PITTSBURGH (AP) -If nothing else, Pitt's first flat performance all season should reinforce this in the Panthers' minds: Everybody is out to get No. 1.
Might be a good reminder if the Panthers secure the No. 1 recognition they most want, and that's as one of the four No. 1-seeded teams in the NCAA tournament that starts in three weeks.
Pitt's 81-73 loss at Providence on Tuesday, its first this season to a team not currently ranked in the top 10, will cost it the second No. 1 ranking in school history. The first came earlier this season, when the Panthers were top-ranked for two weeks before losing at now-No. 6 Louisville. A later loss came at now-No. 10 Villanova.
Still, the Panthers' first loss to a non-ranked opponent since a 76-62 defeat at West Virginia on March 3 won't necessarily cost them their season-long goal of gaining the school's first No. 1 NCAA seeding.
ry and most of this month trying to accomplish.
``We're going to have to bounce back, or we're not going to reach our goals,'' DeJuan Blair said.
Here's what's in the Panthers' favor:
-They likely won't be the only highly ranked team to lose as the season winds down. Consider this: The top four teams in The Associated Press poll of Feb. 16 lost five times in nine days: Connecticut, Oklahoma (twice), North Carolina and Pittsburgh.
In the current poll, only the top five teams have three losses or fewer: Pitt (25-3), UConn (25-2 before playing Marquette on Wednesday night), Oklahoma (25-3), North Carolina (24-3) and Memphis (24-3). There are six teams in the Top 25 with six or more losses.
Even after losing, Pitt has the top RPI by most projections. They would only enhance that ranking should they complete the regular season by winning Saturday at Seton Hall, then next week at home against No. 8 Marquette and No. 2 Connecticut. The UConn rematch on March 7 could eliminate one of the two from a No. 1 seeding.
-Should they finish in the top four in the Big East, they would gain one of four double byes in the conference tournament and, at most, would play only three games in New York. A year ago, they had to win four games in four days to unexpectedly win the title, a run that may have worn them down for the NCAA tournament.
eeding, but they almost certainly can't lose on Thursday or Friday in Madison Square Garden, either.
Here's what weighs against the Panthers:
-They aren't the same team when the 6-foot-7 Blair gets into foul trouble. He was in first-half foul trouble against Louisville and Villanova, and drew his third and fourth fouls during a 14-second span Tuesday when it appeared the Panthers might mount a comeback from an 18-point deficit.
The Panthers can't afford to have a player who had 42 points and 41 rebounds in his previous two games on the bench for long.
``We just have to adjust if that happens,'' point guard Levance Fields said.
-As in past seasons, they can be troubled by a zone defense. Freshman guard Ashton Gibbs came off the bench to score 15 points, but Pitt was 7-of-19 from 3-point range against Providence, with everyone other than Gibbs going 3-of-13. That could spell trouble against a hot-shooting team in a one-and-done tournament situation.
-The clampdown defense they pride themselves on playing isn't always there. Providence was the second team in a month to score 80 points or more against them.
-They often they don't finish the season well.
final five in 2004-05 (20-9). Their last good closing stretch came in 2003-04, when they won five or their final six before advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals.
``We don't get too high after wins or too low after a loss,'' Fields said. ``We've shown that we've bounced back after losses and even after big wins, we don't let down.''
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