Momentum is there for Pitt basketball to move ahead
The Panthers will play at 2 p.m. Thursday in the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
March 10, 2014 11:09 PM
Pitt freshman Josh Newkirk, who played hero Saturday at Clemson, drives against North Carolina State last week at Petersen Events Center.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One-and-done tournament basketball is often more about which team is playing the best at the time than which is the best team. That is something Pitt will continue to remind itself the next few days in preparation for the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Pitt (23-8) is the fifth seed in the tournament, which begins Wednesday, and will play at 2 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the No. 12-13 game between Wake Forest (16-15) and Notre Dame (15-16).
The Panthers beat both teams this season, but the players said that because it is a tournament, those games won't be relevant -- every team is fighting to stay alive in this format, so the games will be close and intense.
But Pitt did win its most recent game in dramatic fashion, 83-78, in overtime at Clemson, and that is the kind of win the Panthers hope will give them momentum to start their postseason run.
The key play came at the end of regulation when Lamar Patterson tipped the ball on a Clemson inbounds play with 2.4 seconds left and it rolled to Josh Newkirk, who picked it up and hit the tying shot as time expired.
"Well obviously Josh Newkirk's buzzer-beater at Clemson [is a big momentum boost]," said junior Cameron Wright. "If that doesn't give us a boost going into the ACC tournament and then into the NCAA tournament, then I don't know what else can give you one."
Sophomore James Robinson added: "For us to pull that win out against Clemson, the way we did considering they are a really good team, yes, we should be able to build on it."
Wright said the Panthers won't get caught looking ahead to the NCAA tournament because they haven't officially punched their ticket yet.
"We want to take it one day at a time," Wright said. "I know we play Thursday against either Wake Forest or Notre Dame and both are going to be ready to play. So we are still just working hard every day and working to try and get ready to play that first one, and we don't want to look too far down the road even though it isn't that far away."
Robinson said he likes any elimination tournament format because of the sense of urgency and intensity teams play with, as well as the uncertainty of who the next opponent might be.
And while he loved going to Madison Square Garden and New York City for the Big East tournament, he is looking forward to Pitt's first ACC tournament at Greensboro Coliseum because it has a great history and has provided memorable moments over the years.
"It is exciting," Robinson said. "We are going to try and take the best of what we learned during the season and go down and play the best we can. I'm not going to say it is a reset button, because we did a lot of good things this year, as well, but we also did some things we have to learn from and do better and avoid once we get in the tournament.
"But this is anybody's tournament. Everybody has a chance to win."
The ACC announced its all-conference teams Monday, and Patterson was named to the second team by the media and coaches. Fellow senior Talib Zanna earned honorable mention.
At one point this season Patterson was a candidate for ACC player of the year, but Wright said the Panthers can exact some revenge in his honor by making a long run in the tournament or even winning it.
"I was talking to Lamar and Talib and told them that you have two guaranteed games left in your careers," Wright said. "And we want to do everything in our power to try and extend their season as long as we can. We want to send them out the right way."
The ACC has two all-conference teams, one voted on by the media and one by the coaches, and both groups had Duke's Jabari Parker, North Carolina State's T.J. Warren, North Carolina's Marcus Paige and Syracuse's C.J. Fair on the first team.
The only difference was the coaches had Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon, the media had Clemson's K.J. McDaniels.
Florida State's Ian Miller was the sixth man of the year, and Paige won most improved player. The all-defensive team was McDaniels, Daniel Miller (Georgia Tech), Akil Mitchell (Virginia), Okaro White (Florida State) and J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina).
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