Fourth-ranked Pitt can wrap up its first Big East regular-season championship with a victory against Villanova in the regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center. The last time the Panthers won a regular-season title was 2003-04, Jamie Dixon's first season as head coach.
It will be the final home game for three seniors, who became the winningest class in school history on Wednesday night at South Florida. The victory against the Bulls was No. 109 for the seniors, besting the previous record of 108 by the 2004-05 senior class.
It is a well-decorated class. Senior guard Brad Wanamaker became the second player in school history to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds and dish out 400 assists. He pulled down a rebound in the first half of Wednesday night's game at South Florida to join Carl Krauser in the elite club.
Senior forward Gilbert Brown needs five points to become the 40th player in school history to reach 1,000 points. Brown is attempting to become the third player this season to join the 1,000-point club. Wanamaker and junior Ashton Gibbs did it earlier in the season.
Senior center Gary McGhee, a reserve for his first two seasons behind DeJuan Blair, has scored 520 points and has 539 rebounds in two seasons as a starter. Blair, now the starting center for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, was also part of this class but left Pitt with two years of eligibility remaining to turn professional.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Senior center Gary McGhee might be a key for Pitt's NCAA championship hopes. When McGhee scores in double figures in Big East games, the Panthers are 6-0. When he fails to reach double figures the Panthers are 7-3. A closer look at McGhee's performances in those three losses tells the tale. McGhee was 2 for 4 from the field and scored five points in a loss to Notre Dame. He was 3 for 5 from the field and scored seven points in a loss to St. John's and 1 for 1 from the field and scored three points in a loss to Louisville. When McGhee is scoring easy baskets for the Panthers they are at their best.
--Pitt overcame another slow start to beat South Florida, 66-50, Wednesday night. The Panthers shot 61 percent from the field in the second half and made 10 of their first 11 shots after halftime. That came after 34-percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. Nasir Robinson scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds. Ashton Gibbs had 16 points and Gilbert Brown 10.
--Ashton Gibbs was 4 for 6 from 3-point range after going 3 for 11 from behind the arc in his previous two games.
--Nasir Robinson scored in double figures for the fifth time in the past seven games. Pitt is 9-0 when Robinson scores in double figures.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'll tell you what I find to be kind of a joke. Every once in a while, you turn SportsCenter on and listen to the gurus talking about Pitt being a two seed. How can (they) be a two seed? You run away with this league, which I don't think anybody disagrees is the best league in the country, and play the people they've played non-conference, how are they not a No. 1?" -- West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins on Pitt after losing for a second time this season to the Panthers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Villanova, March 5
KEY MATCHUPS: When the schedule makers penciled this game in they had visions of it deciding the conference race. Pitt upheld its end but Villanova has fallen apart down the stretch. The Wildcats had lost four of their last six games -- three of them at home -- and closes at Notre Dame and at Pitt. A high scoring team, Villanova has failed to score 70 points in four of its last five games. The only one in which it did score 70 was an overtime game against DePaul, the worst defensive team in the conference. Gs Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes still remain scoring threats, averaging 15.5 and 15.3 points a game, respectively.
FUTURES MARKET: There is a reason Pitt is among the nation's top teams and it is because it approaches the game the game as a team. Watching the Panthers play is a lesson in teamwork. They showed it off well in the West Virginia and Louisville games as there were assists on 35 of the Panthers' 49 baskets with Gs Brad Wanamaker, Travon Woodall and F Lamar Patterson combined for 28 assists with just 9 turnovers. "We played off two feet," Wanamaker said. "Coach always preaches that. The three of us like to pass the ball since we're more or less playmakers on this team. When we are able to get other guys involved our team is the best it can be."
--F Gilbert Brown needed 15 points, after scoring 20 against Louisville on Feb. 27, to become the 40th Pitt player -- and the third this season -- to reach the 1,000-point plateau for Pitt.
--F Gilbert Brown, C Gary McGhee and G Brad Wanamaker were selected to attend the 58th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, April 6-8 in Portsmouth, Va.
--G Talib Zanna had surgery on his broken right thumb on Feb. 18 and is expected to miss three to six weeks. He is probably out for the year.