Pitt men’s basketball earns No. 11 seed, draw Mississippi state in first four matchup


AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Pittsburgh forward Jorge Diaz Graham (31) shoots against Miami forward Norchad Omier (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Coral Gables, Fla.

By Anthony Speciale, Staff Writer

On Selection Sunday, the Panthers earned their first NCAA tournament berth since the 2015-16 season, drawing a No. 11 seed in the Midwest region, and are set for a First Four matchup against Mississippi State (21-12, 8-10 SEC) on Tuesday at 9 p.m in Dayton, Ohio. 

Following the Panthers’ 69-96 loss against No. 21 Duke in the ACC Tournament Wednesday, uncertainty loomed over their NCAA tournament fate. Entering Selection Sunday, experts predicted that the Panthers would fall into the “Last Four In” sector of the bubble. 

Like the Panthers, Mississippi State struggled against a conference powerhouse in the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs enter the first four matchup following a 49-72 loss to the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed Alabama. The Bulldogs are led by senior forward Tolu Smith, who averaged nearly 16 points per game during regular season play.

In the event the Panthers win their First Four matchup, they would go on to face No. 6 Iowa State on Friday in Greensboro, N.C. The Cyclones, (19-13, 11-9 Big 12), are coming off a 58-71 loss against No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. The winner of Pitt/Mississippi State vs. Iowa State would then go on to face the victor of No. 3 Xavier and No. 14 Kennesaw State for a chance at a Sweet 16 berth. 

The ACC had four other teams earn an NCAA Tournament bid, including No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 Duke, No. 5 Miami and No. 11 NC State. Miami joins Pitt in the Midwest Region, allowing for the possibility of a rubber match between the two in the Elite Eight. Despite having a similar record to Pitt, ACC standout Clemson missed the tournament, falling on the wrong side of the bubble teams.

The Panthers are also joined in the Midwest region by their keystone rivals Penn State, who received the No. 10 seed in the region, slotted one seed above the Panthers. The two teams could potentially meet in the Sweet 16 with first weekend victories.

With a win on Tuesday, the Panthers would earn their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2014, when they defeated No. 8 Colorado. The Panthers’ most recent tournament game came in 2016, in a 43-47 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin.