• Pitt held an open practice on Wednesday afternoon at TD Banknorth Garden to prepare for Thursday night’s game with No. 4 seed Xavier at 7:27 p.m. Pitt has won six in a row in Boston, including a pair of wins in the 2003 NCAA Tournament at the Fleet Center (same building, new name).
• Sean Miller is the most notable, but a number of players and coaches at Xavier have Western Pennsylvania connections. Brian Walsh, the former Moon star, has endured a tough, injury-plagued season. Assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson played and coached at University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
On the other side, Pitt equipment manager Brian Brigger graduated from Xavier and worked for four years as a manager with the basketball team.
• President Obama mentioned DeJuan Blair by name when he was breaking down the NCAA brackets last week. The Pitt All-America was honored, but noted Obama didn’t pick the Panthers to win it all.
“That’s pretty big, coming from the President,” Blair said. “The President knows who I am and he watched a couple of my games. But he didn’t pick us to go all the way. So we’re going to surprise him on that.”
• Miller said some of his former teamates are expected to attend Thursday night’s game. They include Darelle Porter and Jason Matthews, who were part of Miller’s remarkable freshman class.
“(They) will be at the game,” Miller said. “Which side they will be on, I won’t know until tip-off.”
• Pitt coach Jamie Dixon reflected on some of the early days with the Panthers under coach Ben Howland. Here is one quote.
“Our first two years were a struggle,” Dixon said. ” We got beat up. We had a lot of losses. I can remember our first conference game at St. John’s. Back then every team in the conference was put on ESPN, national TV, twice, so we were excited. We only got two. You were given two, no matter how bad you were. We were excited. We went to St. John’s and we were down, 41-9, I think, at halftime. You better learn quick at that point. That’s what we figured out.”