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Warning: MSG Contained Within

March 7, 2011
So let’s start from the beginning.  February 28, 1940, just over 71 years ago, Pitt played the first ever televised basketball game against Fordham at Madison Square Garden.  Pitt won that game, 57-37.  Apparently Fordham played the Mike Brey “Burn Offense”.  Fast forward to present times, the most famous arena in the world is the annual host to the BIG EAST tournament and has become a home away from home for the Pitt Panthers.  Since 2001 Pitt has an impressive 26 and 12 record at MSG. 

Rhymes with #WINNING


So coming into the BE Tournament this week that’s a good thing right?

Not so fast my friend!


Going into the 2009 Tournament Pitt held a 23 and 8 record at MSG.  2009 BE Tournament results: one and done.  In the 09-10 Season Pitt was 1 and 1 in the regular season.  The 2010 BE Tournament: one and done.  This season Pitt was nearly undefeated at MSG with a 2 and 1 record.

Nearly undefeated


So what does all this mean?  Starting with the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament Pitt has a very pedestrian 3 and 4 record.  After so much dominance for a decade, what happened?  Some may point to the past two BE Tournaments in which Pitt lost it’s first game.  This coming after a decade of criticism that Pitt focused on the BE Tournament too much causing their early departures in the Big Dance.  So did Pitt take it easy in the BE Tournament?  Not likely.

One of the reasons commonly cited for Pitt’s excellent play at MSG was the New York City connections on the team.  Take a look at the number of players on the team each year from the New York City area (yes, I’m counting parts of New Jersey.  I mean, they’re not really a state are they?)

02-03: 2
03-04: 2
04-05: 4
05-06: 3
06-07: 4
07-08: 4
08-09: 2
09-10: 3
10-11: 3

So the number hasn’t really changed that much.  So why the slightly below par winning percentage these past years as compared to the previous decade?  How about this: the BE is a really good conference and has only gotten better and better over the past 10 years.  This is a conference that is likely to send 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament this year, 11.

Yes, there were epic battles between Pitt and UConn in the Tournament finals.  Yes, UConn and Syracuse won National Championships in the mid 2000’s, however was the BE really as deep of a conference then?  Even if it was considered the best conference at that time (which it probably wasn’t because of the “OMG ACC WOOOO” bias) it still wouldn’t be as good as the current BE.  So to sum up a really long post, that’s my conclusion.  Pitt still plays at a high level at MSG, however the talent level of the opponent keeps getting better.

For this year what should we expect?  Honestly, I have no idea right now.  Pitt has been slow to start their past few games and come out and won in the 2nd half.  Will this work if we draw Georgetown on Thursday?  We’ll find out soon enough.

Any errors in statistics can be attributed to my complete and utter hatred of mathematics.

One Comment
  1. patmuldowney permalink
    March 7, 2011 4:32 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. It may be a stretch, but it’s similar to what’s happened with USA Basketball. Yes, the 1992 Dream Team was the best ever, but even the Dream Team 2 cruised in Atlanta in ’96, and I bet most people couldn’t name the starting 5. Is USA Basketball any less talented than it was in the 90’s? Not even close…it’s probably better (again…’92 team excluded). However, the competition has improved tenfold.

    Every team in the Big East can knock off every other team in the Big East any night of the season (well, except DePaul and probably South Florida), so I couldn’t agree more. As Bobby Knight said earlier this year…the degree of difficulty in winning the BET is at least equal to if not greater than winning a national championship. The other conferences? Chickenshit.

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