The verdict is out and many pundits across the country are calling Pitt’s Southeast region the easiest of the four. But while Pitt may have one of its easiest paths ever to the Final Four, there are still some traps ahead. Here are a few of the potential March Madness challenges for Pitt:
Old Dominion – Pitt fans should be hoping for a Butler win over Old Dominion in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are no doubt a very capable team, but ODU could pose a serious challenge to the Panthers. The Monarchs have a Pitt-like 27-6 record and have won their past nine contests. They lost a tough opener to Georgetown by three points, but have some pretty impressive wins over some good teams such as Xavier, Richmond, Clemson, and George Mason. Playing in D.C., Old Dominion (in nearby Virginia) will have a favorable crowd.
Kansas State – Should Pitt advance, in the next game the Panthers will have its hands full if it ends up playing either Kansas State or Wisconsin (or maybe even Belmont or Utah State). But of the four, Kansas State is a hot team right now and one Pitt should want to avoid. They were highly-touted in the beginning of the season, but kind of fell off the radar after a nasty 2-5 mid-season skid. However, one thing you don’t hear much about is the fact that none of those games were necessarily bad losses. The Wildcats were defeated by NCAA teams Kansas, Texas A&M, and Missouri on the road. Colorado was, in most eyes, an NCAA tournament team, and a road loss to NIT-bound Oklahoma State was a tough game. Down the stretch, KSU beat teams like Kansas, Texas, and Missouri, and they could be just hitting their stride. The Wildcats also have a bonafide star guard in Jacob Pullen, who averages more than 19 points per game. Pitt’s best hope is for Kansas State to get knocked out before the third round.
Elite Eight Game (Anyone) – Face it – any team that Pitt plays here will be a tough matchup. It could be No. 2 seed Florida, a Tom Izzo Michigan State team that always plays well come tournament time, a St. John’s team that already defeated the Panthers, or even another team. Regardless of who Pitt squares off against, it should be a tough game. Pitt will likely have at least a few jitters at the prospect of going where no Pitt team has gone before … and no, the 1941 Final Four team doesn’t count. The good news for Pitt is that if they make it this far, the team will be down to a single game to reach the Final Four.