Jamie Dixon may finally take Pitt Panthers to a Final dance

Mar 10, 2009 4:07 PM
On The Mark by Mark Mayer |
last week

Let’s cast an early vote for Pitt as the national champion.

There will be 64 other cases to be made come March 19 when the Big Dance begins, but maybe this is finally the year of the Panther. At least I’ll get an early start on the masses, who will overwhelm us with bracketology – an overused word that needs to go away.

No matter, it’s my "Why I like Pittsburgh" moment. Under Jamie Dixon, the Panthers have made the Big East Tourney final four times in five tries (winning last year) and now in 22 straight NCAA Tourneys. The Panthers have only managed to reach the Sweet 16 twice (2004, 2007), but did win two national titles between 1927 and 1930.

Okay, that’s light years ago.

This season the Panthers were ranked No. 1 for the first time and won all 19 home games by at least 10 points. They beat Connecticut twice, each time when the Huskies were ranked No. 1. Pittsburgh plays a tough, physical game epitomized by 6-foot-9, 265-lb. monster DeJuan Blair, who is the biggest thing on campus since the days of "Send It Home Jerome" Lane.

If the Panthers can lock down the top seed in the East, it probably will assure them of at least another Sweet 16. But my bracket sheet will expect a whole lot more.

This week’s basketball action will involve conference tourney play so we’ll pick and choose based on what matchups we know.

Tuesday, March 10

Georgetown vs St. John’s: If there’s one team that has the most to gain in the Big East tourney, it’s Georgetown. And St. John’s is a good way to start. G’TOWN.

Notre Dame vs Rutgers: And, the Irish are a close second to the Hoyas. They should have too much firepower for the Scarlet Knights, who are 1-9 in last 10. NOTRE DAME.

Wednesday, March 11

UMass at Duquesne: UMass is a nightmare to figure out, but on a two-game win streak entering the A-10 tourney. Duquesne won the first meeting by 17, but has failed to cover in last 3. UMASS.

Iowa St vs Oklahoma St: The Cowboys figure to be a double-digit favorite and should be after finishing the regular season strong. Iowa State was an anemic 2-11-1 ATS in last 14. Ouch. OKLAHOMA ST.

Stanford vs Oregon St: Beavers slumped down the stretch, losing three straight entering the Pac 10 tourney. Stanford won by 12 and 15 in earlier meetings. Yet we see the power of Obama keeping this one fairly close. OREGON ST.

Thursday, March 12

Indiana vs Penn St: You know things are bad when Indiana is a big underdog to Penn State. The Hoosiers are that bad, but the Nittany Lions don’t score that much and the Big 10 tourney is in Indianapolis. UNDER.

Iowa vs Michigan: Wolverines have covered 5 of 6. The one flaw was a 10-point loss at Iowa, but Michigan won by 15 in Ann Arbor and is the better team. MICHIGAN.

Georgia vs Miss St: Battle of Bulldogs, but Mississippi State did finish strong with wins over Ole Miss and Florida. Georgia is in the SEC ‘dawg’ house. MISS ST.

Arkansas vs Florida: The Hogs are 1-10 in last 11 and 2-9 on the road. Florida needs to make a statement in the SEC tourney. FLORIDA.

San Diego St vs UNLV: Rebels have not lost an opening round game in all the years the Mountain West tourney has been here. That streak continues if Wink Adams finds his