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Quarterfinal Game Preview




March 9, 2009

GAME 32: 7-WVU/10-NOTRE DAME/15-RUTGERS vs. #2 PITT (28-3, 15-3 Big East)

 

Big East Quarterfinal • Thursday, March 12, 2009 • 7 p.m. ET • Madison Square Garden (19,528) • New York, N.Y.

 

MEDIA INFORMATION

Television: ESPN (Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, Jay Bilas, Allen Hopkins; Producer: Bo Garrett).


 

 

Radio: Pitt Panthers/ISP Sports Radio Network (Bill Hillgrove and Dick Groat), 94.5-FM (WWSW), 970 AM (WBGG). XM Satellite Radio: Channel 218 (Pitt feed).

 

Internet Radio Broadcast/Live Stats: www.pittsburghpanthers.com

The Coach: Pitt: Jamie Dixon, 10th year at Pitt, 6th year as head coach (160-43).

Rankings: Pitt: 3-AP, 4-ESPN (as of March 2, 2009).

Tournament: Pitt is the defending Big East Tournament champion as it became the second program to capture the title after winning four straight games in 2008. Pitt has advanced to seven of the last eight Big East Tournament title games, which ties for the most successful run in tourney history (Syracuse advanced to seven of eight title games from 1986-93). Since 2000, Pitt leads the Big East with 19 BET wins. Syracuse ranks second with 11. Pitt also enters the BET with a 23-8 record and .742 winning percentage at Madison Square Garden since 2000-01.

 

GAME PREVIEW

 

No. 3 ranked Pitt (28-3, 15-3 Big East)  travels to New York City and Madison Square Garden to compete in its 27th all-time Big East Championship. The No. 2 seeded Panthers open Big East Tournament play against the winner of the No. 7 West Virginia-No. 10 Notre Dame-No. 15 Rutgers bracket in a Quarterfinal Round game on Thursday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET.

 

The contest will be nationally televised on ESPN with Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas making the call with Allen Hopkins as sideline reporter. Bo Garrett will handle production.

 

Should Pitt win its Quarterfinal game, it would advance to Semifinal action on Friday at 9 p.m. If it wins its Semifinal game, Pitt will make its eighth Big East Championship title game appearance in each of the last nine seasons on Saturday at 9 p.m. All games will be televised nationally on ESPN.

 

Pitt has advanced to the Big East Championship Final in seven of the last eight seasons. Since 2000, Pitt has won the league’s most BET games (19) and captured two titles (2003 and 2008). In addition, Jamie Dixon has guided Pitt to the title game in four of the last five seasons as head coach.

 

Pitt concluded its regular season with a 28-3 overall record and 15-3 Big East record. Over the last eight years (2001-08), Pitt has proven to be the winningest Big East Conference basketball program. From 2001-08, Pitt owns the league’s top records for league play (96-36) and overall games (217-54).  Pitt is the only Big East Conference program to win both 20 or more overall games and 10 or more league games in each of the last eight seasons. Prior to the 2001-02 season, Pitt won 20 or more games in only two consecutive seasons. It marks Pitt’s 16th all-time 20-win season. In addition, Jamie Dixon became the first head coach in school history to win 20-plus games in six straight years.

 

Pitt enters the game after having won 10 of its last 11 contests. At 15-3, Pitt finished the Big East regular season tied for second place with Connecticut (15-3) and behind No. 1 Louisville (16-2). With two regular season wins over Connecticut, Pitt holds the tiebreaker over the Huskies.

 

The 15 league wins set a school record for most Big East regular season victories. Pitt’s senior class of Tyrell Biggs, Levance Fields and Sam Young has won a school record 109 wins from 2005-09. The previous school record was 108 wins set by the 2004-05 senior class of Chevon Troutman and Mark McCarroll. The current class has a 109-29 record.

