East Region: No. 1 Pittsburgh (28-4) vs. No. 16 East Tennessee State (23-10)
When: Friday, 2:55 p.m., EDT
Where: University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
1) Gary McGhee plays for Pitt. Well, kinda. I'll try and make this as objective as possible, but he might be the worst basketball player to see significant playing time for a team, any team, ever given a realistic shot to win an NCAA title. When the season began, fans had hope that the Gary McGhee project had seen improvements in the off-season and that Pitt would have a solid backup down low for Tyrell Biggs and DeJuan Blair. None of that worked out. When the Big East season began, a friend and I began a Deadspin commentor-esque style of awarding points to Gary. +1 for every good play, -1 for every time we rolled our eyes and thought "put Blair back in." We usually lost count at -9. Instead, we began giving Head Coach Jamie Dixon -5 for every time McGhee subbed in. So, to put my Pitt education to use, more specifically college level algebra, -9 + -5 + (Blair + 5 personals) = Pitt loses in the Sweet 16 or earlier for the 8th time in 8 years. To any coach scouting Pitt for a potential match-up this March, it's that easy, get Blair and Biggs into foul trouble, you win! . Dante Taylor can't get here soon enough.
2) The Oakland Zoo is to Pitt as the Cameron Crazies are to Duke. You know, minus the pretentiousness. I'd go on with the comparisons, but we were given strict instructions to leave our dick jokes at the door. During home games, and possibly when just hanging out, members of the zoo can be seen wearing animal costumes, telling Jim Calhoun to sit down and enticing football recruits to commit via signing a dry-erase board. LeSean McCoy credited this stunt with getting him to commit to Pitt. Unfortunately that trick didn't work on Tyrell Pryor. But, what sets our student section apart from any other are the gold shirts worn by everyone in attendance. Not the shirts themselves, but the fact that the founders of the Zoo were once entrenched in a legal battle with the Pitt Stop (a street vendor on campus) over a copyright issue involving said shirts. It may or may not have gone to the Supreme Court. Also, the proceeds of the t-shirt sales now go to charity. Which is nice.
3) A Season of Firsts When Boston College beat North Carolina on January 4th this year, there was probably more celebrating in Oakland that night than in Chestnut Hill. With UNC's loss, Pitt became the heir apparent to the #1 ranking for the first time in the program's history. They went on to hold that distinction on two separate occasions for a grand total of 3 weeks. Their second rise to #1 coincided with another first for the program. Hasheem Thabeet and the UConn Huskies picked themselves up off their home floor in mid-February just in time to see Pitt win their first game ever against a #1 ranked team (beating themselves at Louisville a couple weeks earlier didn't count). Pitt now heads into the NCAA tournament after claiming another first during this historic season. Here's hoping their first #1 seed in March doesn't coincide with the first 16 seed to win a game. Unless it's UNC. — whowantsawanstacheride (The Mosh Pitt)
1) What? The East Tennessee State University Buccaneers are the Atlantic Sun Conference champs. They can be found during the regular season playing in the Mini-Dome in Johnson City, TN. The Bucs's last NCAA tournament appearances were in 2003 and 2004. This completely land-locked school located in the mountains of Tennessee near the NC and VA state lines claims to be located on top of an underground river named Pirate Creek, giving themselves the right to a mascot that looks like Davey Jones in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
2) Who? Senior forward Kevin Tiggs, senior guard Courtney Pigram and junior guard Mike Smith led the team in points this season. Tiggs and Pigram carried the team in their push to win the conference tournament. If Pigram can make his 3's, then the team may have a shot to upset Pitt. Of course, the game may be fun to watch with Kevin Smith's showmanship.
3) Why? Courtney Pigram will also be interesting with his ability to shoot from well behind the arc and fragile temperament. He had a bad five game stretch in February in which the team lost 4 of 5 games. Boosters organized a grassroots email campaign of "support and encouragement." The school's administration even cooperated by organizing pre-game chants focused on boosting his confidence at the Feb. 26 game against Kennesaw State. Pigram also remembers working out with Tyler Hansbrough at 3 Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, MO. His report of the encounter, "I didn't know who he was, but he knew who I was." — Rachel Thomasson