Pitt (27-5), the number one seed in the Southeast Region, will open the 2011 NCAA tournament at the Verizon Center (20,000) in Washington, D.C. Thursday afternoon at 3:10 against the University of North Carolina at Asheville (20-13). UNCA advanced after beating the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 81-77, in overtime, at Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday night.
“We’re obviously excited about the No. 1 seed, but honestly at this point, it doesn’t mean a lot. What we’ve done in the past is beyond us,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “You know you’re going to play somebody good, and we understand that.”
UNCA guard Matt Dickey scored 22 points, including 19 in the second half, and hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to tie the game against Arkansas Little Rock and help vault UNCA into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Guard J.P Prem also added 22 points.
“I can’t say enough about what Matt [Dickey] has done for us all year,” said UNCA head coach and Pittsburgh native Eddie Biedenbach said. “We don’t have any quit in this team.”
Dickey will remind Pitt fans of a poor-mans’ Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame guard). He’s a talented guard who can slash and cut to the basket or make outside shots.
“The guys kept telling me to shoot and it would go in,” Dickey said. “It felt great to advance to the next round of the tournament.”
Pitt is looking to rebound after a disappointing early exit from the Big East Tournament last week. The Panthers played well for the first ten minutes of the game then sleep-walked through the rest of the game and lost to eventual tournament-winner Connecticut on a Kemba Walker 15-foot unguarded jump shot from the top of the key at the buzzer.
“We’re excited to have the No. 1 seed, but we have to get the work done in the tournament,” Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker said. “We weren’t sure if we would keep the number one seed [after tournament loss] but thought things would work out.”
The Panthers enter the tournament with an rpi ranking of 10. UNCA enters with an rpi of 147. The winner of the Pitt/UNCA game will face the winner of the eighth-seeded Butler (23-9)/ninth-seeded Old Dominion (27-6) game on Saturday afternoon at the same venue.
Pitt is known for being a tough, blue-collar team that depends on defense and rebounding first and scoring second. UNCA is also a tough, scrappy team that bangs underneath and depends on scoring from the point guards to fuel the offense.
The game marks Pitt’s tenth consecutive NCAA appearance and second top seed in the last three years. The game will be televised on the cable channel TruTV, which is available to 80 percent of the cable subscribers in the country.
For further information: Pitt web site
For complete NCAA tournament coverage, including a printable bracket: hornface.com/College-Basketball