2011 March Madness: Pitt Beats No. 16 Seed, Advances To Face Butler

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2011 NCAA Tournament Schedule: Next Round Begins Saturday

Here’s the schedule of March Madness games for Saturday. West Virginia kicks things off tomorrow against Kentucky at 12:15 on CBS. After that, No. 7 UCLA takes on No. 2 Florida plays at 2:45, also on CBS.

Morehead State takes on Richmond at 5:15 on CBS in a matchup of two low-seeded teams. No. 7 Temple then plays No. 2 San Diego State at 6:10 on TNT. Butler plays Pitt at 7:10 on TBS.

No. 11 Gonzaga then plays No. 3 BYU at 7:45 on CBS. No. 4 Wisconsin plays No. 5 Kansas State at 8:40 on TNT. And No. 3 UConn plays No. 6 Cincinnati in a matchup of two Big East teams at 9:40 on TBS. The other 16 teams will play on Sunday.

All these games are big, of course, but the Kentucky/West Virginia game should be a good one. Also, if Pitt beats Butler, the Wisconsin/Kansas State matchup will determine the Panthers’ next opponent.

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2011 March Madness Bracket Update: Top Seeds Hold On As Field Shrinks To 32

Here’s a look at the scores from around the NCAA Tournament tonight, as all the teams finished their first games. The last 32 teams will continue tomorrow.

There were only a handful of upsets today. Top seeds Kansas, Duke and Ohio State made quick work of their first opponents. No. 2 seeds Notre Dame and North Carolina advanced as well, although the Tarheels somehow allowed 87 points to No. 15 seed Long Island. No. 3 seeds Syracuse and Purdue won, as did No. 4 Texas and No. 5 Arizona, which won narrowly over Oakland and Memphis, respectively.

Two No. 11 seeds beat No. 6 seeds, however – Marquette jumped out to an early lead against Xavier and held on, and Virginia Commonwealth blew out Georgetown.

Also, No. 9 Illinois easily defeated No. 8 UNLV, No. 8 George Mason knocked off No. 9 Villanova, No. 10 Florida State beat No. 7 Texas A&M, and No. 7 Washington beat No. 10 Georgia.

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NCAA Bracket Update: Printable March Madness Bracket For Friday

For those of you who might be looking for one, here’s an updated printable bracket reflecting last night’s NCAA Tournament action. All the teams that haven’t already played their first game will do so today, and games are already underway. No games are over yet, but there aren’t any huge surprises so far – No. 4 Texas has a comfortable lead over No. 13 Oakland with a few minutes left to play, No. 8 Michigan is up on No. 9 Tennessee early in the second half, and No. 2 Notre Dame has an early lead over No. 15 Long Island.

No. 8 George Mason and No. 9 Villanova are about to get underway, as are No. 5 Arizona and No. 12 Memphis. We’ll be keeping our eyes on the rest of the games throughout the afternoon and evening, but although there’s still time, it doesn’t appear that any of the games already going on will be huge upsets.

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March Madness Bracket: How Scary Is Butler?

John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review argues that Pitt will have a much tougher opponent in Butler than they did against UNC-Asheville:

Pitt certainly won’t overlook tomorrow’s opponent, Butler, which, for one, is taller and more physical than UNC Asheville. For another, Butler almost pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history a year ago. People still talk about Butler’s improbable run to the Final Four and battling Duke in the title game.

Butler was no fluke a year ago, and the Bulldogs, despite their mid-major status, aren’t one now. Their key returning players have been to one more Final Four than Pitt’s players have.

“Butler’s a great team,‘’ Brown said. "They have four players who started in last year’s national championship game.’’

I won’t argue the idea that Pitt should watch out for Butler. Anything can happen. But this year’s edition was markedly worse than last year’s in Horizon Conference competition, as this year’s team lost twice to Milwaukee and also to Wright State, Valparaiso and Youngstown State. There’s a reason Butler was a No. 5 seed in 2010 and a No. 8 seed this year. Also, while last year’s Butler team was a great story, the Bulldogs probably got as far as they did in 2010 mostly as the result of getting hot at the right time. They weren’t an elite team by any stretch. Certainly, the Panthers shouldn’t overlook them, but they aren’t the world’s most dangerous opponents, either.

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NCAA Tournament Schedule: Field To Be Culled To 32 On Friday

All of the local teams are done with this round of the NCAA Tournament, with Pitt and West Virginia advancing and Penn State going home, but there are still 16 games left to play before the March Madness field is culled to 32. Here’s the schedule of March Madness games for Friday. Three No. 1 seeds take the court against 16 seeds, while two No. 2 seeds and two No. 3 seeds try to stay alive.

12:15 No. 4 Texas vs. No. 13 Oakland, CBS
12:40 No. 9 Michigan vs. No. 9 Texas, truTV
1:40 No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Akron, TBS
2:10 No. 8 George Mason vs. No. 9 Villanova, TNT
2:45 No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 12 Memphis, CBS
3:10 No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 Hampton, truTV
4:10 No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Florida State, TBS
4:40 No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 16 Texas – San Antonio, TNT
6:50 No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Boston University, TBS
7:15 No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 15 Long Island, CBS
7:20 No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 St. Peter’s, TNT
7:27 No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 11 Marquette, truTV
9:20 No. 8 UNLV vs. No. 9 Illinois, TBS
9:45 No. 7 Washington vs. No. 10 Georgia, CBS
9:50 No. 6 Georgetown vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth, TNT
9:57 No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Indiana State, truTV

Check out SB Nation's printable March Madness bracket.

