Students fill out their brackets, with or without Pitt



Duke’s Luke Kennard (5) has the ball stolen by North Carolina’s Joel Berry II, right, in the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. UNC won, 76-72. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

As the snow stopped falling Tuesday night, basketball fans on Pitt’s campus were just getting warmed up for the upcoming NCAA Tournament — despite Pitt’s now-deceased season.

In the library at about 11 p.m., where students were cramming for next-day exams and working together on group projects, there wasn’t even the prospect of a Pitt postseason to distract from the upcoming final exams or the chilly end to spring break.

At the far left corner of Hillman, up against the stacks, first-year physics and astronomy major Jacob Ginsburg had some harsh words for Pitt’s losing team.

“I definitely think the [NCAA] committee made the right choice. Pitt definitely did not deserve to be there,” he said, adding that the first half of the season was exciting, but he didn’t go to most of the games because he didn’t want to watch Pitt lose.

Because Pitt had a losing season — going 16-17 overall — and did not win the ACC Tournament last weekend, it will not be playing in the Tournament this spring. The team’s four seniors — Jamel Artis, Michael Young, Chris Jones and Sheldon Jeter — walked off the court glumly for the last time last week in Brooklyn, New York.

Ginsburg is in a pool with his fellow first-year friend Steven Field, who was seated next to him. Field is placing his bet on Kentucky (16-2, 29-5 overall), which will play North Kentucky this Friday. He’s not taking any wild guesses.

“[Kentucky is] young, but you know Kentucky is just a reliable pick going into the tournament,” he said. He put $5 into the pool and expects to win about $100 if he’s right about the Wildcats’ chances.

Ginsburg, more swayed by his personal feelings, is betting on Baylor — mostly because he doesn’t like North Carolina.

Some people, including senior Bobby Penev, haven’t gotten around to putting a bracket together yet. The play-in games began last night, but people can still wait until the second round begins with No. 5 Notre Dame taking on No. 12 Princeton at 12:15 p.m. Thursday. Penev hasn’t gotten over Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings’ inability to pull the season from the gutter.

“I think it’s mainly Stallings’ fault — I don’t think he’s a good coach,” the chemistry major said, adding that firing the Vanderbilt transfer might be too extreme. “I think [Pitt] should consider some disciplinary action.”

Senior Amber Smith from Kansas, when putting together her bracket picks, decided not to select her home state’s No. 1 seed Jayhawks despite the fact the team was the top-ranked in the nation for several weeks this year.

“My sister went to [in-state rival Kansas State] for college,” Smith said, explaining her choice. “Also, many of my best friends go to KU, and I just can’t stand their fans. They’re so loud and annoying.”

Instead, she picked the Duke Blue Devils to beat Kansas in the championship game.

“Duke always seems to find a way to win, even when they’re not that good,” Smith said. “I like their chances this year.”

Perhaps no one on Pitt’s campus knows what it’s like to try and maintain enthusiasm while watching crushing defeat after defeat like the members of the Pitt Band.

A cluster of musicians who were present at all of Pitt’s games this season were sitting around a table decorated with snacks and science textbooks Tuesday, maintaining good spirits despite the late-night study session.

Sercan Cagatay, a senior clarinet player, has an unorthodox method for predicting game winners.

“I do it by colors,” he said, to some laughter and disapproving head shakes from the rest of the table. “Orange automatically loses, blue I generally feel good about.”

“Do it by mascots,” interjected first-year Zoe Medvid from across the table. “That’s why Wisconsin’s going to win.”

Senior Khadija-awa Diop from New Jersey admitted that she also doesn’t care much for the complexities of predicting winning basketball teams.

“To be honest, when you came over here asking about March Madness, I thought you were talking about the song by Future,” she said.

Perhaps Diop’s unfamiliarity with the NCAA Tournament is understandable as Pitt’s participation in March Madness is becoming more and more infrequent. After participating in March Madness in 10 consecutive seasons between 2003 and 2012, the Panthers have only played in the tournament three times in the last six years.

It was depressing, some band members said, watching Pitt’s first losing season in 17 years from the student section. But first-year Meyer Jeffers, wearing a bright blue Oakland Zoo shirt, maintained a level of optimism about supporting the team through rough times.

“I feel like it’s easier when you’re part of the hype,” he said.

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