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Poor shooting could be culprit if Pitt doesn’t receive NCAA Tournament bid | TribLIVE.com
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Poor shooting could be culprit if Pitt doesn’t receive NCAA Tournament bid

Dan Stefano
| Monday, March 7, 2016 12:06 p.m
PittsburghGeorgiaTechBasketballJPEGf9684
Damon Wilson puts up a shot next to Sheldon Jeter during Pitt's 63-59 loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Panthers went 0 for 11 behind the arc in the game. 'We have to get back to being more confident in our shot,' Jeter said. 'It's like we're thinking too much about it.'

Before boarding a bus Monday for the trip to Washington and the ACC Tournament, Pitt forward Sheldon Jeter wasn’t shy revealing what he and his teammates think about their NCAA chances.

“Our attitude for these last two games was we have to win (both) to get in the tournament,” he said.

But didn’t Pitt lose those games? OK, what happens now?

“We know to get into the tournament, we have to make a deep run in this ACC Tournament,” he said.

That’s asking a lot, but Jeter knows the NCAA window is closing. It could slam shut on the Panthers (20-10) and their cold-shooting hands if they can’t defeat Syracuse (19-12) in their first tournament game at noon Wednesday at Verizon Center.

Jeter also referenced the three letters no Pitt fan wants to hear.

“If we don’t (make a deep run), in our minds, we’ll probably be in the NIT again,” he said. “I don’t know how the selection committee will look at it, but that’s at least what we’re thinking.”

If momentum is one ingredient of postseason success, Pitt might have run out of good fortune. The Panthers have lost three of their past four games and six of nine, punctuated by pitiful 23 percent shooting percentage Saturday in the second half of the 63-59 loss at Georgia Tech.

The inaccuracy has shown up most prominently behind the 3-point arc, where Pitt is tied for 10th with N.C. State in the ACC at 34.4 percent — 178th in the nation.

In the road losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Pitt hit only 3 of 32 3-point attempts (0 for 11 against the Ramblin’ Wreck).

Coach Jamie Dixon, who led his team through a shootaround Monday night at Verizon, said it’s difficult to predict how his team will shoot. He said players shot poorly in the shootaround before the Virginia Tech game, and it carried over when the game started.

“Usually, it doesn’t correlate, but in that case it did,” he said.

Then, he said, Pitt shot “very well” in warmups before Georgia Tech but struggled in the second half of the game.

Jeter suggested the flow of the offense might be causing some players to lose focus.

“At times, the ball finds itself staying on one side of the court, as opposed to getting on both sides,” he said. “Sometimes, that would cause players to stand there and not be ready. We have to get back to being ready to shoot.

“We have to get back to being more confident in our shot. It’s like we’re thinking too much about it.”

Despite the late-season slump, Pitt remains in contention for a berth in the 68-team tournament field. Pitt’s RPI is 55, and ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected Monday the Panthers getting a 10 seed and playing No. 7 Seton Hall in their first game.

How a loss to Syracuse in the ACC Tournament will affect those numbers is a matter of speculation, but it would nudge Pitt closer to the NIT.

“I still think we can make it far (in the ACC),” Jeter said. “We just have to fix some of the mental mistakes that we made and have some urgency about us for the entire game, not just bits and pieces.”

Notes: Dixon laughed when told his name has been linked to the opening at UNLV. “Is that the open one this week?” he said. “First I heard about it.” … Forward Michael Young was named third-team All-ACC via separate voting by the conference media and coaches. … Dixon said redshirt freshman Cam Johnson, who didn’t play against Georgia Tech, needed 11 stitches to close a cut on his elbow. He injured it on a piece of metal in a doorway. “He didn’t have full range of motion,” Dixon said. “We’ll see how he feels (Monday).” … Pitt will be among eight teams participating in the 22nd annual 2K Classic in November at Madison Square Garden. The others are No. 25 SMU, Michigan, Marquette, IUPUI, Eastern Michigan, Gardner-Webb and Howard. Pitt will be the host for two games at Petersen Events Center before playing at MSG on Nov. 17-18.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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