I’ve been back and forth for the past two days trying to determine this year’s national champion. In doing so, I came across some interesting trends and statistics.
The first states that no team has gone on to win a national championship after losing their first game in the conference tournament.
Obviously this does not say that it isn’t possible, but it would eliminate Oklahoma, Kansas, UConn, and Pittsburgh from any consideration. Maybe it has something to do with neutral floors and playing away from home, or maybe the pressure of playing in a tournament, but that trend definitely scares me away from choosing the above mentioned teams.
Pittsburgh, despite having a No. 1 seed and a 28-4 record, isn’t the best team away from home. Yes, they have road wins against Connecticut, West Virginia, and Florida State, but aside from that their remaining road wins have been against mediocre teams.
They lost games to Louisville, Villanova, and Providence on the road, before dropping that first game in the Big East tournament to West Virginia. In those games, DeJuan Blair got into foul trouble and Pittsburgh was unable to recover.
Teams that haven’t really learned to play away from home scare me, especially when they enter the NCAA tournament on an ugly double digit loss.
Another thing that scares me is that the Panthers shoot a horrid 67.3 percent from the foul line, which would make it extremely difficult for them to close out games.
They don’t exactly have a shooting guard to put up points in a hurry, and they can get dysfuntional at times without Levance Fields in the game. The non-existent shooting guard probably would have helped them against Providence and West Virginia, when they had trouble scoring.
Jermaine Dixon, who plays at shooting guard, averages just nine points per game and shoots 31.4 percent from three—not something you want to rely on.
Lastly for the Panthers is their rather difficult road to the finals, and the region they must get through. Oklahoma State, if it beats Tennessee, is very dangerous as an eight seed, and has been red hot lately.
The Cowboys have won eight of their last 10, including an upset of Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament.
Then comes a possible matchup with Florida State, a team capable of beating almost anyone when they shoot well, or Xavier, who has one of the highest-rated interior defenses in the country.
If they get through all of that and find themselves in the Elite Eight, they will likely meet Villanova (who beat them earlier in the year) or Duke, who could very well be considered a favorite in that matchup.
Then, if the Panthers reach the Final Four, UNC or Oklahoma could await, either of which would get DeJuan Blair into early foul trouble.
A championship game against Louisville, UConn, or Memphis? Pittsburgh simply does not have the offensive firepower to get through the road ahead of them.
Sorry Pitt, but getting through the first weekend could be enough of a challenge.
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