There was some doubt and some worry among some of the Pitt players following an early exit in the Big East Tournament last week. That worry came to an end shortly after 6 pm Sunday evening, as the Panthers learned they were awarded the No. 1 seed in the Southeast Region.
It's the second time in school-history Pitt has been a No. 1 seed, joining the 2009 team. It's the first time the Panthers have to wait to find out who their opponent is. They will meet the winner of a Tuesday night play-in game between UNC-Asheville (19-13) and Arkansas- Little Rock (19-16).
When the Panthers were announced as a No. 1 seed, it cast a sigh of relief over the whole team.
"For us, it's the most recent loss that sticks out most," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "That's not the case (with the selection committee). They look at the whole picture. The regular season—18 games—compared to one in the (Big East) Tournament.
"If you asked somebody right now after watching us play, they'd be worried about our seed. If you look at the 18 conference games and all the things that we did to get the 27 wins that we got, that carries a little (more) weight than one game."
Players such as Nasir Robinson had no comfort at all that they would be announced as a top seed. In fact, Robinson was pleasantly surprised when the announcement came out.
"I know we were kind of surprised, I knew there was a chance we could be the number one seed," Robinson said. "We worked hard all summer and all season, everything we accomplished in the regular season. It's a good feeling that we got the number-one seed."
Pitt will face the winner of that UNC-Asheville-Arkansas-Little Rock game Thursday in Washington D.C. at the Verizon Center, home court of conference rival Georgetown. Time for the game has not yet been determined. The Panthers beat the Hoyas in their last trip to the Verizon Center on January 12, 72-57.
Should the Panthers win Thursday, they'd get the winner of the Butler (23-9) -Old Dominion (27-6) game. Interestingly, Old Dominion is the one team in ahead of the Panthers in rebounding margin in the nation. The Monarchs are a +12.2 in rebounding margin for the season, while Pitt is a +10.4. Old Dominion is led by a pair of 6-9 forwards in Chris Cooper and Frank Hassell.
Whether it's Butler or Old Dominion, some of the Pitt players quickly took note of some of the challenges they might face.
"I watched (Old Dominion) play a couple days ago and I saw they were the number-one rebounding team," guard Brad Wanamaker said. "That would be a great battle of two teams that can rebound the ball. Every team (in this bracket) is solid, and they have a couple good guys on their team."
In addition to Butler and Old Dominion facing off the 8 vs. 9 game, Kansas State and Utah State meet up in the 5 vs. 12 game, Wisconsin-Belmont in the 4 vs. 13 game, St. John's and Gonzaga in the 6 vs. 11 game, BYU and Wofford in the 3 vs. 14 game, UCLA and Michigan State in the 7 vs. 10 game, and Florida vs. UC-Santa Barbara in the 2 vs. 15 game. A possible St. John's-Pitt rematch would only occur in the regional final, with the winner of that potential game advancing to the Final Four.
This marks Pitt's 23rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament, its 10th consecutive trip to the Tournament—the best active streak of any Big East team. This marks their first ever NCAA Tournament game in Washington D.C.
Stay tuned to PantherDigest.com for further coverage of Pitt's 2011 NCAA Tournament run.