This Week at the Pete: Panthers Back Into a No. 1 Seed

Paul SieversAnalyst IMarch 16, 2009

The Panthers have been notorious for two things this decade. Dominating the Big East tournament and exiting early from the NCAA tournament.

Going into this season, Pitt has participated in seven of the last eight Big East title games. During that same time span, the Panthers have never made it past the Sweet 16.

This season’s team has been unlike any other recent Pitt team. The Panthers are no longer a quiet, defensive minded squad.

They are brash, cocky bunch who love to get out in transition and light up the scoreboard. Jamie Dixon has seemingly ripped Ben Howland’s blueprint to shreds and has taken the program in his own direction.

Given the way this season has gone, it should come as no surprise that Pitt was unable to deliver another sterling performance in the Big East tournament.

The Panthers played with absolutely no heart as a determined West Virginia squad beat Pitt in every facet of the game, handing the Panthers a quarterfinal round exit.

Not only were the Panthers unenthused, every Pitt fan had the same reaction. “Well if this means that they’ll be rested for the NCAA’s this year, then so be it.” Lets hope that’s the case.


The Week that Was

March 12: WVU def. Pitt 74-60

The Good:

A lot of good things…for the Mountaineers, who played wonderful basketball.

Pitt, on the other hand, played as poorly as they’ve played all year.

The only thing Pitt did well was shoot free throws,;they shot 73 percent from the line. Nobody deserves a game ball. I’ll give it to Brad Wanamaker, who scored seven points off the bench. His play was simply poor while the rest of the team was God-awful.

The Bad:

Let’s start with the perimeter shooting, Pitt was 0-for-8 from the three point line. In this era of college basketball it is almost impossible to win without hitting a three.

Pitt had 23 field goals, 12 assists and 13 turnovers. Those numbers are usually way better. Credit Bob Huggins for going to a 1-3-1 zone that Pitt was completely unprepared for.

The Panthers will almost certainly see someone try the 1-3-1 against them in the NCAAs. Jamie Dixon must work on preparing his team for any kind of zone imaginable.

Pitt was actually out-rebounded in this one. That alone basically tells you all you need to know about this game.

Arguably the best rebounding team in the nation was outworked on the boards by a hungry West Virginia squad. Just a poor effort on behalf of all the players and coaches.

The Ugly:

All of the other local Pitt alumni and I who decided not to go to this game because we assumed Pitt would be playing later in the week. Unfortunately, “What happens when you assume” was never taught as an entry-level class at Pitt.


A Look Ahead

Pitt has drawn the No. 1 seed in the East region of the NCAA tournament. They will begin play on Friday against the Buccaneers of East Tennessee State. ETSU will not be a complete pushover for the Panthers.

Pitt has struggled with up-tempo teams all year, and the Bucs rank 25th in tempo according to Ken Pomeroy. If ETSU gets hot from the field, they will be able to keep this game close. If they don’t, they are not a great rebounding team.

Pitt will run away with this game if they can force the Bucs into tough shots because they will not be able to keep the Panthers off the glass on either end.

At the end of the day ETSU is just happy to be there while Pitt has their eyes on the National Title. No 16 seed has ever defeated a No. 1 and Pitt won’t be the first. Look for the Panthers to win by 20.

If Pitt does advance (if they don’t, you will be able to find me in the Shady Acres Mental Institution) they will face the winner of Oklahoma State and Tennessee. Both teams appear to be very equally matched as they are ranked 32nd and 33rd according to Ken Pomeroy.

I’m not sure who would be a better match up for Pitt in the second round. Tennessee is more athletic but Oklahoma State like ETSU, can put the basketball in a blender and run the floor. I think I would rather see Oklahoma State for two reasons.

First, Tennessee was a pre-season top 10 team. They have more talent than Oklahoma State but, for whatever reason, have been unable to put it all together. If Tennessee gets hot, they are far more dangerous than a hot Oklahoma State team.

Secondly, Pitt has played Oklahoma State each of the past two seasons. The Panthers players and coaches are familiar with the Cowboy personnel, they know more about Byron Eaton and James Anderson than they know about Tennessee. I think this will help the Panthers tremendously.


Race for the Coupons

Here is where we stand so far in the game ball standings.

Sam Young - 10

DeJuan Blair - 9

Levance Fields - 5

Jermaine Dixon - 3

Brad Wanamaker - 3

Tyrell Biggs - 1

Aston Gibbs - 1


Quote of the Week

“I think we were—we weren’t coached well, we weren’t prepared well again for some things and we just got outplayed in every area."

                                                            - Jamie Dixon


Shameless Plug of the Week

Since I have nothing to plug this week, now seems like as good a time as any to discuss my love for Chipotle, the world’s perfect food.

If you haven’t been to Chipotle, go. If you’ve been there but it’s been over 48 hours since your last visit, go back.


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