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March Madness Bracket Update: Pitt's Southeast Division Set For Next Round

Here’s a look at the results of Thursday’s March Madness games. The top five seeds in Pitt’s NCAA Tournament bracket all won, with No. 2 Florida, No. 3 BYU, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 seed Kansas State advancing over UC-Santa Barbara, Wofford, Belmont, and Utah State, respectively. No. 6 seed St. John’s, missing star D.J. Kennedy, lost to No. 11 seed Gonzaga.

Elsewhere, No. 12 Richmond upset No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 2 San Diego State beat No. 15 Northern Colorado, No. 6 Cincinnati beat No. 11 Missouri, and No. 7 UCLA beat No. 10 Michigan State.

The pairings for the next round are complete in Pitt’s Southeast bracket. Here they are. All games will be on Saturday.

No. 1 Pitt vs. No. 8 Butler
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas State
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 UCLA

We know considerably less about the other three divisions, since most of those teams will make their NCAA Tournament debuts on Friday. In the East, the only matchup we know for the next round is that West Virginia will play Kentucky. In the West, SDSU will play Temple and UConn will play Cincinnati in an all-Big East matchup. In the Southwest, we know only that No. 12 Richmond will play No. 13 Morehead State in a weird matchup of two teams that pulled off upsets in their first games.

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NCAA Results: Pitt Steamrolls UNC-Asheville In Opening Game

Well, it took Pitt a little while to get adjusted, but after they did, there wasn’t much looking back.

The Panthers did jump out to a double-digit first hal lead, but allowed it to evaporate. Pitt held a five-point lead at the half, but there was plenty to forget. The team had eight turnovers and only shot about 35% from the field in the opening 20 minutes. But as so often happens, defense and rebounding kept Pitt in the game.

UNC-Asheville hung around for a bit and Pitt still only led by six with about 15 minutes left in the second half. But eventually, both teams remembered who they were and the Panthers’ talent took over.

Ashton Gibbs led the way, scoring 26, but the biggest factor was on the glass. Pitt outrebounded the Bulldogs by 20 and Pitt’s 19 offensive rebounds were almost as much as UNC-Asheville had at both ends (24). This is what keeps Pitt in games and despite not having a great day shooting the ball, they still found a way to win comfortably.

One thing I really liked about Pitt’s effort in the first half was that they spread the ball around and took shots with confidence. They got a lot of open looks that way, but many of their shots just didn’t fall. Pitt also dumped the ball down low a lot more than we’ve seen lately.

Pitt will now take on Butler, who knocked out Old Dominion today on a last-second shot. I hate to say that playing Butler, a team that nearly won the NCAA championship game last year, is a good thing. But not having to face nearby Old Dominion in D.C. could be a blessing.

But I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.

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NCAA Bracket Update: Pitt Defeats UNC-Asheville, Advances To Face Butler

Anson Whaley should be here later to provide a full recap of the game, but I’ll just pop in to point out that, to no one’s surprise, Pitt is about to defeat No. 16 seed UNC-Asheville by a large margin. No. 8 Butler has already defeated No. 9 Old Dominion, so Butler will be Pitt’s next opponent.

Butler has won its last 10 games, but this should be another very winnable game for the Panthers. Butler was beaten by 15 early in the season by Louisville, and blown out by Duke. The Bulldogs also narrowly lost to Xavier. Their biggest wins include Florida State and Washington State. They finished 13-5 in the relatively weak Horizon Conference. Butler may have nearly won the whole tournament last year, but that’s probably less relevant here than its performance this year, which hasn’t been elite or anything near it.

Here’s a Butler preview at SB Nation.com.

And as I type, the final score is in – Pitt wins, 74-51, thanks in part to 26 points by Ashton Gibbs and 11 rebounds by Gary McGhee. Anson will likely be in with more later.

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2011 March Madness: Pitt Vs. UNC-Asheville

Pitt's quest for a Final Four starts on Thursday against UNC-Asheville.

As I wrote over on Cardiac Hill this week, Pitt should be wary of the Bulldogs. Even though they're a No. 16 seed, all the team has to do is pop in a DVD of the 2008-09 Pitt team that was taken to the limits by East Tennessee State University. In that game, Pitt held only a two-point lead with about four minutes left and was in severe danger of being the first No. 1 ever to fall to a No. 16.

UNC-Asheville isn't a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but they're a capable one. They defeated BCS-conference school Auburn on the road in their season opener and also played reasonably well in losses to North Carolina and Georgetown on the road. They've also won their past seven games and shoot better than 45 percent from the field.

Not exactly a gimme opponent.

Pitt also isn't playing it's best basketball of late. The team has had some pretty tough competition, but they are still a very mediocre 3-3 over their past six games. Losing to St. John's, Louisville, and UConn is nothing to be ashamed of, but 3-3 is 3-3.

To avoid any chance of an upset, Pitt needs to get out to a fast start and not slow down after building a lead. The team clearly can't afford to look ahead to a Saturday matchup against Butler or Old Dominion.

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