NCAA Tournament At Consol Energy Center Eased Disappointing Pitt Basketball Season


Mar 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Abdul-Malik Abu (0) grabs the ball in front of Villanova Wildcats guard Dylan Ennis (31) and Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston (22) during the second half in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournamentat Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last year when I was overseas in New Zealand, I decided to purchase “All Session” tickets to the Second and Third Rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Consol Energy Center.

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I figured Pitt would have a successful season, make its 12th NCAA Tournament in 13 years, and land a bid at the Consol Energy Center.

My thoughts were wrong.

I found myself purchasing a $20 ticket to the First Round of the NIT Tournament at the Peterson Events Center.

I went to the game with my brother, and we were highly disappointed in the effort by Pitt against George Washington.  The Panthers clearly did not want to be in the NIT.

After a deflating letdown to end the season on a 4-game losing streak, the last game was capped off by a first round exit from the NIT.  I was so disgusted in the team that I did not feel it was appropriate to write a post about it here on City of Champions.

On the bright side, my brother and I had something to look forward to:

Our first experience at the NCAA Tournament. 

And unlike my Panthers, it did not disappoint.

Selection Sunday did not feel right, knowing that Pitt was not going to be called.  However, it was fun waiting to see which teams were heading to Pittsburgh to play.

Entering the arena on Thursday, college basketball fans from all over the country were arriving.  We sat next to a pair of Pitt fans who were excited to watch some teams fight for their tournament lives.

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  • We also sat beside a Northeastern fan who had driven from Cleveland, to cheer on his Huskies and check out the city of Pittsburgh for the first time in his life.

    14th-seeded Northeastern had the ball and a chance at making the game-winning basket against third-seeded Notre Dame, as the entire crowd stood up.  The Huskies were not able to get up a shot, falling 69-65 in an exciting game against the ACC Tournament Champions.

    This was followed by sixth-seeded Butler against the 11th-seeded Texas Longhorns, whom many questioned their selection in the tourney.  Butler looked more like a football team, whereas Texas was one of the most athletic teams I had seen in a while.

    Butler failed to make a basket for nearly 14 minutes, yet still defeated Rick Barnes’ Longhorns 56-48.  Texas may not have deserved a bid, and Barnes’ may be on the coaching hot seat.

    In the third game, I was hoping to see history as 16th-seeded Lafayette faced off against No. 1 Villanova, the Big East Champions.  In warm ups, Lafayette could not miss a shot, but against Villanova pressure, they did not have a prayer.  Villanova tried to put up 100 points, winning 93-52.

    I was shocked that they decided to play a video of the Scottie Reynolds game-winning buzzer beater against Pitt in the 2009 Elite Eight, as the Pitt fans booed and Villanova fans cheered.

    For the final game of the day, I was most excited to see eighth-seeded NC State battle ninth-seeded LSU.  Familiar with NC State, I was pulling for the ACC to rack up some wins.  LSU was arguably the best team I had seen on the first day (for about 35 of 40 minutes), and the LSU Tiger Girls put on a nice show for the fans.  However, the Tigers collapsed down the stretch, missing their final 12 field goals and 6 free throws.

    Several fans had left since LSU was up 12 with about ten minutes to go, and many people had to work the next day, but my brother and I were going to watch the whole game.  NC State pulled off the comeback, as Beejay Anya hit a shot in the final seconds to give NC State a 66-65 win.

    It was a really fun, entertaining day of basketball, and I was not stressed about Pitt playing in it.

    On Saturday, for the Round of 32, I was cheering for two fellow ACC squads.  NC State took on Villanova, as more than half the arena cheered on the Wildcats.  I wanted to see the 1-seed get bounced, and the Wolfpack granted me my wish.  Sophomore guard Anthony Barber, who put up 32 points in the ACC Tourney against Pitt, is one of the quickest guards I have seen.  He gave Villanova trouble, along with junior guard Trevor Lacey, and freshman forward Abdul-Malik Abu.

    NC State held on for a 71-68 upset.  I believe Villanova had taken advantage of a much weaker Big East, as they racked up a 34-2 record.  I did not feel bad for Villanova fans, after what their team had done to my Panthers back in 2009.  I felt as if this was some type of revenge.

    Moving onto the second game, Notre Dame battled Butler in a back-and-forth game.  I thought the Irish would have an easy game here, but they had trouble stopping senior guard Roosevelt Jones, who scored 23.  Butler had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Pat Connaughton blocked Kellen Dunham’s three-point attempt for the win.

    We witnessed our first NCAA Tournament overtime game, going late into the night past 12:30 a.m., and the Irish knocked down some clutch three-pointers to win 67-64 on a day where we later found out that head coach Mike Brey had lost his mother to a heart attack that morning.  My condolences go to Brey and his family, as he indicated he had lost his life coach.

    Ironically, seeing Villanova and Butler get bounced from the NCAA Tournament was bittersweet, since both teams were responsible for knocking out the two previous Pitt teams who were No. 1 seeds.

    My brother and I saw some great basketball and certainly got our money’s worth.  It certainly helped ease the pain of the Pitt disappointment this season.

    Furthermore, the ACC currently sits at 11-1, as NC State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Duke, and Louisville made the Sweet 16.  Surprisingly, the regular season champs, Virginia, fell to Michigan State in a game that eerily reminded me of the past defensive Pitt teams who ran into a hot shooting guard that ended their tournament run.

    I’ll be cheering on the ACC teams, as well as Kentucky against West Virginia.  If you were wondering, my final four was Wisconsin vs Kentucky and Northern Iowa vs Gonzaga.  I think Wisconsin defeats Gonzaga for the title.

    The NCAA Tournament is always fun, and I plan on going back next year.  Hopefully my Panthers will qualify.

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