Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - Into the NCAA Tournament for the 11th
time in the last 12 years, the eighth-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers find
themselves matched up against the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers in
second-round action in the West Region at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday.
The Panthers, who competed in the highly-competitive Big East Conference again
this season before the league gets a drastic make-over, finished fourth in the
league standings with a mark of 12-6 behind the likes of Louisville,
Georgetown and Marquette who all logged a 14-4 record. Unfortunately, even
though the program earned a double-bye through to the quarterfinals of the Big
East Conference Tournament, Pitt ended up being one-and-done in the event as
it bowed to Syracuse a week ago in a 62-59 final.
As for the Shockers, who represent the Missouri Valley Conference, they played
much of the season in the shadow of Creighton even though Wichita State was
nationally ranked at one point thanks to an impressive 15-1 start to the
campaign. The Shockers finished second in the MVC standings at 12-6 and went
26-8 overall, but it was the Bluejays in the conference tournament title game
that handed the squad a 68-65 setback after the Shockers defeated both
Missouri State and Illinois State in earlier rounds.
No stranger to this postseason event, Wichita State has a record of 8-10 in
nine previous appearances, compared to the Panthers who are 23-24 as they make
their 24th appearance.
In terms of an all-time series between these two programs, they've split their
previous two matchups with the Panthers, who happen to be ranked 20th in the
nation this week, winning the most recent clash during the 2009 CBE Classic in
Kansas City by a score of 68-55.
The winner of this contest heads to the third round on Saturday where it will
contend against the survivor of the Southern/Gonzaga matchup for the right to
advance to the Sweet 16.
Under the direction of Gregg Marshall who was named the MVC Coach of the Year
for the second straight season, the Shockers had three players average in
double figures as they outscored the competition by almost nine points per
game in 2012-13. Heading the list was Cleanthony Early with his 13.6 ppg, even
through he came off the bench almost as many times as he started games for the
program. Early was second on the unit with 5.1 rpg, but there were times when
he limited his own production due to foul trouble. Carl Hall (12.8 ppg, 7.2
rpg) was wise enough to know that he played his best basketball when he stayed
close to the rim and not out on the perimeter where he attempted a mere two 3-
point shots. Putting up 10.4 ppg and also handing out a team-best 135 assists,
Malcolm Armstead showed that he can be dangerous at both ends of the floor as
he logged a club-high 66 steals in 34 starts.
Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon has had many great moments with the Panthers
during his decade-long tenure in the Steel City, and he hopes that his team is
setting up for even bigger and better things starting on Thursday. Much of
Pittsburgh's current success stems from a tight defense that has allowed foes
to post only 55.4 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting from the floor and 31.2 percent
accuracy behind the 3-point line. One of the leaders on the squad is senior
starter Tray Woodall, who led the group in scoring with 11.8 ppg, hitting for
double figures in 11 straight games at one point, accounting for a team-high
166 assists as well en route to the All-Big East Third Team. Lamar Patterson
(10.0 ppg) was also a fan of distributing the ball (92 assists), while Talib
Zanna (9.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) did his best work in the paint for a Pitt squad that
beat opponents by an average of seven rebounds per contest.
The Sports Network