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March 14, 2011

Pitt’s Path to Houston

Filed under: Basketball,Media,NCAA Tourney — Chas @ 1:25 pm

My sister lives in Houston, so I have a place to stay. I’m still working on the wife accepting the idea of me running away for the first weekend in April — without returning to find the locks changed.

Here is the entire schedule for NCAA Tournament basketball games. Pitt is set for Thursday, 3:10 pm on truTV (Ch. 246 if you have DirecTV). Calling the game will be Tim Brando and Mike Giminski.

The log5 analysis puts Pitt’s chances of winning the whole thing at 7.5%. Lowest of all the #1 seeds.

Let’s look at the Southeast bracket snap judgments:

The consensus seems to be that Pitt has the easiest potential path to the Final Four. Also stated here as well. Encapsulated with this not at all creepy description, and insult all in one.

And then there is the Southeast, otherwise known as the Jamie Dixon Backrub Regional. I don’t see a single major national-title threat in that 16-team grouping, which means terminal underachiever Pittsburgh might finally reach its first Final Four since World War II.

Honestly, that seems to be the bluntest of the theme. That Pitt has a history of underachieving in the Tournament relative to seed, but this sure looks like the team and the bracket to break through.

1. Is this finally the year for Pitt?: Few teams have had more regular-season success the past five years than Pittsburgh. But Panthers fans still are waiting for that first Final Four appearance. Even though the 2009 Pittsburgh team came within one Scotty Reynolds drive of hitting the goal, none of Jamie Dixon’s teams has been better situated to make a deep run than this group. Pitt finally has veteran offensive weapons to go along with their trademark defensive intensity, giving them a perfect tournament makeup. Throw in the good fortune of the easiest bracket in the field, and Pittsburgh seems on the verge of finally making the tournament’s third weekend.

John Feinstein gets Pitt in his own back yard. Of course, Feinstein loves to back mid-majors. Toss a really good one in his own backyard and, well, you can see where this is going.

Pitt’s most dangerous game may be its second, against Old Dominion or Butler.

Putting ODU and Butler up against each other on the 8-9 line is pretty close to criminal. ODU is the best rebounding team in the country and won the most underrated conference in the country. Forget that Butler was two inches from being the defending champion in this event; the Bulldogs have won nine straight, and their conference was the toughest it has ever been.

Both teams deserved higher seeds, and they certainly didn’t deserve to have to play one another in the first round.

The Butler-ODU winner will be a tough out for Pittsburgh, especially ODU because they are one of the few teams in the country that can mix it up inside with the Panthers.

I think there is no doubt that ODU-Butler could be one of the best games on Thursday. Andy Katz at ESPN.com sees that game being good for Pitt for this reason.

1. Butler and Old Dominion are the perfect teams to pair together in the Southeast. This is a classic 8-9 matchup. There could and should be blood in this game, as both of these teams like to defend and grind out a game. The winner may not have much left in the tank to face No. 1 seed Pitt.

I’m not buying that part, though. The teams get a day off beforehand. And unless the game suddenly denigrates to a late-70s NBA brawl game, the winner will be fine — perhaps even more ready to go (think Northern Iowa over #1 seed Kansas last year).

I admit that when I saw the draws, I thought that Pitt-ODU could be a terrifying game. Considering ODU has beaten Georgetown before and knocked off Notre Dame in last year’s NCAA. Throw in watching them in the CAA Tournament last week — and they impressed me and others. Luke Winn at SI.com, however, does a better job at setting my mind at ease if it really is ODU in the second round.

Conversely, a meeting of mirror-image teams could happen in Washington on Saturday, if No. 9 Old Dominion and No. 1 Pitt clear the first round. The Monarchs and Panthers are 1-2 in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, both relying on workhorse big men (Frank Hassell for ODU, Gary McGhee for Pitt) to control the boards. What the Monarchs don’t have, though, is an Ashton Gibbs-type who can rain down jumpers; they rank 243rd in three-point percentage and 187th in effective field-goal percentage. People love to say, erroneously, that Pitt struggles to score, but ODU actually does struggle to score — and that’s what’ll keep it from reaching the Sweet 16.

Moving to local reactions to a good draw for Pitt.

Kevin Gorman could care less. Apparently Pitt is done.

Sunday was the day to dream, but this is today’s reality:

Pitt was built to win the Big East, not the Big Dance.

The Panthers were so successful this season largely because they followed a five-part formula that relies on a combination of them holding opponents to fewer than 70 points and 40 percent shooting from the field and winning the margins in rebounds and turnovers and making free throws.

“You’ve got to meet most of them,” Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight said. “You can’t lose rebounding and turnovers and shoot a poor percentage at the free-throw line and win the game. It doesn’t add up.”

The Panthers proved as much in their five losses this season…

Someone’s been reading from the Doug Gottlieb playbook, or is that hitting below the belt? So because in five losses where Pitt fell short in those spots, the team is doomed in the post season? I always see the arguments that Pitt wins/overachieves in the regular season; but come the post-season the talent is higher and teams are trying even harder, etc. This article didn’t even bother with that.

Ron Cook, on the other hand has decided to buy-in to Pitt making the Final Four — clearly someone wants to go to Houston.





UNC-Ashville on paper reads like a poor man’s Duquesne. They’re small, they’re terrible on the boards but they’re good at forcing turnovers. If Pitt can break their pressure they should win easily. If they cant and UNC-A gets hot then watch out.

Comment by Pabs 03.15.11 @ 10:06 pm

The only team capable of staying within 20 points of us lost. A little paranoid guys?

Comment by Krayz 03.15.11 @ 11:15 pm

I take that back, looking at the stats on KenPom UNC Asheville is actually a lot better. Didn’t seem that way 80% of the game. Stayed 11 points within UNC when they were having problems. Got blown out by OSU 96-49 though.

Comment by Krayz 03.15.11 @ 11:20 pm

Assuming Pitt wins the first game, does anyone know what time they would play on Saturday?

Comment by Coach Ditka 03.16.11 @ 6:55 am

Seth Davis is a douche. link to sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Comment by Pittastic 03.16.11 @ 8:27 am

Starting to get a little freaked out by this TruTV talk. Is this the case only outside of the Pittsburgh market? Would it not be on CBS locally, regardless of cable provider (mine is the mom-and-popish Armstrong)?

Comment by Carmen 03.16.11 @ 8:54 am

Check that: TruTV is carried by Armstrong. This no HD stuff blows.

Comment by Carmen 03.16.11 @ 8:59 am

Tony C is back to his cynical self-he went from Pitt being able “dominate,” to Pitt bowing out to UNC Ashville…why do you come here, Tony?

Comment by Lou 03.16.11 @ 9:42 am

Davis will get his when Butler beats the fashionable underdog ODU — he’ll change his story to some justification like Butler would only beat Pitt 1 out of 20 times but this will be their time — afterall, they handled Pitt’s mini-me in ODU . . .

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.16.11 @ 10:26 am

The knock on the SE is that it’s weak in 2-4 seeds, not that there isn’t worthy talent in the region. I think the field is stronger 5-13 than most of the other brackets, which actuallyl makes it kind of interesting.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.16.11 @ 10:28 am

ODU Butler is great first round that I hope goes into double OT. Gary, Dante & Nas could damage Asheville in the paint. If the good Gilbert shows up he’s a matchup problem for them. We need 80 minutes of intense basketball in DC, like the 2nd half v WV.

Comment by Old School Panther 03.16.11 @ 11:35 am

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Comment by click here 03.16.11 @ 2:53 pm

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