It was pure silence – you could hear a pin drop. Slowly Talib Zanna clapped and Durand Johnson followed suit but everyone else was quiet. Why? The Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team found out that they would be the eighth seed in the West Region after being projected by bracket experts to be a fifth or sixth seed.
Their opponent is ninth seeded Wichita State which comes in with a 26-8 overall record.
“I lot of us thought we’d be a little bit higher,” Dante Taylor said. “But we’re just happy that we’re back in the tournament and able to play, so now we just need to go out and handle business.”
The Panthers though see the ranking as an opportunity.
“It is what it is,” Durand Johnson said. “They placed us there but we’ve just got to show that we’re better than that and that’s what we’ll focus on.”
Still as Taylor says the Panthers are back in the tournament after participating in the CBI last season. This now is the 11th time in 12 years that the team is in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Johnson said. “For being my first year being in the NCAA Tournament is a good feeling and I’m definitely looking forward to getting past Wichita State. It’s going to be big for us.”
The Panthers come into ‘The Big Dance’ losers of a Big East quarterfinal against Syracuse.
“We let an easy win get away from us,” Johnson said. “It was a game we definitely could have won.”
The game will be played Thursday at 1:40 Eastern in Salt Lake City, Utah and be televised by TBS.
“I feel like we’ve definitely got the upper hand,” Johnson said. “We’ve got 10 good guys that work hard and play hard. We’re going to put it out on the floor.”
Should the Panthers win, they likely will face the top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Of note: Head Coach Jamie Dixon said everyone but Dante Taylor and James Robinson practiced today. Taylor’s eye was visably swolen and has five stiches on it. Taylor says he will play no matter what. Robinson has a thumb that is ‘a little banged up’. The team is expected to head out to Salt Lake City after practice on Tuesday. Steven Adams who had an injured ankle that forced him to miss the regular season finale against Villanova says that ‘I’m good’ and is ready to play Thursday.
Here is video of the Panthers reaction to being an eight seed: