Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Small Margin for Error in Recent NCAA Tournament History, It's Not about Seeding but More about Getting Hot at the Right Time

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Small Margin for Error in Recent NCAA Tournament History, It's Not about Seeding but More about Getting Hot at the Right Time

Article excerpt

SALT LAKE CITY --

Pitt has sent better teams to the NCAA tournament, many of them in the past decade. The Panthers were a No. 1 seed in 2009 and 2011, a No. 2 seed in 2003 and a No. 3 seed in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2010. None of those teams were able to reach the Final Four.

The Panthers begin their journey toward that elusive Final Four today as a No. 8 seed in a matchup against No. 9 seed Wichita State in the West Region. Recent NCAA tournament history suggests that's not a bad place to be.

In the past five years, 15 teams seeded eighth or lower have advanced to the Sweet 16. Three of those teams reached the Elite Eight, two reached the Final Four and one made it to the NCAA championship.

Pitt had a hand in creating that history. In 2011, the Panthers were a No. 1 seed and lost to No. 8 seed Butler in the Round of 32. Butler went on to reach the national championship before falling to Connecticut. That same season, VCU, as a No. 11 seed, reached the Final Four.

"It's the NCAA tournament, anything can happen," Pitt junior Lamar Patterson said. "It's getting hot at the right time."

One difference between being a higher seed and lower seed is the margin for error in the first game. It's never easy advancing as a lower seed.

It's a footnote to history, but people forget Butler needed a tip- in at the buzzer to get past No. 9 seed Old Dominion before upsetting the top-seeded Panthers two years ago.

In 2008, No. 10 seed Davidson made it to the Elite Eight before losing to top-seeded Kansas by two. In the first two rounds, Davidson had to win close games against Gonzaga and Georgetown.

Jason Richards, a member of Jamie Dixon's staff for the past three seasons, was the point guard for Davidson that season.

"We were down big in all of those games," Richards said. "We were down by double digits to Gonzaga, down by 17 to Georgetown in the second half. You have that mentality, to expect to win, and that's what helped us pull off those victories.

"The margin is so small. That's what's great about the tournament. Teams like that can make an impact and make a run."

The past five years have seen the most lower-seeded teams making deep tournament runs, but it long has been part of the fabric of the tournament.

In 2006, George Mason was a No. 11 seed and reached the Final Four. In 1985, if you're looking for a good omen, Villanova won the NCAA championship as a No. 8 seed. The Wildcats remain the only No. 8 seed to win a title.

"I don't think seeding means anything," Patterson said. "Whoever wants it more goes out and takes it. When VCU had their great year, you could see in all their guys they wanted the games more. Butler did it two years in a row. When it came down to little plays, those teams were getting it done. That's what we have to do -- be mentally strong."

Fifth-year senior Tray Woodall was a member of two teams that earned No. 1 seeds and fell short of the Final Four. …

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