Still Big East's best
Boston College routs upstart Pittsburgh for title
Updated: Sunday March 11, 2001 8:42 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The celebration was almost as impressive as the turnaround.
Boston College had already completed the first worst-to-first regular season in Big East history.
Now, no sooner had the 10th-ranked Eagles closed out their 79-57 victory against Pittsburgh in the tournament title game Saturday night than they were in the stands hugging, on the court dancing and up the ladders cutting down the nets.
Using the same zone press it has all season to wear down opponents and the same balanced scoring to augment tournament MVP Troy Bell, Boston College (26-4) cemented itself as one of the nation's top teams entering the NCAA tournament.
"Most teams that have been regular-season and tournament champs in the Big East have been No. 1 seeds," Eagles head coach Al Skinner said. "We'll see what happens. We've earned it. I think we're one of the best basketball teams in the country and I don't know what more they can ask us to do."
Boston College went 3-13 in the conference last season and was the 13th seed for the tournament. This season, the Eagles went 13-3 and will almost certainly get a high seed when the field of 65 is announced Sunday.
The last two seasons produced a total of 17 wins. With co-player of the year Bell and coach of the year Skinner taking the individual honors, the Eagles set a school record with win No. 26 on Saturday night, eclipsing the 25-7 mark of the 1982-83 team.
Boston College's only other Big East title came in 1997, under head coach Jim O'Brien, who left for Ohio State after a fallout with school administrators.
In the semifinals, the Eagles used a 28-3 run to break from a 42-all tie and go on to a 75-48 victory against Seton Hall.
Ricardo Greer led Pittsburgh (18-13) with 18 points, and Zavackas had nine -- all on 3-pointers. Isaac Hawkins added nine points and nine rebounds.
The Panthers, who were just the second team with a losing conference record to reach the title game, were in their first championship game. Their season will probably continue in the NIT.
Pittsburgh's three wins in the tournament included victories against No. 19 Notre Dame in the quarterfinals and No. 17 Syracuse in the semifinals.
"We would like to continue to play," Howland said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens in terms of postseason opportunities."
The Eagles don't have to worry. They just have to wait.
"After the last two years, to get 26 wins is unbelievable," Beerbohm said. "It's just a feeling of confidence and it's expected now. You get in a rut of losing but then you accomplish something and come out on top."