First Pitt won the Big East championship Saturday night with an improbable run to the title. Now, it is a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament after creating some doubt whether it would make the tournament at all just a few weeks ago.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pitt basketball team still was basking in the glow of its improbable run to a Big East tournament championship yesterday.
Selection Sunday was more like Celebration Sunday.
After beating three higher-ranked teams and winning four games in four days in the mecca of college basketball -- Madison Square Garden -- the unranked Panthers were happy to finally be back home.
They arrived at their Oakland campus around noon after making the short flight back from New York.
A few hours later, the players and coaches gathered at the Petersen Events Center to watch the NCAA selection show on television.
That's when the Panthers learned that they will be the No. 4 seed in the South Region of the NCAA tournament and will play No. 13 Oral Roberts Thursday in the first round in Denver.
After an off day today, the weary Panthers, 26-9 and riding a five-game winning streak, will resume practicing tomorrow.
"This team will be ready," said senior guard Ronald Ramon, who averaged 14.0 points per game in the Panthers' four Big East tournament victories. "We got to come out and play hard, and play with the same focus we had at the Big East tournament. We need to just keep playing good basketball."
If history is any indication, that's easier said than done.
Since 2000, five Big East teams have played four games in four days at the conference tournament.
Only one -- West Virginia -- has advanced past the second round of a postseason tournament. The Mountaineers made it to the Elite Eight before losing to Louisville in 2005.
Twice during that stretch, runner-up Pitt went 3-1 at the Big East tournament and then nose-dived in the postseason. In 2001, the Panthers lost to Mississippi State in the second round of the NIT. In 2006, they were eliminated by Bradley in the second round of the NCAA.
"I'd bet the last five teams that played four games in four days at the Big East tournament were not playing the same way we are right now," senior guard Keith Benjamin said. "Guys don't really worry about all that other stuff. Being tired is not an issue. I think guys are willing to bite the bullet and keep fighting."
Freshman forward DeJuan Blair from Schenley High School, who has 13 double-doubles this season, admits he wore down late in the regular season but said he has since regained his stamina.
"In AAU, I played six games in one day, so it's no big deal playing four games in four days like we did," he said. "It's just how you treat your body. You need a lot of fluids, and you need a lot of rest."