As Pitt was waiting to learn its seed in the NCAA Tournament, when their seeding was announced, you could say it was somewhat of a shock.
Pitt gets announced as a No. 8 seed from Tony Greco on Vimeo.
"Once the brackets went up (on the TV screen), we knew it was eight and nine, but we didn't know it was us," senior guard Tray Woodall said. "We were in shock, and now we're playing the Shockers."
But Woodall says it's not a bad thing. Certainly better than the alternative, which is of course not making the NCAA Tournament. The team experienced that last year.
Including his medical redshirt year of 2008-09, Woodall has been a part of four NCAA Tournament teams in his five years.
"It's a game," Woodall said. "Seeds don't even matter. We're just excited to go out and compete."
Pitt earned the No. 4 seed in the Big East Tournament, getting a double bye. However, as has been the case in its previous tries with the double-bye, they were eliminated in just one game. This time it was against Syracuse, 62-59 on Thursday.
Was that the ultimate deciding factor? Or, maybe the seeds were done prior to the conference tournaments, with a few fill-in-the-blank games, based on the outcome of conference tournament games.
You can make a case that the winner of the Pitt-Syracuse team would have gotten the four seed that the Orange ended up getting. Keep in mind Pitt won six of its final eight games, and won the head-to-head meeting with the Orange in the regular season. Syracuse, won three of its final eight games, finishing behind Pitt in the regular season standings.
A total of eight teams from the Big East got in to the tournament--top seed Louisville, (2) Georgetown, (3) Marquette, (4) Syracuse, (7) Notre Dame, (8) Pittsburgh, (9) Villanova, (10) Cincinnati.
From conference perspective, an eight seed is logical for Pitt. They were 2-5 against the Big East teams seeded ahead of them, 3-1 against the two teams seeded behind them. There's no question a win over Syracuse on Thursday would have made a strong case for Pitt as a higher seed. Syracuse is ranked No. 13 in RPI. That also would have made Pitt 6-6 against NCAA Tournament teams, with a possible chance to improve upon that in the Big East semifinal round.
A glance at the tournament overall, Pitt's non-conference schedule did not do them much justice. Of the 68 teams in the field, Pitt played eight opponents. The only non-conference opponent that made it was Michigan, as a four seed.
Combined with the loss to Michigan, Pitt has a 5-7 record against teams that made the postseason. Combine that with a No. 43 overall ranking in RPI, and a No. 8 seed seems pretty reasonable.
Wichita State, ranked No. 37 in the country in RPI, went 2-2 against NCAA Tournament teams. The Shockers beat a No. 5 seed Virginia Commonwealth team back on November 13 in Richmond, 53-51. The Shockers went 1-2 against No. 7 seed Creighton this year, including a 65-63 loss in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship game on Saturday.
"We just need to go out and play well," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "I don't think our guys are going to focus too much on the next round. I think they're going to be focused on the task at hand."
True, focusing on getting just one win is important to focus on, but mo difficult than other seeds because of a shot at knocking off a No. 1 seed. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and Jamie Dixon have been friends for a longtime. The two programs include many parallels. Despite the two programs making the tournament 11 times in the last 12 years (two of only seven schools in the country to do so), both teams have made it to the Elite Eight just once going back to 1999.
"It's pretty common to play someone you know," Dixon said. "He was a longtime assistant at Gonzaga. I got to know him while he was there."
Being in the 8/9 bracket, or even on the other side as a No. 1, Pitt doesn't have great history. For example, they lost to Ball State in 1989 in the first round, the only other time they were a No. 8 seed. They even lost as a No. 9, to Pacific, in 2005.
On the other side of the fence, Pitt was eliminated as a No. 1 seed just two years ago, by No. 8 Butler. That taste still lingers around, and at least gives current players who were also on that team, some perspective.
"It's the tournament," junior Lamar Patterson said. "Anything can happen."
So, Gonzaga could lose to a No. 16 seed?
"Definitely," Patterson answered. "I doubt it will happen, but it's possible."