- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - As the No. 1 seed, Pittsburgh is the better team.

No. 16 seed North Carolina-Asheville, at least for the moment, is the more interesting team.

Coach Jamie Dixon and his Pitt Panthers know the routine, so they offered the usual politically correct, nondescript answers on the eve of Thursday’s 1-vs.-16 NCAA tournament duel that has always, without exception, gone in the favor of the 1.

Coach Eddie Biedenbach and his Bulldogs, meanwhile, are riding an unfamiliar wave they know could crest at any moment, so they might as well relax and say whatever’s on their mind.

And they did.

“We’re not one of the top 68 teams in the country,” Biedenbach said. “My wife says ‘You shouldn’t say that _ you should find a way to be clever on that.’ (But) we aren’t. We don’t try to say we’re somebody we’re not. But we’re pretty good. We can beat a lot of teams in the country. Can we win six in a row to win a national championship? We can dream.”

UNC Asheville (20-13) has received more attention than the usual 16th seed. Matt Dickey has become a YouTube sensation for his steal-and-hang-in-the-air 3-pointer that beat Coastal Carolina at the buzzer last month.

Dickey also hit a big 3-pointer late in the Big South conference championship game, and on Tuesday nailed the 3 with 10.5 seconds to go that forced overtime in the Bulldogs’ 81-77 win over Arkansas-Little Rock to kick off the NCAA’s new “First Four” set of play-in games.

Biedenbach’s players have talked about being practically awestruck by the big charter plane that flew them to Dayton and then on to Washington, where they arrived in the wee hours Wednesday. J.P. Primm again trotted out his tried-and-true line: “It feels presidential.”

“It’s been a little overwhelming in a way,” Dickey said, “but it’s been fun.”

So is there a chance the Bulldogs can do what no No. 16 seed has ever done?

“People give us a one-in-a-million chance,” Dickey said. “I think this is a one-in-a-million opportunity.”

Biedenbach even found a way to spin his team’s whirlwind schedule in his favor, saying Pittsburgh’s “rest” might actually be “rust.”

“Sometimes you can think too much,” Biedenbach said, “and as coaches you can coach too much. … We’re going to make some mistakes out there. We’re going to do some things we shouldn’t do. We’re going to miss some shots and stuff, but put those things in perspective and let’s see if we can win a big game here.”

Biedenbach loves to talk _ he gave an answer about a 1974 N.C. State-Pitt game that took 4 minutes _ and seemed disappointment when the moderator declared that the news conference was over. Still, the coach had time to dish out a nice gem or two.

_On the motorcycle-led police escort the team bus received through the streets of Washington: “I was more nervous than I’ve been on the bench all year.”

_On expanding the NCAAs to 96 teams, which he favors: “If you did, the 97, 98, 99 and 100 _ Seth Greenberg would be in there. He’d be one of those teams, and he’d be complaining.”

Greenberg, of course, is the coach at Virginia Tech, a perpetual bubble team that always seems to miss the tournament.

“But if you’re not in the top 12, you should be happy as heck to be in the NCAA tournament,” Biedenbach continued. “This is fantastic. I woke up this morning and saw my own face on TV. We played in the first game. I haven’t been on TV since the Mickey Mouse Club.”

_When asked about his players possibly getting fatigued during the game Thursday, Greenberg found another way to envision a win over Pitt and looked ahead to the next round: “I hope to heck we get leg-weary on Saturday. I’d die to get leg-weary on Saturday.”

Dixon and the Panthers (27-5), meanwhile, stressed they aren’t looking past the Bulldogs. They gathered around the television to watch UNC Asheville’s win on Tuesday, although it’s clear they’re still in the learning stage about their opponent.

“They’re a good team, and they’re an NCAA team almost every year,” center Gary McGhee said.

Uh, not exactly. The Bulldogs’ only previous NCAA bid came in 2003. Pitt’s occasional letdowns in recent postseasons _ losses to Kent State, Pacific and Bradley since 2002 _ might give fodder to anyone looking for the historic upset. The Bulldogs figure they might be charmed enough to pull it off.

“I want to keep it going,” Dickey said. “Hopefully tomorrow we can pull of the big upset. I think that would top everything.”

After he said that, Dickey, Primm and teammate Chris Stephenson all smiled broadly _ as if they were still trying to convince themselves that they might actually have a chance.

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