Pitt has been to the NCAA tournament 12 times in the past 13 years, so coach Jamie Dixon is used to the drill. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an exciting experience for him and his players as they prepare for the tournament.

The NCAA tournament is a reward and the end result of hours of hard work throughout the season.

“I definitely think there is excitement with our guys,” Dixon said Tuesday standing outside Petersen Events Center just before the Panthers boarded a bus to go to the airport for a flight to Orlando, Fla.

“There is no question that when you have been there as many times as we have, as opposed to a team that is there for the first time or a team that wins a conference tournament and it is a surprise, there may be less emotion initially, but we know what we are going down to do.”

Pitt (25-9) is the No. 9 seed in the South Region and will play against No. 8 seed Colorado (23-11) at 1:40 p.m. Thursday at Amway Center.

The Panthers are favored by as many six points according to oddsmakers, but Dixon has used the fact that they are the lower seed to produce a rallying cry of “We are the underdogs.”

“We have been preaching since the start of the ACC tournament that we are the underdog,” Dixon said. “That was our mentality, that was our thinking and we wanted to play that way.

“But we also talked about playing on the road or playing in neutral court games. We have had great success.”

He pointed out that the Panthers’ 7-2 road record in conference play was the best in the ACC (tied with Virginia).

“We seem to play well on the road. … The key is we have had good focus on the road trips, good preparation and pretty good practices the times we’ve had them.”

Pitt, under Dixon, has not beaten a higher-seeded team in the NCAA tournament, but the Buffaloes are without point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the 17th game.