Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Double Bye within Reach for Panthers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Double Bye within Reach for Panthers

Article excerpt

Pitt cannot win a Big East regular-season championship in its final season as a member of the conference, but the Panthers just might get the path of least resistance in their final quest for a conference tournament title.

Problem is, the path of least resistance has been full of roadblocks for Pitt since the Big East adopted the double-bye format for its tournament four years ago.

Since 2009, the Big East has awarded the top four teams in the league standings a free pass to the quarterfinal round of the tournament while the rest of the teams begin play Tuesday and Wednesday. Pitt has earned the double bye three times and lost its first game on all three occasions.

The Panthers are not alone. In 16 games, teams with the double bye are 9-7.

In two of those years, a team with a double bye won the tournament. In the other two, a No. 9 seed and a No. 7 seed won. In 2011, Connecticut, the No. 9 seed, won five games in five days to claim the title. Louisville won as a No. 7 seed last year.

Pitt can again earn the double bye for next week's tournament if it wins at DePaul and Notre Dame loses its final game Saturday at Louisville. The Panthers also can earn the double bye by finishing in a three-way tie for fourth place with Syracuse and Notre Dame. Pitt cannot get the double bye by finishing in a tie with Notre Dame because the Panthers lost their only meeting with the Irish. They win the tiebreaker against Syracuse in a head-to-head tie thanks to a win against the Orange last month.

"A lot of teams have lost with the double bye," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "You want to win all the games you can. It's an accomplishment to be a part of the double bye. We can't forget that. We certainly don't."

Dixon also said the extra rest is valuable at this time of the year. The Panthers have been relatively healthy all season, but are a bit banged up now. Freshman center Steven Adams is recovering after spraining his left ankle in practice Saturday. He sat out the Villanova game but is expected to be ready for DePaul. Dixon also said Dante Taylor, Adams' backup, is battling some minor injuries.

"Coach Dixon said a double bye might kind of help us," junior forward Talib Zanna said. …

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