Pitt looking to enhance profile at ACC tourney
With a last-second shot that led to an inspiring overtime victory at Clemson, Pitt clinched fifth place in a conference expected to receive only five NCAA Tournament bids.
The Panthers (23-8, 11-7 ACC) proved in their 83-78 victory Saturday that they could win a close game against a quality opponent — a major question mark after last-second losses to Cincinnati, Syracuse and Virginia.
But was it enough for Pitt to earn an NCAA Tournament berth?
“I don't know what else there is: We've got 23 wins, 11 ACC wins and we've been great away from home,” said senior swingman Lamar Patterson, noting Pitt's 7-2 conference road record.
“We lost some close ones to teams that are top 15 and some late ones, but that's college basketball. Everyone has their ups and downs. I definitely feel we're a tournament team, and we showed it (Saturday).”
Pitt is projected as a No. 10 seed by bracketologists Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, who wrote the Panthers “bolstered their fading tournament chances” with the Clemson win. TeamRankings.com projects Pitt's chances of receiving an at-large bid at 59.9 percent, with No. 11 its most likely seed.
Given that teams can clinch an automatic berth with a conference tournament victory, a mid-major upset could prevent Pitt from making the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers still might need a victory — or two — in the ACC tourney in Greensboro, N.C., this week to assure a spot in the NCAA bracket.
Pitt will play the winner of Wednesday's game between No. 12 seed Wake Forest (16-15) and No. 13 Notre Dame (15-16) in the second round at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Pitt owns regular-season victories over both: It beat Wake Forest, 80-65, on Jan. 11 at Petersen Events Center and won at Notre Dame, 85-81, in overtime March 1.
The Panthers are 4-0 in overtime –— with victories at Miami, Notre Dame and Clemson and at home against Virginia Tech — a statistic that Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has made a talking point.
“It says a lot about our kids,” Dixon said. “You talk about 4-0 in overtime, and it says a lot about winning close games, battling and finding ways.”
While a quarterfinal victory would push Pitt to 24 wins, expected to be enough to clinch a spot in the field of 68, it still doesn't resolve the biggest gap on the Panthers' resume: They are 0-6 against ranked opponents, losing five by a combined 20 points, have only one victory over a top-50 RPI team (Stanford) and two late-season losses to tourney bubble teams (Florida State and N.C. State).
That could require Pitt to win two conference tournament games, something it hasn't done since winning four to claim the Big East Tournament title in 2008. The Panthers are 1-5 in their past five conference tournaments.
If Pitt wins, it will play No. 4 seed North Carolina (23-8), which was ranked No. 14 prior to its 93-81 loss at Duke on Saturday, in the quarterfinals. A victory over the Tar Heels, who beat Pitt, 75-71, on Feb. 15 in Chapel Hill, would put an end to talk that the Panthers haven't beaten a tourney-caliber opponent.
“Our season isn't over with,” junior shooting guard Cameron Wright said. “We start a new season next week. We want to go to North Carolina and play our hearts out, as well. A lot of people were saying we were on the bubble or whatnot. If this was a must-win game for us, I hope that they can see that we really wanted it, and we deserve to be in the tournament.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- Pitt offensive line continues to make positive strides
- Pitt, IUP to experiment with 30-second shot clock
- Young Pitt secondary has no fear; will be tested against Duke
- Academic scandal saddens UNC coach Williams
- Pitt hoops picked 6th in ACC preseason poll
- Clairton grad Gombar recalls Duke-Pitt games from mid-70s
- Pitt, Chryst pondering next move as stellar Duke defense awaits
- Pitt notebook: RB Ibrahim makes most of opportunity
- Pitt notebook: Panthers not giving up on ACC Coastal Division
- Patience pays off for Duke as Cutcliffe turns program around
- Former Pitt player praises latest recruit