShareThis Page

Marquette meaningful in multiple ways

Kevin Gorman
| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 8:21 p.m.
Vander Blue (right) and Marquette face Davidson in an NCAA Tournament game Thursday, March 21, 2013.
Vander Blue (right) and Marquette face Davidson in an NCAA Tournament game Thursday, March 21, 2013.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon preaches that every game is critical to his team, but none more so than the next one.

That's especially true for his No. 16 Panthers against No. 18 Marquette, which represents a meaningful game in a multitude of ways.

Not only does No. 16 Pitt (20-5, 8-4) have an opportunity to beat another nationally ranked opponent on the road Saturday in Milwaukee, but Marquette (17-6, 8-3) has a higher Ratings Percentage Index and is battling the Panthers in the Big East standings and beyond.

Marquette's RPI is 15, compared to Pitt's 31. That's the highest RPI of any of the Panthers' final five regular-season opponents.

“It is not just critical for their RPI, but their NCAA Tournament seeding,” said CBS Sports bracketology analyst Jerry Palm, an RPI expert. “This is a team that Pittsburgh would be competing with in roughly the same part of the bracket. If they can win games like that, it helps them in terms of the seeding.”

Palm projects Pitt as a No. 5 seed and Marquette No. 6, as does Sporting News in its most recent field of 68 prediction.

That the Panthers are starting to gain national notice has something to do with their ranking among the nation's leaders in both offensive efficiency (seventh, 1.133) and defensive efficiency (12th, 0.869).

“That's something the national writers pay close attention to, and people are going to think there's something behind it,” Sporting News national college basketball analyst Mike DeCourcy said. “They have great ability and potential to be in good shape when selection time comes. I certainly don't think a 5-seed is their ceiling, or their floor.”

Not when Pitt has won seven of eight games since a 74-67 overtime loss to Marquette Jan. 12 at the Pete, including a home victory over No. 6 Syracuse.

Marquette marks one of two home losses for the Panthers this season. Pitt avenged the other by winning at Cincinnati, 62-52, last Saturday after losing to the Bearcats in their Big East opener.

Dixon doesn't discuss Pitt's RPI or projected seedings with his players, nor does he place more value on beating one Big East opponent over another.

“We've got a lot of good wins. I don't know if you can pick and choose which ones,” Dixon said. “You've just got to keep winning, obviously. The more, the better off you are.

“It's always up for argument, whether they look at ratings or RPI. I think they're probably looking at all of them when these guys select their decisions.”

With St. John's (15-9) and DePaul (10-14) the only other remaining road games, the Marquette game also is Pitt's last chance to beat a ranked team away from Petersen Events Center. And every win away from home, including neutral sites, helps with the NCAA Selection Committee. The Panthers are 4-2 on the road and 2-1 at neutral venues this season.

“Pitt isn't going to get overly dinged in terms of seeding (for playing) a weak non-conference schedule, because it does have some quality wins,” Palm said. “The committee definitely wants to see if you can beat NCAA-quality tournament teams away from home. That's the best thing you can do for your seed.”

Dixon takes a different approach, telling his team that if it's not getting better, it's getting worse and to take advantage of every opportunity.

“We're trying to win,” he said. “We understand that winning is a good thing, and we've got plenty of road wins. You've got to win every game you can, and that doesn't change.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.