Pitt Gets No. 1 Seed

Seth Davis from Sports Illustrated believes that the Pitt men's basketball team is the best team in the NCAA Tournament this year, but if the Panthers are going to advance further than the program has gone before they'll need to survive what appears to be the most difficult bracket.

Pittsburgh (28-4) was among three Big East teams to garner No. 1 seeds, a first in the program's history, and is the top team in the East. The Panthers face East Tennessee State University (23-10), champion from the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Johnson City, Tenn.-based Buccaneers are seeded 16th.

Pitt plays ETSU Friday at the University of Dayton at a time to be determined. The winner faces either No. 8 Oklahoma State or No. 9 Tennessee Sunday. Duke is seeded second in the bracket, while Villanova is third. Xavier, with former Pitt point guard Sean Miller as the head coach, is fourth. Florida State, a Pitt victim in the final non-conference game in December, is fifth. And UCLA, with former Panthers coach Ben Howland at the helm, is seeded sixth.

"I think we've got the toughest bracket,'' Pitt junior guard Jermaine Dixon said. "Well, North Carolina's is pretty tough, but I think we've got the toughest one. So, it won't be easy for us, but we're ready. And I think we can get it done. You can't count out Oklahoma State, but Tennessee is supposedly an elite team.

"Tennessee didn't have the year that everyone thought they would, but they're still a good team. And Oklahoma State's a good team. They have (good players), so the second-round game definitely will be a good game. But we've got to get by the first-round game first. So, that's our focus right now.''

Louisville, the Big East regular-season and Tournament champion, was the No. 1 overall seed and gets the play-in winner Friday in the Midwest. Connecticut also was a No. 1 seed, in the West -- which is where the Huskies played when they won their last two national titles. UConn plays Chattanooga Thursday. The other No. 1 seed is North Carolina in the South.

The other Big East teams to make the NCAA Tournament were third-seeded Syracuse, and sixth-seeded West Virginia and Marquette. The ACC and Big 10 also had seven teams each in the 65-team field.

"I think (seven) is the right number,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We were hoping that eight would get in there, but that's how it fell. And with so many teams with high seeds, the other teams are losing to them. So, you can't have both, high seeds and a lot of teams. ... But we've got three No. 1 seeds, and that's really the story.

"I don't know if it's ever been done before, but ... you talk about how good a conference will be, and it doesn't live up to it. But this one did with Louisville, Connecticut and ourselves as No. 1 seeds. And I think there's better things to come in the future. (Being a top seed) is a great thing, but it's doesn't mean anything at this point.

"It's an accomplishment that comes from playing good basketball for a long period of time,'' Dixon added. "So, that says a lot of things, but there's 65 teams in the Tournament. And every one of them thinks they can win it, and that's how it works. ... What we got from (being No. 1) is over now, and we've got to focus on our first game.''

The last time the Panthers made a trip to Dayton, it didn't return home on a positive note. The Flyers gave Pitt it's first loss there last season, and point guard Levance Fields broke a bone in his foot. Sophomore center DeJuan Blair sees better things ahead, though, on the return trip.

"It's going to be a lot of fun,'' Blair said. "Hopefully, a lot of Pittsburgh people will come out there, and I hope my family can all make it. It should be a lot of fun for us with a lot of fans there, so we're really looking forward to it.

"We're just going to play one game at a time, and we can't worry about everybody else. We only need to worry about us and be a team and a family. ... I really don't want to talk about officiating. I don't know the refs, but hopefully they're good and they're cool. So, I should be cool, too.''

Senior forward Sam Young believed Blair was the key to Pitt's future success.

"I told him he has to stay in the games; we need him,'' Young said. "He can't take chances and get into foul trouble. For us to go where we want to go, we're going to need DeJuan in the game as long as possible.''

And for Pitt, that journey begins Friday in Dayton.

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