Score one for the Big East: Pitt humbles UNC on Tobacco Road

pittBack in the media workroom at the Greensboro Coliseum, I’m sitting in what we probably need to call the Big East Row, surrounded by radio, TV and beat writers who cover Pitt and Syracuse.

While working up the postgame from the UVa.-Florida State game, with the Pitt-North Carolina game on a big-screen TV above Big East Row, and Pitt jumping out to an early 17-point lead, the conversation among the Big East refugees turned snarky.

“What do we do here after the game tonight?” “There’s nothing in this hick town.” “This sure isn’t New York.” “They need to get this thing up to New York.” “Can you imagine UNC-Pitt in Madison Square Garden.” “The final is going to be Pitt-Syracuse anyway.” “The game’s on Sunday. Just move it up to MSG.”

Fans of pro wrestling will recognize the storyline building here. This is a classic invasion angle. The Big East, as the bad guys, coming down on Tobacco Road to fight the hometown good guys. In wrestling, the bad guys get to have their fun for a while, but the good guy always wins the big battle at the end.

How this Big East invasion of the ACC will work out – this year and next year, when another former Big East member, Louisville, joins the conference – remains to be seen.

“I can’t believe that many people were there, even in those corner seats that we got as the first year team, I guess what I was informed of. Notre Dame was in the other corner and Syracuse was in the other corner. That’s fair,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said after his Panthers had held off Carolina in an 80-75 quarterfinal victory.

Of course he didn’t mean it, that the ACC sitting the former Big East schools in the corners was fair. (To be fair, top seed Virginia, a member of the conference since the 1950s, is seated in the other corner. Not everybody gets to sit center court. No matter how much you whine about it.)

But Dixon can whine. Pitt beat down UNC as if it was MSG and not the Greensboro Coliseum, and the game was being played under Big East rules, ie if it’s legal in the NHL, then it’s not a foul here.

Even with a late run that got the Heels to back within three late, Pitt got the W, its second in a row over a North Carolina school, after its second-round victory over Wake Forest on Thursday.

You could tell from the postgame comments that Dixon, speaking for Big East Row, wouldn’t mind being able to play these games in the future on something resembling home turf.

“Moving it around obviously doesn’t give the home court advantage to certain teams every year, but at the same time I think willing to go the same place every time brings a tradition that we have in the Big East. I don’t think it’s going to be in one place forever. I think it’s going to be moved around,” Dixon said.

– Column by Chris Graham


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