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Junker: Pitt's placement in tournament a surprise to many

| Monday, March 8, 2010

• Pitt was picked to finish 9th in the Big East. Coach Jamie Dixon may not be surprised at the success they had this year, maybe even some of the players knew they had more in their locker room than those on the outside realized. But anyone else who says they knew Pitt could be the two seed in the Big East Tournament is lying!

Considering the wins Pitt has over all the highly seeded teams in the conference, expectations now can be high. The number one seed in the Big East Championship has won the tournament 13 times but the number two seed has won six times. The question then becomes, hypothetically, is it worth winning• Or does winning it take too much of a toll on a team , making their chances of success in the NCAA tournament less likely• That is a question fans, media, and even coaches and players have debated for years.

ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas told me last week that, although he understands why the issue comes up, "teams have to go after what is placed in front of them." Madison Square Garden is magical in March for this tournament but teams that hang around for awhile often pay the price. In fact as great as the Big East Conference has been, only two schools have ever won the Big East Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament in the same year. Connecticut did it twice and Georgetown did it once. Five of the last ten teams to cut down the nets in New York, didn't make it through the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. So Pitt and West Virginia fans, if your team goes down early this week, don't fret too much. Things could be worse. They might actually be better able to make a run when it really counts.

• Trivia Question: This will be the 28th time in 31 years the Big East Championship will be played at Madison Square Garden. The first three were played elsewhere. Can you name the venues• Answer later.

• Georgetown has won more Big East Tournament games and Championships than any of the teams in the Big East Conference. The Hoyas are 46-23 all-time in the tournament with one more win than Syracuse. And Georgetown has won the tournament seven times, once more than Connecticut. But no team has made more title game appearances than Syracuse. The Orange have played in the championship game 14 times, losing a record nine of those and winning five.

• Jamie Dixon is 11-5 as a head coach in the Big East Tournament. His .688 winning percentage is the highest of any active coach in the conference.

• Pitt is 25-25 all-time in Big East Tournament play and West Virginia is 9-13.

• It's possible the Big East could send nine teams to the NCAA Tournament this year. That would be a record. Even eight selections would tie the record set by the Big East twice before in 2008 and 2006. But a lot of representatives doesn't guarantee success. Eleven times a conference has sent seven or eight teams to the NCAA Tournament, yet North Carolina was the only team from such a group to ever win the National Title. And that just happened last year when the Tarheels were one of seven bids from the ACC.

• And with all the talk about Pitt possibly joining the Big Ten Conference one day, it should be noted the Big Ten has sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament a record 5 times, twice in the last decade.

• The most points ever scored by a Division I player in Madison Square Garden is 56. Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson owns the record, but of course that was 38 seasons before Cincinnati joined the Big East. Heck, it was 22 years before the Big East Conference existed.

• If your are looking at the Big East media guide and some of their numbers don't jive with mine, it's because they have made some math errors in tournament records. Stick with me gang.

• Answer to the trivia question: The first three Big East Championships were played a the Providence Civic Center in 1980, the Carrier Dome in 1981 and the Hartford Civic Center in 1982. It's been at MSG since 1983.

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