PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Following a 69-66 loss at Wake Forest on Sunday, the sense of urgency for the Panthers is at it’s highest point. With just two regular season games left, Pitt dropped from No. 37 to No. 49 in the RPI.
The Panthers still have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament, but it could require a nearly perfect performance the rest of the way.
The Panthers (19-11, 8-8) matchup against No. 71 Miami at The Peterson Events Center on Wednesday. For seniors Cameron Wright, Derrick Randall and Aron Phillips-Nwankwo, it’s a must-win on senior night.
“It’s in our hands. If we win and take care of business, then we have a good chance of getting to the tournament and if we don’t, we probably won’t, so we know what we have to do,” Nwankwo said.
Pitt’s last matchup against Miami was a 59-55 overtime win at home on Feb. 5, 2014. A victory on Wednesday would give the Panthers its 20th win for 14 consecutive seasons.
Pitt will close out the season on Saturday at No. 119 Florida State.
Wright said he doesn’t fully understand the details of bracketology, but he does know if they go out and play and win as a team, good things will follow. He says making the tournament has a lot to do with pride and continuing the tradition of making the tournament like in recent years.
Jamie Dixon has guided Pitt to 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 11 seasons.
“Coach Dixon rarely ever misses the tournament, so I don’t want to be that guy my senior year and not make the tournament,” Wright said. “We are still in a good position, we could win a few games and do a couple things that can be done and I’m confident in my team.”
Wright and Nwankwo both experienced shortened seasons due to injuries, so an NCAA Tournament would be highly-valued experience to extend their careers a little further.
Wright missed the first seven games of the season due to a broken ankle and Nwankwo was also sidelined for seven games during the season due to a torn labrum.
“The sense of urgency is at it’s highest peak right now and my teammates understand that and they are behind me on this trip,” Wright said. “I love this place and this university and I wouldn’t have rather spent it anywhere else.”
Wright is averaging 9 PPG this season and is a three-time academic all-league honoree.
Randall played in 118 career games with 15 starts combining his four-year collegiate career at both Pitt and Rutgers and he recorded two career double-doubles.
Nwankwo played in 34 games for the Panthers over a five-year career. He scored 7 points with 2 rebounds in a 2014 win over Florida State.
“Every year has been like a different adventure starting from my freshman year and being the No. 1 seed in the tournament to past couple years having to fight all year,” Nwankwo said. “Being here the past five years has changed me in a lot of ways and has obviously been an important thing in my life, so either way it will be special having a great time come to an end.”