March is always a very intriguing month. It gets rid of February, which up north is the absolute worst month. It is one step closer to spring, the smell of fresh-cut grass and the start of baseball season. While March allows us to experience more daylight as we move our clocks back, it provides us with something even better – March Madness. Ah yes, what the college basketball world looks forward to every year and a system that college football enthusiasts hope that their sport will turn to in the future. People nationwide will be filling out their brackets at the office (with no money involved, of course) and they know that they found the sleeper of the bracket as they brag about their “perfect” bracket. Around the Pittsburgh area however, the tournament always seems to lead to disappointment for Pitt Panthers fans. The Panthers haven’t made the Final Four since 1941, but have been one of the most consistent teams in the nation in the past decade. For the best team in the best conference in the country, however, they have a whole other tournament to play in before their arrival in the “Big Dance”.
Pitt, the regular season Big East champions at 27-4 (15-3 in conference), prepares for the Big East tournament this week at Madison Square Garden. Conference tournaments aren’t a new thing, as almost every conference in the country has one to determine who qualifies for the NCAA tournament. However, by having one look at the Big East tournament you would think that this was a regional bracket in the NCAA tournament. The Big East is looking to break their own record of eight teams in the tournament field, and may actually shatter this by having a 11 teams qualify. Right now, Pitt, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Louisville, UConn, St. Johns, Georgetown, Villanova, Cincinnati and West Virginia are all locks to make the tournament. Marquette is on the bubble and with a couple wins in the Big East tournament this week, could cement their spot as well. Pitt leads the Conference and is ranked third in the most recent polls, and is considered by many a leading candidate to land a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. But with Big East regular season runner-up Notre Dame on their heels at number four, how secure is Pitt’s number one seed in the tournament? Does Pitt have to win the Big East or have they proven themselves worthy of a top seed by their regular season work?
Taking a look at Pitt’s four losses, none of them were considered bad losses. They lost in an early-season matchup to Tennessee, who at that time, looked to be a good team. Follow that by their only loss at “The Pete” to Notre Dame, and close losses to St. Johns and Louisville on the road, Pitt has the regular season resume that can stack up against anybody else in the country. However, being that Notre Dame defeated Pitt in their only matchup this year, would Notre Dame overtake the top ranking that Pitt currently has if they advance farther than Pitt in the Big East tournament? The only way that I can see this happening would be if Pitt loses it’s first round matchup (Thursday at noon) and Notre Dame goes on to win the Big East tournament. If that is the case, Pitt may slip down to a second seed in the tournament, at worst.
Ohio State and Kansas have number one seeds locked up, but that leaves two more at bay. Pitt looks to have one of those locked up, but where does the other one go? Purdue looked to be on track to claim a top seed until they were shocked by Wyoming this past weekend. Duke looked to have a top seed clinched before falling to Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the past week. If everything works out for the best, then Pitt could end up being a number one seed in the East region or Southeast region, with possible games in Ohio and New Jersey. As for the last seed, I would say BYU, but having their main post presence kicked off the team, is going to hurt them when it comes to battling for a top seed. Look for Duke or North Carolina to claim it if one of them wins the ACC Tournament.
As a basketball fan, the Big East offers a mini-tournament feel, so be sure to check it out this week. In 18 games so far against Big East opponents, Pitt has proven they can get the job done. Pitt has to win only three more games to win the Big East tournament, but more importantly, six additional games to win the NCAA tournament, the National Championship that comes with it, and cement Jamie Dixon as one of the all time great college basketball coaches.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com