Four To Watch: Pitt In The ACC

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt players admit they are hoping Josh Newkirk's game-tying shot on Saturday was the momentum boost they needed. Not only to get a win at Clemson, but the spark they need for the upcoming postseason.

* Pitt is still buzzing about Josh Newkirk's shot at the buzzer that sent Saturday's game with Clemson to overtime.

Prior to Newkirk's shot, Lamar Patterson hit a three-pointer, then came up with a steal, forcing the ball ahead to Newkirk for the game-tying shot at the buzzer.

Despite Patterson's 30-point performance, the talk is still on Newkirk's shot.

"I don't know if it set in, yet," junior guard Cameron Wright said. "I didn't know if it counted, or not. I remember looking at Josh, and he was just standing there. I don't know if it hit him or not, but that shot was tremendous. It's been showing up in practice, and in the game, as you can see."

If you want more proof of the momentum that Newkirk's shot sparked, consider that Pitt needed a 5-0 run to end regulation, just to send the game to overtime. They continued in overtime, with a 7-0 start.

"If Josh Newkirk's shot doesn't give us momentum heading into the ACC Tournament, and in to the NCAA Tournament, then I don't know what can," Wright added.

* With Pitt's first trip to the ACC Tournament, it takes away an important element to Pitt's basketball history. That being the annual trip to March every year for the Big East Tournament in New York.

It's getting mixed reviews.

Some, like James Robinson, say it's another postseason conference tournament. Robinson did cite the ACC's history, specifically the 61-year history of the conference tournament.

"We all follow basketball, and we all know about the great tradition the ACC Tournament has," Robinson said. "Obviously, there a lot of different teams (as opposed to the Big East) down there. We played every team that is down there. We just have to be ready for Thursday when the game comes."

This is Cameron Wright's fourth postseason conference tournament, but his first ACC experience. For him, the routine already feels a little different, knowing the destination won't be to New York this year.

"There's nothing like playing in Madison Square Garden," Wright said. "But, I am definitely excited to get down (to Greensboro) to see the arena. To be able to play in this conference tournament, it means a lot."

The Tournament will be in Greensboro for the next two years. It will then be held in Washington D.C. in 2016.

Is there now a push to move this tournament to a different site every year?

"I don't know," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon answered. "Times change. They're exploring, and talking. I think whenever your conference tournament has national media, I think that's a good thing."

* Pitt awaits the winner of Saturday's Wake Forest/Notre Dame game. Pitt beat both teams in the regular season--a 80-65 win over Wake Forest on January 11, and a 85-81 overtime win at Notre Dame, just ten days ago.

It may not matter if the Pitt coaches and players have a preference of playing one or the other. Either way, both teams would be looking to avenge the regular season loss.

"Right now, we're preparing, focusing on ourselves," Robinson said. "Whoever wins, it will be a tough matchup, and then there's a short time before we're playing."< /p>

* Another thing different for Pitt in regards to the tournament. Pitt has gone to New York, where often the home team advantage went to Syracuse. As Pitt developed more success in the Big East Tournament in the early 2000s, the success brought with it more Pitt fans.

While the Greensboro Coliseum isn't the home court of any one particular school, it is a short distance from schools such as Wake Forest, N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina. Wake Forest, N.C. State and North Carolina are all in Pitt's half of the bracket.

Does the team get concerned with playing in enemy territory?

"I guess it is in their territory, but we have a great deal of fan support," Wright said.

One factor playing in Pitt's favor, the fact the Panthers were 10-3 on the road this season in ACC games.

Wright wasn't even aware of Pitt's road record.

"We just go in to every road game, prepared to win," Wright said.

Then, informed Pitt was 10-3 in ACC road games:

"Well, I guess it's pretty good," Wright added. "You're telling me something I didn't know, but the goal is to win every game."

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