While some may be disheartened by the potential matchups with Duke and UCLA, I welcome them with open arms.
Will these result in Panther losses? Quite possibly. Is that such a bad thing?
The point of the NCAA Tournament, let’s not forget, is to pit the nation’s best teams against each other to crown the top team in the country. This gets lost in the idea of the “easiest path” to the Final Four. Sure, seeing Pitt with an easier route might be nice, if the ends justify the means. That’s just not my character. I tend to believe, and in this case too, the means justify the ends.
Do you really want Pitt to win three games against Wright State calibre teams? I have been wishing for years now that Pitt would get a shot at the Blue Devils. They might be a perennial powerhouse, but they lost last year to Georgetown, and I mean the Georgetown of last year. I think Pitt could have gone toe to toe then, and I think they stand a hell of a chance now. Let’s not overlook the fact that Pitt earned a 3 spot and the judges gave Duke a mere 6.
Then we take the short roadtrip to San Jose, CA. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to take a short academic recess two weeks after spring break and head out to the west coast. So you might have spent a few hundred dollars going to New York for the Big East Tournament, and you might have spent a few hundred more to go up to Buffalo. This team is playing UCLA, that is easily worth a few thousand dollars.
I kid, but nevertheless, about as big of a matchup as we have seen for this team in years. There are always the bigger conference games, the Big East finals, etc. but this is not about that. It is about mentor vs. apprentice. It is about the man who made Pitt basketball what it is vs. the man who keeps it that way. It is something only few teams can fear, or dream. I saw the look on Dixon’s face when he saw he could get matched with Howland. He wasn’t smiling. But, I wouldn’t equate that with fear or disappointment, rather discomfort seems more fitting.
Imagine owing your entire career to a man. A man you worked with for years. A man who taught you what you know. A man who left you a top-ten program for your first head coaching position. Now imagine needing to spend two weeks preparing your team to beat that man mercilessly. Just because he might not enjoy the situation doesn’t mean he won’t be smiling if it happens.
Look at the glass half full for a change. If Pitt can beat these two teams, it deserves to make it that far in the tournament, and nobody should be able to argue that. No matter how sure you are that Pitt won’t beat these teams, I’m sure the players are feeling more optimistic. All they can do is go out and give it “the old college try.” This is college basketball, after all, isn’t it?