 

Pitt continues to the lead the nation in Ratings Percentage Index according to realtimepri.com. Pitt’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 7 nationally. Pitt is No. 1 in RPI at .6764, Duke is No. 2 at .6634, North Carolina is No. 3 with a .6559 mark and Oklahoma is No. 4 at .6528.

 

Through its first 31 games, Pitt has outscored its opponents by a plus-14.8 margin and outrebounded its opponents by a nation-leading plus-10.4 margin. The Panthers are also converting 48.5 percent (918-1893) of their field goal attempts and limiting opponents to 41.0 percent shooting. Pitt has also held 25 of its 31 opponents to 70 points or less and 12 teams to 60 points or less. Pitt is ranked among the nation’s top-10 teams in five statistical categories (as of March 5, 2009). As a team, Pitt ranks first nationally in rebound margin (10.4), ranks third in assist:turnover ratio (1.52), second in winning percentage (93.1), fourth in assists per game (18.2),  fifth in scoring margin (15.0), ninth in field goal percentage (48.6) and 19th in scoring offense (78.8). Pitt also ranks 30th in turnovers per game (12.1) and 34th in personal fouls (16.3).

 

Several Pitt players are also ranked among national leaders in various statistical categories (as of March 5, 2009). Levance Fields leads the nation in assist:turnover ratio (4.02) and ranks third in assists per game (7.5). DeJuan Blair ranks fourth nationally in rebounding (12.6) and leads the nation in offensive rebounds with 5.6 orpg according to StatsLLC (Note: the NCAA does not rank top offensive rebounders). He is also ranked No. 16 in field goal percentage (60.1). Sam Young is rated 96th in field goal percentage (50.1) and 59th in scoring (18.4).

 

Pitt enters the tournament as hottest teams after having won 10 of its last 11 games. Pitt closed out its regular season with a defeat of No. 1 ranked UConn 70-60 on Saturday. Pitt defeated the nation’s No. 1 ranked team for the second time on the year. Sam Young scored a game-high 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Levance Fields notched his ninth career double-double in the win. Pitt’s recent six-game win streak in league play ranked among the school’s top-5 win streaks in Big East play.. It bounced back from an 81-73 loss at Providence on Feb. 24 with an 89-78 win at Seton Hall on Feb. 28. Sam Young scored a game-high 29 points and Pitt claimed the win despite committing 23 turnovers on the evening. Pitt then defeated No. 13 Marquette 90-75 on March 4 behind 23 points from DeJuan Blair, 18 from Sam Young and 17 and 10 assists from Levance Fields. Pitt shot 63 percent from the floor and outscored the Golden Eagles 21-2 over a seven-minute second half span for the win.

 

Pitt concluded its seventh season in the Petersen Events Center with a 115-10 all-time record and .920 winning percentage. The .920 winning percentage ranks among the nation’s best home court records over the last seven years (see chart page 8). Pitt has won 54 of its last 63 Big East home games and is 49-9 against Big East opponents in the Petersen Events Center. Louisville is the only opponent to defeat Pitt two different times in the Petersen Events Center on Feb. 24, 2008 (75-73 decision). Pitt also owns a 66-1 record vs. non-conference opponents in the Petersen Events Center. Pitt has also won 87 of its last 89 home games against regular season non-conference opponents.

TODAY’S TOP STORYLINES

 

•Pitt has advanced to seven of the last eight Big East Championship title games. It has claimed two titles (2003 and 2008) during that span.

 

•Over the last eight seasons, Pitt has proven to be the Big East’s leader in overall (217-54, .801) and league winning percentage (96-36, .727), consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (8) and most 20-win, 10-league win seasons (8).

 

•Madison Square Garden is Pitt’s home away from home as Pitt is 23-8 at MSG since 2001-01. Pitt has won eight of its last nine games at the Garden.

•Head Coach Jamie Dixon (160 wins) needs just one more victory to tie the NCAA Division I record for best coaching start after six seasons as head coach. North Carolina State’s Everett Case holds the record with 161 wins from 1947-51.

 

•Pitt opens tourney play on Thursday at 7.