|Rested Pitt lands top seed in East regional|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 15 March 2009 15:21|
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) -Pittsburgh is going to the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive season, only the Panthers have never gone in like this.
Top-seeded - and well-rested.
The Panthers (28-4) were one-and-done in the Big East tournament for only the second time since 2001. Losing to West Virginia in the quarterfinals didn't prevent them from being the top seed in the East regional, creating a first-round matchup with East Tennessee State (23-10) in Dayton on Friday.
If they win, the Panthers will play the Oklahoma State (22-11) vs. Tennessee (21-12) winner on Sunday. Should they keep winning, it might be Xavier, Villanova, Duke - or, again, former Pitt coach Ben Howland and UCLA, which eliminated Pitt in a regional semifinal two years ago.
t's pretty tough with either Oklahoma State or Tennessee in the second round, so I don't think it's easy at all.''
Being a No. 1 seed is another first for the Panthers, who previously this season achieved their first No. 1 ranking in the AP poll and defeated a No. 1-ranked team for the first time.
``It's a great thing, but it's doesn't mean anything at this point,'' coach Jamie Dixon said of being a No. 1 seed. ``It's an accomplishment that comes from playing good basketball for a long period of time. So that says a lot of things, but there's 65 teams. And every one of them thinks they can win it.''
The Panthers have a history of deep runs in the Big East tournament followed by early exits in the NCAAs, so they are looking for a reversal this time. Despite averaging 26-plus wins since 2001-02, Pitt hasn't reached an NCAA regional final since 1974 or the Final Four since 1941.
Littered among those NCAA losses were upsets to lower-seeded teams such as Kent State (2002) and Bradley (2006)
Dixon disputes that the Panthers didn't play well in those NCAA tournaments because the Big East tournament left them fatigued, calling such a notion ``comical.''
However, leading scorer Sam Young is convinced it will be an advantage to have played only one game in nearly two weeks before taking on East Tennessee State.
aid. ``That definitely can't happen this year and definitely don't want to say that having a No. 1 seed will make it easier, because we've been set back so many times.''
Last season, the Panthers were a chic pick to make a deep NCAA run after winning four games in four days in the Big East tournament, only to get bounced by Michigan State in the second round.
``I've got (stronger) legs now than I had last year, I'm less beat up,'' Young said. ``We didn't go as far as we thought in the Big East tournament, but that helps us out a lot even though it was a downfall for us. I think with the rest we've gotten, that's given us a little boost and it's going to help us out a lot. It's something we probably needed.''
The Panthers will have a full week of practice going into the NCAA tournament, something they usually don't experience after the Big East.
The extra rest should benefit point guard Levance Fields, who has been bothered by a sore groin since late in the season.
``We thought he'd be all right, but it's bothered him,'' Dixon said. ``And he doesn't feel comfortable with it.''
East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow was surprised to be matched up against Pitt, at least this early in the tournament.
am no matter what our seed was, so we knew it was going to be a good team, the best team we'd played all year.''
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report.