The basketball gods smiled upon Pitt on the final day of the regular season.
The victory at DePaul, coupled with Notre Dame and Syracuse losses, gave the Panthers sole possession of fourth place and the No. 4 seed at the Big East tournament.
Saturday's events gave Pitt a double bye to the quarterfinals and placed the Panthers on the same side of the bracket against teams they handled in the regular season.
Pitt was 6-1 against teams on its side of the bracket. The Panthers beat both of their potential Thursday opponents -- Syracuse and Seton Hall. If Pitt advances to the semifinals, it will meet No. 1 seed Georgetown, No. 8 Providence or No. 9 Cincinnati. The Panthers beat the Hoyas and Friars, and split with the Bearcats.
Pitt was 6-5 against the teams on the other half of the bracket, including an 0-4 mark against the top three seeds on the other side -- No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Marquette and No. 6 Notre Dame.
But in order to take advantage of their draw, the Panthers must win their first game. They play No. 5 Syracuse or No. 12 Seton Hall at 2 p.m. Thursday.
"Now it's one-and-done," senior guard Tray Woodall said. "It's different now. We have a lot more to fight for. It's about handling our business now."
Pitt not only has the advantage against its possible opponents this season, but in many cases, for the past several years. The Panthers defeated Syracuse in 14 of the past 18 meetings and Georgetown 12 of the past 18. Contrast that with the other side of the bracket -- Pitt has lost five consecutive games to Notre Dame; four in a row to Louisville and three in a row to Marquette, including two this season.
"Different setting, different teams," coach Jamie Dixon said of Pitt's draw. "Hopefully, we're a better team. I know other teams probably feel they're better, too. I just look at the first [game] and will try to figure it out."
Pitt won its final four regular-season games before the tournament and 11 of 14 overall. The Panthers enter their final Big East tournament as hot as any other team in the conference. Georgetown enters having won 12 of their final 13. Louisville has won seven in a row and Marquette has won 10 of 13.
"I like what we're doing," Dixon said. "I like that our young guys are getting better. I like that our defense is far better than it was at the start. Plus, we've had some guys shoot the ball well lately, too.
"You can find fault with a game or two, but I think anyone will take what we've done in the past 14."
The Panthers have talked all season about leaving the Big East on top. They failed to win the regular-season championship, but they can forget about that by winning the third Big East tournament title in school history.
"We want to make sure we go up there for one thing and one thing only," junior forward Lamar Patterson said. "We have a special team. I think we can do good things in the tournament this year."
Pitt has struggled in recent years at the tournament. The Panthers had the double bye three consecutive years from 2009-11 and never won a game. The only game they won in the past four years was a preliminary-round game last season against St. John's.
Woodall, a New Yorker, grew up watching Pitt dominate the Big East tournament. The Panthers appeared in the title game six times in a seven-year span from 2001-08. Woodall was a high school senior at St. Anthony's in New Jersey in 2008 when the Panthers beat Georgetown for the title.
"We have two seniors who have meant everything to us," freshman guard James Robinson said. "We want to send the seniors out the right way."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.