Pitt's Big East Conference finale not about nostalgia
Share with others:
On Dec. 27, 1982, Pitt traveled to Syracuse for its first Big East Conference game. Clyde Vaughan scored 26 points and had 11 rebounds in an 87-66 loss before 23,668 at Carrier Dome.
Today at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., Pitt will play its final regular-season game as a member of the conference against the DePaul Blue Demons.
Over 31 seasons, the Panthers have won 281 Big East regular-season games and lost 243. They won six Big East regular-season championships and two conference tournament championships.
Next week, they will compete in their final Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. In the NCAA tournament, they will represent the Big East for the final time.
On July 1, it becomes official. Pitt will become a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
No. 20 Pitt (23-7, 11-6 Big East) vs. DePaul (11-19, 2-15), 2 p.m. today, Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Ill.
- TV, Radio, Internet:
WTAE, KDKA-FM (93.7), www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
Playing its final regular-season game as a member of the Big East Conference. ... Coming off of a 73-64 overtime victory Sunday against Villanova. ... Junior F Talib Zanna had a career-high 19 rebounds in the win vs. Villanova. ... Beat DePaul, 93-55, Jan. 28 at Petersen Events Center. ... Has won eight of nine meetings against the Blue Demons since they joined the Big East in 2006. The only loss came in January 2012 at DePaul.
Coming off 78-57 loss Wednesday at Syracuse. ... Has lost five consecutive games and 13 of 14. ... Has 0-3 record in overtime games. ... Led by Brandon Young (16.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Cleveland Melvin (16.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
- Hidden stat:
Pitt is 3-3 in games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime; DePaul is 2-5.
"It's somewhat sad it's coming to an end," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, who is in his 10th season as head coach. "We're in a good place, but we're going to a good place. We've had great memories, but I'm sure it's going to be great [in the ACC], too.
"It's hard to believe it getting better than this, the rivalries we've had. But I see that continuing. It will be a little different. We found new rivalries in the Big East. We developed rivalries. That will happen in the ACC, too."
Pitt's first Big East victory didn't come until almost a month later. The Panthers opened their first Big East schedule with four losses before beating Seton Hall Jan. 22, 1983.
That first season Pitt finished 6-10 and in sixth place in the standings and then lost their first Big East tournament game to St. John's. It wouldn't be until four years later, in 1987, that the Panthers finally would win a Big East tournament game and 20 years until they finally cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden for their first tournament title.
But the Panthers cannot worry about sentimentality today. How they fare against DePaul could go a long way in determining their chances of competing for one final Big East tournament title.
Pitt can be the No. 4, 5 or 6 seed at the conference tournament. The No. 4 seed gets a double bye to the quarterfinal round of the tournament while the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds open play Wednesday.
Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse enter their regular-season finales with 11-6 records. Notre Dame plays today at Louisville and Syracuse plays at Georgetown. The easiest way for Pitt to get the No. 4 seed is by winning and having Notre Dame and Syracuse lose. But there are other scenarios where the Panthers can get the No. 4 seed.
"We're just trying to focus on DePaul and finish our season strong," junior guard Trey Zeigler said. "We know there is seeding involved. We're definitely aware of that, but we just have to take care of business. We can't worry about what everyone else is doing. We have to make sure we control what we can control."
Pitt beat DePaul, 93-55, Jan. 26 at Petersen Events Center. The Panthers shot 49 percent in that game and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds while limiting the Blue Demons to 28 percent shooting. The 38-point margin of victory stands as the largest rout for Pitt in a Big East game.
"Things went our way," Dixon said. "Our depth was something that was an advantage to us in the first game. We were able to take advantage on the back end [of the press] and rebound. We didn't shoot it great but we came up with second opportunities."
Zeigler expects a better effort from DePaul, which has lost 13 of its past 14 games and has been defeated by an average of 18 points per game in its past five losses.
"I'm sure they'll throw a different look at us," Zeigler said. "We played really well. I'm sure they'll try to take something away."
First Published March 9, 2013 12:17 am