Since there are still two conference games left to play, Pitt's position can still change a little within the standings. But let's get serious - the only way Pitt is making the NCAA Tournament at this point is if they win the whole shootin' match at Madison Square Garden. The Panthers have flamed out quickly in the past three tournaments, suffering quarterfinal exits after being "graced" with a double-bye. The Panthers were routed by West Viginia in 2009, lulled to sleep against Notre Dame in 2010, and heartbroken by the Fightin' Kembas last season. Could this season be any different?
Pitt will have a difficult path regardless of how things shape out at the end of the regular season. But as things stand right now, Pitt would have a really unfavorable path. The Panthers would be seeded at #13, scheduled to face Rutgers at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday - a team that crushed them in the regular season. Should they win, they would face #5 South Florida in the second round in an afternoon game on Wednesday. A win there would then pair Pitt against 4th-seeded Notre Dame with a likely opponent in the top-seeded Syracuse Orange should Pitt somehow pull off another win. Pitt is winless against those teams on the season, so I'm not personally a fan of that path.
But there is another one available.
Pitt can still change their seeding depending on how they finish. What would be ideal? At the risk of looking too far ahead ...
Villanova would need to push ahead of Pitt in the standings and drop Pitt to the 11-14 matchup at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, which could be against St. John's, Connecticut, or West Virginia. That would place Pitt against the 6th seeded Bearcats in the second round.
If Pitt wins their first round game they could face Cincinnati, who is currently 6th. Pitt nearly had the Bearcats beaten at the Pete without Tray. Next up would likely be Marquette and Georgetown in some order. Pitt routed the Hoyas at home this season and nearly beat the Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center. There's still a good chance of a final game against Syracuse, but the Panthers played fairly well against them this season and have had the Orange's number in seasons past. I'm not saying a Pitt win is likely, but crazier things have happened.
So to recap, here's a potential route that Pitt may need to take to get to the NCAAs (assuming the top seeds win their later round games):
1st round: St. John's
2nd round: Cincinnati
No one knows what will happen and we'll plot Pitt's path for real once the games end on Saturday. But if we've learned anything from the Big East Tournament, it's that if a team gets hot at the right time, they can make some noise here. Syracuse in 2006 and Pitt in 2008 both won four games in four days to take the title while UConn won five in five days last season.
And at the very worst, should Pitt lose early on, an NIT berth is still possible, depending on what the team does in their last two games. And that would be infinitely better than the CBI.