Can Pitt Reach New Heights This March?

Arthur GrazianiContributor IJanuary 26, 2009

Over the last eight-plus seasons, the University of Pittsburgh basketball program has taken a step to the front of the Big East Conference, with seven of eight finals appearances.

It has become a regular in the top 25 polls, even grabbing the No. 1 ranking earlier this year. Its winning percentage puts it among basketball's elite.

But long runs in March have eluded Pitt. The Sweet 16 is as far as they have gone.

Will this year be different?

First, let's start with the players. Pitt has legitimate All-Big East first teamers at three different positions. The point guard, "Little General" Levance Fields, may not be the quickest, nor does he have the prettiest shot, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is fantastic, his toughness is unmatched, his senior leadership is obvious, and he loves the big shot.

Small forward Sam Young is a complete scorer. A senior with a will and a work ethic to achieve greatness, Young has become a first rounder in the NBA draft through an incredible amount of hard work.

Finally, the "Beast" in the middle is DeJuan Blair. His rebounding, especially on offense, is already legendary, and in his sophomore campaign he has improved in all the subtleties of the game.

With these three, plus a supporting cast that includes seniors, athletes, defenders, shooters—and goes eight to nine deep— Pitt has the talent.

Looking at the system, this Pitt team is typical of recent teams. It hangs its hat on defense and rebounding, and no doubt this team can do both. 

Blair and senior Tyrelle Biggs are extremely gifted in getting second opportunities at the offensive end. They also have an outstanding lockdown defender on the perimeter in JUCO transfer Jermaine Dixon.

On offense, Pitt runs disciplined, patient, bruising offensive sets. And if the offense stagnates, they can turn to Sam Young to create his own shot. A lot of the offense goes through Young, and he has shown he can take over when needed.

So with all that being said, what is to stop Pitt from making that Final Four run?

Well, besides the obvious risks of a one-and-done scenario, there really is only one thing that will stop this Pitt's Madness march—foul trouble.

Pitt is not deep in the frontcourt, so if Blair or Young get in foul trouble, Pitt will be in real trouble.

Pitt is definitely a top-10 team and a Final Four threat. They have all the ingredients—talent, senior leadership, and a proven winning system.

This is the year that Pitt alums and all their fans can truly believe that "PITT IS IT!"