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Psst! Pittsburgh Is Playing at Home

March 12, 1997|From Associated Press

It seems to be a perfect example of harmonic convergence: The NCAA tournament finally comes to Pittsburgh, and Pitt returns to postseason play for the first time in four years.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, they're relegated to the sideshow.

With teams such as South Carolina and New Orleans moving into the Civic Arena for an NCAA East subregional, Pitt (17-14) will stay in its on-campus field house to play New Orleans (22-6) in an NIT first-round game tonight.

Steve Pederson, Pitt's athletic director, lobbied for the home game.

"Absolutely, we're not disappointed. We're excited with the NIT," Pitt Coach Ralph Willard said. "It's a chance for our players to gain some tournament exposure, and it's a real positive for our program."

Pitt last played beyond the Big East tournament in 1993, losing to Utah, 86-65, in the NCAA tournament, and last appeared in the NIT in 1992, defeating Penn State and losing to Florida.

So don't tell these Panthers that, even with the NCAA tournament going on just down the street, the NIT stands for Not Interesting Tournament.

"It's what we've worked for all season, the chance to play in the postseason," Pitt forward Chad Varga said.

New Orleans was top-seeded in the Sun Belt tournament but lost to Louisiana Tech, 59-53, in the semifinals.

The New Orleans-Pitt game is one of 14 tonight.

Fresno State plays host to Nevada amid allegations of point-shaving by guard Dominick Young. The Bulldogs of Jerry Tarkanian were ranked among the best in the nation at the start of the season.

Oral Roberts, which plays at Notre Dame, has 12 of their last 13 games and 13 of 37. The Irish (14-13) are 12-3 at home and rallied from a 1-5 Big East start before collapsing in the conference tournament.

At Syracuse, Florida State plays an Orangemen team that was fraught with personnel problems during the season and a that is being rebuilt with point guard Jason Hart of Inglewood.

Washington, following a near-miss against UCLA and a victory over USC, plays at Nebraska. And on Thursday,Michigan--one ranked as high at No. 4--plays host to Miami. Michigan came close to calling it a season after not getting an NCAA bid.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Today's Games

Iona (22-7) at Connecticut (14-14), 4:30 p.m.

Florida State (16-11) at Syracuse (19-12), 4:30 p.m.

George Washington (15-13) at Michigan State (16-11), 4:30 p.m.

Bowling Green (22-9) at West Virginia (19-9), 4:30 p.m.

New Orleans (22-6) at Pittsburgh (17-14), 4:30 p.m.

Oral Roberts (21-6) at Notre Dame (14-13), 4:30 p.m.

Drexel (22-8) at Bradley (16-12), 5 p.m.

Northern Arizona (21-6) at Arkansas (15-12), 5 p.m.

Washington (17-10) at Nebraska (16-14), 5 p.m.

Alabama-Birmingham (18-13) at Texas Christian (21-12), 5 p.m.

Southwest Missouri State (24-8) at North Carolina State (16-14), 6:30 p.m.

Nevada (20-9) at Fresno State (20-11), 7 p.m.

Memphis (16-14) at UNLV (20-9), 9 p.m.

Oregon (17-10) at Hawaii (20-7), 9:30 p.m.

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