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March 21, 2009
Bracket Breakdown
Pitt Looks Human (Again)

by John Gasaway

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What's happened to Pitt? Where's the team that went into Hartford and threw down Hasheem Thabeet? (Literally.) First they get bounced out of the Big East tournament in their opening game by West Virginia. Now this: Playing even with East Tennessee State for most of the game before finally pulling away in the last four minutes.

Wherever the old Panthers are, they'll want to reappear before tomorrow, when they face Oklahoma State and Travis Ford's fast-paced high-efficiency offense.

(1) Pitt 72, (16) E. Tennessee State 62 [75 possessions]. This game surprised me. I know Pitt ended up winning by what looks like a borderline-respectable margin, but the Buccaneers did what mighty Big East teams struggled and mostly failed to do this year: they kept the Panthers from getting offensive boards. (Granted, DeJuan Blair personally recorded seven offensive rebounds. His teammates, however, grabbed just two.) Jamie Dixon might use this tape to light a fire under his team. He'd at least have the truth on his side: Merely normal shooting from ETSU would have triggered historic consequences.

(8) Oklahoma State 77, (9) Tennessee 75 [65]. The probabilities said this would be a close game with lots of offense. This time the probabilities were right. The Cowboys were red-hot from the field but the Volunteers got to the line more often. As a result this game went down to the wire. Byron Eaton made the game-winning three-point play with seven seconds remaining. He also embraced statistical exuberance for OSU, scoring 20 points and recording seven assists, but also committing six turnovers.

(4) Xavier 77, (13) Portland State 59 [60]. Both teams actually shot quite well but the Musketeers ruled the boards at both ends of the floor. C.J. Anderson, Derrick Brown, B.J. Raymond and Dante' Jackson all scored 13 or 14 points for Xavier.

(12) Wisconsin 61, (5) Florida State 59 (OT) [65]. The Badgers trailed by seven with a little more than four minutes remaining in regulation, then rallied to force overtime. In the extra session, Trevon Hughes hit the game winner with two seconds left. The other day I said never mind the seeds, Wisconsin is the favorite here, "albeit by a whisker." That turned out to be a pretty good description. Hughes' heroics mooted a big game from Toney Douglas, who logged 41 minutes and scored 26 of his team's 59 points.

(1) Louisville 74, (16) Morehead State 54 [66]. This was a two-point game at halftime, then the Cardinals went and shot 17-of-26 in the second half. When the final horn sounded in this game, the odometer rolled over, historically speaking: one-seeds are now 100-0 against 16-seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

(9) Siena 74, (8) Ohio State 72 (2OT) [83]. Ronald Moore hit back-to-back threes from virtually the same spot at the end of consecutive overtimes. The first one sent the game to the second overtime; the second one was the game-winner with 3.9 seconds left. This was a defensive struggle throughout, as both Kenny Hasbrouck and Jon Diebler had off shooting nights for the Saints and Buckeyes, respectively.

(12) Arizona 84, (5) Utah 71 [73]. Some may have questioned their inclusion in the tournament, but no one should doubt Arizona's offense. It's good: The Wildcats made their shots in this game, particularly their twos. Nic Wise scored 29 points on 19 shots for Russ Pennell's team. For Utah, Luke Nevill was limited to 27 foul-plagued minutes.

(13) Cleveland State 84, (4) Wake Forest 69 [67]. Keep in mind the Vikings wouldn't have even received a bid had they not knocked off Butler on the Bulldogs' home floor in the Horizon League tournament. The difference in this game was turnovers: Cleveland State had six, the Deacons had 18, including seven from Jeff Teague. The Vikings opened up a 17-point lead in the game's first 11 minutes. Wake got as close as seven on a couple of occasions early in the second half but could never get over the hump.

(11) Dayton 68, (6) West Virginia 60 [59]. The Big East is moral after all. The Flyers proved it in a game that was close throughout, though had Dayton not missed nine of their 23 free throws, this would have been a double-digit affair. Chris Wright recorded a 27-10 double-double for the winning team.

(3) Kansas 84, (14) North Dakota State 74 [67]. What happens when a team that never forces turnovers plays a team with turnover problems? Apparently the team with turnover problems is grateful: Kansas, despite their past struggles in this area, committed just five turnovers in this game. The result was 84 points in a mere 67 possessions, keyed by Sheron Collins' 32 points and eight assists. Bill Self may want to use this as a teachable moment. The Jayhawks' value-the-ball epiphany negated a 40-minute, 37-point performance from NDSU's Ben Woodside, who actually scored most of his points on twos and free throws.

(10) USC 72, (7) Boston College 55 [63]. The Trojans outscored the Eagles 28-11 over the game's final 13 minutes. Taj Gibson will be framing this box score: 24 points on 10-for-10 shooting. BC was a potent team on offense this year, but USC shut down the interior entirely in this game, limiting Al Skinner's team to 31 percent shooting on their twos.

(2) Michigan State 77, (15) Robert Morris 62 [65]. Tom Izzo likes to motivate by finding fault with his team's performance, but after the first 18 minutes the Spartans were never seriously threatened in this one. Goran Suton needed just 24 minutes to record a 17-11 double-double for MSU.

(6) Marquette 58, (11) Utah State 57 [58]. Tempo zealots take note: the slowest-paced game of the tournament thus far was a thriller. In the end, Marquette got to the foul line enough times to offset their poor shooting from the field. Buzz Williams' team simply doesn't win this game without Lazar Hayward, who scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

(3) Missouri 78, (14) Cornell 59 [62]. The Tigers' first tournament win in six long, turbulent years came quite easily. Life's like that sometimes. (OK, if you're a Mizzou fan and you simply must fret about something, try this: Even a group of future CFOs and surgeons from the Ivy League rebounded 38 percent of their misses against your team. Mike Anderson's group is not real strong on the defensive glass.)

(6) Arizona State 66, (11) Temple 57 [59]. The Sun Devils didn't need James Harden, at least not this time. The future lottery pick went just 1-of-8 from the floor, but Herb Sendek's team prevailed thanks to good shooting from pretty much everyone else, most particularly Derek Glasser (4-of-5 from outside the arc) and Jeff Pendergraph (8-of-14 from the field).

(3) Syracuse 59, (14) Stephen F. Austin 44 [69]. You may dismiss the numbers because they came from the Southland Conference, but all year long Stephen F. Austin had one of the best defenses in the country. Well, they proved the numbers were correct yesterday, holding a team that went to the Big East tournament championship game to just 59 points in 69 possessions. Alas, the Lumberjacks also have a very weak offense. They proved that, too.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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