Pitt dismisses first-round fears
Pitt might not know much about NCAA first-round opponent Oral Roberts, but eye rolls were on cue when talk of four-in-four turned to one-and-done.
Faster than you can say Syracuse, the Panthers distanced themselves from the only other team to win four Big East tourney games in as many days at Madison Square Garden.
That’s because the fifth-seeded Orange promptly lost to No. 12 Texas A&M in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Pitt has no plans to repeat that feat.
“I’ve heard it a thousand times,” Pitt freshman center DeJuan Blair said, “and every time I heard it I said, ‘We’re not Syracuse.’ They probably just wanted to win the Big East. We’re looking for the national championship. Well, I’m looking for it. I’ve been in championships all my life. We have to stay hungry. The Big East, that is something we should have won. We just have to keep reaching.”
Fourth-seeded Pitt (26-9) hopes to ride its Big East momentum when it plays No. 13 seed Oral Roberts (24-8) Thursday at Pepsi Center in Denver.
“The four games in four days never really became an issue for us. It’s not like you have an option,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We have to play our best basketball on Thursday. We know we are playing a good team that is used to winning. It’s a one-and-done tournament. We played well this past week, but that doesn’t get you any points on Thursday.”
Since 1996-97, nine teams had won four games in four days to claim their conference tourney titles. Pitt and Southeastern Conference champion Georgia did the same this year, but their predecessors met a mixed fate.
Where Xavier won the Atlantic-10 and reached the Elite Eight in 2004, Arkansas and St. Louis (both in 2000) joined Syracuse (’06) as first-round flops, while Iowa bowed out in the second in 2001. After following in Syracuse’s footsteps once, the Panthers have no intentions of doing it again.
“You can’t really compare our team with that Syracuse team,” Pitt senior guard Ronald Ramon said. “We’re two completely different teams, two completely different situations. We have to stay focused on the things we’ve been doing, especially with the way we’ve played the past few days. The confidence level is high, knowing that if we stay focused and we do the things we have to do we can win games against anybody in the country.
“We’ve got to keep it going, keep the same intensity and same mentality when we go out there and play basketball.”