The Pittsburgh Panthers have made it to the championship of the 2012 CBI, but it has to be a bitter consolation prize for a team that had such lofty aspirations when season began.
This is a program that was ranked No. 10 overall in the preseason and expected to compete for the Big East crown. Instead, they lost their third game to unheralded Long Beach State and then, against the Wagner Seahawks on December 23, began a eight-game slide that would not be halted until a January 25 win against Providence.
Pitt had a chance in the Big East Tournament to redeem themselves and prove the regular season was a fluke, perhaps, but ended up being destroyed by the Georgetown Hoyas on the second day.
That was all the NCAA Tournament and NIT selection committees needed to see and elected to pass on the 17-16 team.
Fortunately, the College Basketball Invitational is around and decided to pick up the Panthers. They have made a solid run through the five-year-old event and now face the Washington State Cougars in the finals.
This isn’t just a one-game championship, however, as the CBI makes their event unique by having the winner prove themselves by grinding out a best-of-three series.
That format works in Pittsburgh’s favor, considering they play the first game in Washington and then head home for Game 2 and 3 if necessary.
Pitt also has an easy matchup considering that WSU leading scorer Brock Motum has a “very slim chance” of suiting up and playing tonight in the first game.
Expect the Panthers to come out with a vengeance and try to win this thing to redeem their extremely poor and disappointing season.