I don’t think the Panthers need to be in any sort of panic mode. Unless we find some way to lose our remaining six games by 15 points each and then lose in the first round of the Big East tournament, we’re a solid bet for the NCAA tournament. If there’s one thing that Jamie Dixon coached teams know, it’s solid demeanor, which leads to a solid effort on the court. That was what worried me about the Panthers in the second half of the Marquette game- the effort, the drive, the passion for the game seemed to be basically gone. I was watching my Philadelphia 76ers beat the New York Knicks by 40 last night, and it was an eerily similar feeling watching the Knicks play- they really seemed to have no heart for the game. Each possession was forced, the defensive intensity was lacking, and the players faces were dull and uninspiring. Even down 20, it’s a good feeling to watch your team battle hard. It says a lot about the early teams we played: NC A&T down 25 but still battling for every position even when they were clearly overmatched. That sort of drive leaves you proud of your team even when they lose. Pitt didn’t play like that on Friday night, and I really hope we never have to see them play like it again. It’s one thing to watch your team lose, it’s another entirely to watch your team give up all hope. My friend Griffin was watching the Marquette game with me, and even with 12 minutes left he was still hoping that Pitt could come back, even down 18- that’s the attitude our entire team needs to adopt.
I can’t imagine Pitt doing anything but come out with a fire lit under them against the Fighting Irish. They know they played a terrible game last week, and really need to show that the team we saw on Friday night isn’t the team we’re going to see in the most critical three weeks of the basketball season. Every team goes through a trial- even Duke just lost two in a row- and the mark of a good team is being able to overcome that and come onto the court with something to prove. Jamie clearly isn’t the kind of coach to let a team dwell on the Marquette game, he’ll find a way to inspire our team to come out and show the country something on another nationally televised game. We do, as fans, have to remember that we have four freshman with significant playing time, and that watching them mature is really part of the beauty of the game. While we’re not blessed with the likes of Michael Beasley or Kevin Love, we have a group of young men who are committed to bringing something back to Pittsburgh, something we can be proud of. I don’t think anything illustrates this better than what Levance Fields said after he hit the game-winner against Duke back in December: “I had to do it for my teammates, for myself, and for the city of Pittsburgh.”
Hail to Pitt