March Madness: Pitt receives No. 9 seed in tournament’s South region

By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

The Pitt Panthers were just sitting down to eat dinner when they were the fourth team announced as a participant in the NCAA Tournament. When CBS anchor Greg Gumbel informed the nation Pitt would be a No. 9 seed facing No. 8 seed Colorado Thursday in Orlando, Fla., players, as Lamar Patterson said, “Didn’t even see it.”

“I sat down and next thing I knew they said we were playing Colorado,” Patterson said. “Usually we’re sitting in the chairs and all that, but this year it happened so fast.”

Pitt (25-9, 11-7 ACC) was announced earlier than usual because of its assignment to the South region of the bracket’s field of 68 teams, the region first announced on the broadcast.

“It came kind of early,” guard James Robinson said. “We were all kind of just like sitting around. We’re happy with it, we’ll be ready to go.”  

The Panthers are now on the other side of the coin they were on last year, as a No. 8 seed matched up with No. 9 Wichita State in the second round. The Shockers upset Pitt en route to a Final Four appearance. 

Head coach Jamie Dixon is aware of the Panthers’ position entering the contest.

“They’re an eight, we’re a nine, so we’re the underdog going in,” Dixon said. “We’ve got to go in and play good basketball.” 

Redshirt senior center Talib Zanna will participate in his fourth NCAA Tournament and said that “some people care about the seed,” but he is not one of them. 

“I think the seed doesn’t matter because a couple years back, a lot of [Pitt] teams had a No. 1 seed and in the first round they went down, so I think the seed doesn’t matter,” Zanna said. “It’s who has the heart to come out and dominate and play like they want it so bad, so that’s the people who’s [sic] going to win the tournament.” 

Like the Panthers, the Buffaloes are missing one of their best players because of injury. Leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the season Jan. 12 when he tore his ACL.  

The day before Dinwiddie sustained his injury, Pitt’s third-leading scorer, Durand Johnson, suffered the same injury in Pitt’s win against Wake Forest. 

The fact Colorado (23-11, 10-8 Pacific 12) lost its best player was all Zanna said he knew about the Buffaloes. Patterson had positive words about his competition, despite limited knowledge.

“I know they shoot the ball well, they’re a good team,” Patterson said. “They rebound well.” 

If the Panthers manage an upset of Colorado, they’d face the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed Florida Gators in a virtual home game for the Gators at the Amway Center, just hours away from their main campus in Gainesville, Fla. 

“We can’t do nothing about it,” Zanna said. “We just have to come together and just play the way we play.”  

Pitt’s seed was up in the air before to the ACC Tournament, but a win against No. 15 North Carolina locked the Panthers into the Big Dance. It also might have pulled the Panthers up from being a No. 10 seed, which many bracketologists projected them to be last week.

Dixon doesn’t know whether or not the selection committee gave his squad the right seed, saying “it is what it is.”

“I think they may miss you by one slot or they may have to move you around because of conferences or locations,” Dixon said. “I don’t think there’s a big debate about being one or the other, eight or nine, or nine or ten. You’re going to play somebody good.” 

Whether that somebody is Colorado Thursday or Florida Saturday, Patterson and the Panthers are focused on the task ahead of them, as their next loss will end their season.

“We know we have to play somebody, so we just gotta go out and play now,” Patterson said.