PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The NCAA basketball tournament kicks off today and March Madness is sweeping basketball fans across the country and right here in Pittsburgh.
Three local teams, the Pitt Panthers, Penn State Nittany Lions and the West Virginia Mountaineers, will be competing in the tournament.
No. 1-seeded Pitt takes on UNC Ashville today at 3:10 p.m.
The Panthers are a heavy favorite and will be for most of the rest of the way. However, the players seem to welcome that challenge.
It’s a bull’s eye on your back, definitely, having a No. 1 seed, and also high expectations of you exceling and prevailing through the tournament. I think we have the chance to do something special this year,” said Pitt forward Gilbert Brown. “We really just have come together these last few weeks, even with the let down in the Big East Tournament, we’ve been focusing and practicing harder. With that No. 1 seed, we have to just stay focused on the task at hand. I think if we take it one game at a time, then we can achieve what that No. 1 seed stands for for us.”
The Nittany Lions will also be playing this afternoon against Temple.
These two teams know each other pretty well. They scrimmaged before the season, but it didn’t go Penn State’s way as Temple dominated.
“They beat us up pretty good; they just out toughed us. They were more physical,” said Penn State guard Talor Battle. “But you know, that was a long time ago – that was totally two different teams, especially for us. Just coming out of the Big Ten tournament where we played really physical, played really well on the defensive end, they’re the same way, they really like to guard you, play physical and play kind of a grind game. So this is really an interesting matchup.”
Also, the Mountaineers will take on Clemson this afternoon at 12:15 p.m.
WVU is facing a challenge preparing for an ACC team on one day’s notice, but they’ve done it before in the Big East tournament.
“We were in a similar situation with Marquette and Providence, having one day to prepare, so we just worked on defensive transition, we worked on ball screens,” said WVU guard Joe Mazzulla. “We worked on handling pressure, that’s what both teams did. Today in practice, we focused on Clemson.”