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Notes from NCAA West Region in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE: Here are some tidbits from the first day of media interviews at the NCAA Tournament West Region.

• Pitt practiced at Marquette this afternoon before heading over to Bradley Center to meet the media for the first time. After a 40-minute news conference, Pitt held a “practice” at Bradley Center that was open to the public.
Jermaine Dixon, Gary McGhee, Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown spoke to reporters, followed by head coach Jamie Dixon.
Here are some assorted quotes from the players:

Gilbert Brown – ** “The scoring hasn’t been consistent, but I think the hard work and effort has been consistent.”
** “When it comes to teams setting up a defense to slow down Ashton, (we have) to help and create and just alleviate some of the pressure that’s on him.”

Brad Wanamaker – ** “We just want to get better and continue to play good as a team and go out there and show that we are capable of being here.”

Jermaine Dixon – ** “People say you’re only as good as winning a national title, so people do get spoiled with us just getting to the Sweet 16. This year we’re going to try to make a run and get as far as we can go.”

Gary McGhee – ** “We’re kind of like the pro basketball team of our city. And that’s something great for us.”

• When a reporter from Chicago asked Pitt coach Jamie Dixon about the DePaul opening, Dixon, accustomed to such queries, gave his standard answer.
“We don’t talk about other jobs,” Dixon said. “It’s just the easiest way to handle it.”
Chicago media outlets reported Wednesday that Dixon was on the top of DePaul’s wish list. Dixon’s late sister, Maggie, worked as an assistant women’s basketball coach at DePaul and he remains close to DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto.
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• Dixon was looking forward to seeing some old friends from one of his former employers, Cal-Santa Barbara. The No. 15 seed Gauchos will play No. 2 seed Ohio State on Friday night. Dixon worked as a graduate assistant coach on Jerry Pimm’s staff in 1991-92. Ben Howland was an assistant coach on the staff.

• Pitt players, coaches and administrators – athletic director Steve Pederson among them — were glued to the televisions outside the interview area Thursday afternoon at Bradley Center watching Robert Morris and former Panther assistant Mike Rice nearly upset No. 2 seed and Big East rival Villanova. While they didn’t seem to have a vested rooting interest, they were certainly enraptured by the action.
Dixon said early-round upsets – or near-misses – can provide valuable teaching lessons to higher seeded teams.
“You always know that every team out here is good and our guys are well aware of that,” Dixon said.

•Oakland coach Greg Kampe remains irked that his team, despite an 11-game winning streak and an RPI of 51, received a No. 14 seed.
“I think our league gets crapped on, yeah,” he said. “I think it’s not warranted. I think the basketball in our league is really good.”
Until March Madness arrives, at least. Discounting play-in games, the Summit League is 0-for-11 since Valparaiso reached the Sweet 16 in 1998.

• Sophomore forward Nasir Robinson said Pitt’s season should be considered a success regardless of what happens against No. 14 seed Oakland on Friday. The Panthers, picked ninth in the Big East, reached the NCAA Tournament for the ninth year in a row and earned a No. 3 seed.
“I definitely would look at it as a successful season,” he said. “We had a lot of people doubting us at the beginning of the year. We came out and did our best. If we end up losing the first game, I would not put my head down. We played hard and we just came up short.”
When asked if he would be content with a one-and-done, Robinson quickly said, “No.”

• Pitt center Gary McGhee was a good student last season, watching DeJuan Blair play well against taller shot-blockers such as Hasheem Thabeet. McGhee will face one of the nation’s leading shot blockers, Oakland 6-foot-11 junior center Keith Benson. McGhee said he will try to do what Blair did – attack the shot-blocker, get into him and move him off-balance.
“Go through the chin,” McGhee said. “That’s what I’m going to try to do.”

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