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Friday, March 20, 2009
Survive and advance

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Watching the Pittsburgh-East Tennessee State game, I really felt that Jamie Dixon's team was not focused. This is a team that usually plays with intensity and does a great job on the boards.

Murry Bartow's team gave the top-seeded Panthers all that they could handle and the final score was not indicative of the battle. Yes, Pittsburgh ended up with a 10-point win, but this was not your average 16 vs. 1 game.

Pittsburgh turned the ball over 18 times. Levance Fields is one of the nation's premier point guards, leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. Against the Bucs he had five assists and three turnovers.

Then there is rebounding. Pittsburgh gave up 20 offensive rebounds to East Tennessee State, not the kind of stat you expect to see against one of the premier teams on the glass. DeJuan Blair still put up big numbers with 27 points and 16 rebounds.

Pittsburgh has to have a better showing in the next round. Oklahoma State is the opponent on Sunday and let me tell you, Cowboys coach Travis Ford is seeing his stock go up and up & that is not usual these days given out economy, baby!

The Cowboys got past Tennessee in round one in a Maalox masher!

Marshall Moses has stepped up big-time as of late and he could be a factor against the Panthers. Byron Eaton is a veteran guard who will be ready for the pressure. I also love James Anderson, who is an underrated performer. Anderson was held to 10 points by the Vols, but he is capable of posting a big game against Pittsburgh.

When you look at Memphis, Villanova and now Pittsburgh, this tournament is still about one thing -- survive and advance! Pittsburgh was able to move on against a team that played much better than a 16th-seeding would indicate.