Just in case no one was listening to Big East coaches, who voted to scrap the double-bye format for the conference tournament, the trend is unmistakeable today. The first three of the top four seeds to play after resting for the first two days of the tournament all have lost.

No 1. Seed Syracuse and No. 4 Villanova went down in the afternoon session, and No. 3 Pitt dropped a 50-45 decision to Notre Dame (23-10) in the first game of the evening session. That pretty much clears the path to the tourney title for second-seeded West Virginia if only it can survive the nightcap against 11th-seeded Cincinnati, which upset Louisville in the second round and is the only team playing its third game in three days.

"So much for the double byes, huh?" Irish coach Mike Brey asked rhetorically. "I do think there's some advantage to being able to play a little bit. I think Seton Hall had an advantage [in Notre Dame's second-round game]. It took us a while to get going. We certainly were in a rhythm early tonight, and it helped us. But I think it is symbolic."

Conference officials refused to abandon the new format in only its second year, but you can be sure that subject will be revisited this summer. In the meantime, Notre Dame again performed well with the deliberate style it adopted when leading Big East scorer Luke Harangody was out with a knee injury. He's back now and came off the bench to score 12 against Pitt (24-8), but the Irish still want to control the pace.

"I thought we really defended the last seven minutes to win the game," Brey said. "We couldn't get much offensively, so it was going to be us playing well defensively to win. I thought we were fabulous on that end of the floor. We got the tempo we wanted, 50-45. That's what we want."

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Guard Tory Jackson also had 12 points for the Irish, who shot 52.9 percent and outrebounded Pitt, 22-16. The Panthers were led by guard Brad Wanamaker with 16 points, and Jermaine Dixon chipped in 10. They converted only 38.6 percent from the field.

As for the effect of the double bye on his team, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, "A double bye had nothing to do with it. It's a team that's just playing well against another team that's playing very well. It speaks to our league."