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Panthers: NCAA Tournament Preview

Posted By Michael Waterloo On Mar 16 2011 @ 9:10 pm In Pittsburgh | No Comments

It’s “put-up or shut- up” this year for the Pitt Panthers’ in the NCAA tournament. Coach Jamie Dixon has the most wins by any coach in history in his first eight years in Division I NCAA basketball, and also has the best winning percentage in the Big East during this time.  The only obstacle that Dixon has yet to achieve is to get his team over the hump and take them to the Final Four and hopefully for Pitt fans, a National Championship appearance.  On Sunday night, people around the country were glued to their television as the brackets were released on what is known as Selection Sunday.  After Pitt lost to Connecticut in the Big East Tournament, many thought that their shot at a number one seed was gone.  However, the selection committee felt differently as they awarded Pitt the top seed in the Southeast region.

While there have been mixed reviews from people about teams in Pitt’s region and the Panthers’ chance to succeed, I personally love it.  At first, I was nervous about some of the teams, but after evaluating them more closely, I think Pitt has the easiest road to Houston for the Final Four than any other team does.  Pitt squares off against UNC-Asheville tomorrow afternoon in what is the closest thing to a guaranteed win there will be in the tournament.  The rest of the seeds in the region go as follows:  2) Florida, 3) BYU, 4) Wisconsin, 5) Kansas State, 6) St. Johns, 7) UCLA, 8 ) Butler, 9) Old Dominion, 10) Michigan State, 11) Gonzaga, 12) Utah State, 13) Belmont, 14) Wofford and 15) UC Santa Barbara.  There is only one team that Pitt would struggle with, in my opinion, and that is Kansas State.  Much like their matchup with UConn and Kemba Walker, Kansas State has the superstar player in Jacob Pullen who can take over any game, at any point.  The thing is, I see Kansas State struggling to make it out of their first round matchup with Utah State.

With the other three top seeds – Florida, BYU and Wisconsin – being over-seeded, Pitt should have a smooth ride to the Final Four against any of them.  Yet, the Panthers could possibly have a stumbling block against a team like Old Dominion.  How Florida received a number 2 seed is beyond me.  They had their run in the SEC tournament, but is that enough to earn them that high of a seed?  I see Florida getting defeated in the Sweet Sixteen or, at best, in the Elite Eight by Pitt.  BYU has Jimmer Fredette who is the purest scorer in the country, but they lost their best big man for the season and won’t make it to their matchup with Pitt, as I have them losing in the second round to Gonzaga.  As for Wisconsin, they scored 32 total points in their loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.  Despite the fact they have put up good offensive numbers all year, I don’t see Wisconsin advancing far or giving the Panthers trouble.

Maybe the most intriguing matchup that the Panthers could face along the way, is UCLA, if they are able to come out of the lower part of the bracket to face Pitt in a possible Elite Eight matchup.  This would be an intriguing matchup of student vs. teacher in Dixon and Ben Howland.  Let’s face it, the college basketball tournament is lacking a great team this year and has the parody that they hope for each year.  While I see Pitt falling in the Final Four to Notre Dame or Louisville, a Final Four appearance this year would be what the fans have been waiting for and will allow Dixon to get that weight off of his shoulders.  If not this year, then when?

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