Pitt Panther Fans, Our Team Is Who They Thought They Were

Paul SieversAnalyst IFebruary 4, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24:  Head coach Jamie Dixon of the Pittsburgh Panthers argues with a referee during the CBE Classic championship game against the Texas Longhorns on November 24, 2009 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

So if you want to crown us with a No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament, then crown us!

There’s a reason the Panthers were picked ninth in the Big East preseason poll.

We’re not very good.

Is Pitt as bad as they have been during the past three games? Of course not, but I think this is closer to the real Panthers than the team that won at Syracuse.

I have something I like to call the third level. (I just came up with this concept today. Let's just pretend I’ve had this theory for a while. It works better that way.)

When I evaluate a college player, I look for three basic things, in no particular order:

1) Is the player there mentally? Does the player understand what the team is trying to do and how he fits into the overall scheme? Does he take good shots? Does he understand game situations?

2) Skills. If we're talking about guards, we're looking at shooting and passing ability. Big men, we're talking about rebounding and finishing around the rim.

3) Athletic ability: Bigger, stronger, higher, faster. I throw big guys like Gary McGhee into this category because even though Gary isn’t an explosive athlete, he’s got great size and strength—which offsets his five-inch vertical leap and glacierlike running style.

I mention this because I believe you need at least one guy on your roster who possesses all three of these traits. Brandon Knight, Julius Page, Jaron Brown, Carl Krauser, Aaron Gray, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair all spent at least one season with their game at the third level.

Pitt only spent one season in the Jamie Dixon era without a player playing at the third level: the painful 2005 team, where nobody was there mentally all year. Krauser and Troutman had brushes with the third level that season but couldn’t stay there.

This is the second season in which Dixon doesn’t have anyone at that level. Gil Brown and Brad Wanamaker aren’t there mentally, Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson aren’t there physically, and McGhee and Jermaine Dixon aren’t skilled enough.

Sure, there are going to be nights when Pitt can mask its lack of a complete player. Syracuse didn’t pressure Gibbs, and he was able to get his shot all game long. Cincinnati caught a night when Brown was focused and determined.

The fact of the matter is, this Pitt team got hot for an incredible three-game stretch. Panther Nation overreacted—I led the charge—and now we’re back to reality.

What’s reality for Pitt? This team isn’t the defensive stalwart we thought it was. The Panthers' lack of size is starting to catch up with them on the glass, and if someone isn’t hitting outside shots, then they are in for a long night.

Thanks to parity in college hoops, the bubble continues to get weaker and weaker. Pitt is still in a great position to make another tournament.

That said, Pitt needs to take care of business. Pitt needs to hold serve at home and beat the teams it needs to beat. A Feb. 28 date at Madison Square Garden against St. John’s looms large as Pitt’s last must-win road game.

A win there, along with wins against Rutgers, Robert Morris, Seton Hall, and Providence should do the job.


For posts like this with snarkier jokes, check out the The First Church of Fitzgerald.