Let me preface this by telling you I will be writing this from the heart. I won’t analyze statistics, match-ups, or any other aspect that you would find in a rational, researched article. This loss is stinging us all, and I feel by writing this I may be able to help move on just the slightest bit further on the road to recovery.
I’ve been a student here at Pitt since 2001. On December 21st, 2000, I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh. Until that point, I really never cared one single bit about college sports. To me, MLB, NFL, and the NHL were the only three things worth caring about. Once I knew I was going to Pitt, I began to take an interest in the University and the sports teams. My first instance I can remember of caring about Pitt basketball was when I was attending a Penguins game with my father in March. That night happened to be the same night that Pitt made the improbable run to the Big East Championship final where we lost to Boston College. Since that night, my love for Pitt has grown exponentially. Pitt football and Pitt basketball are the two sports teams that I am most passionate about now. I can’t even imagine how I would react if you would tell 8 year old DPJ that I would love college football over the Penguins, or if you told 14 year old DPJ that not only would I be interested in college basketball, but that I would care more about Pitt basketball than I would about the Steelers.
From the moment I stepped on campus I was proud to be a Panther. I never understood why people disliked their college. This was a choice they were able to make themselves and if they didn’t like it, they could transfer elsewhere. This thought really led me to develop more pride in my University.
One of the best ways to display my love for this school is with unwavering support for the athletic teams. I am thrilled that from the moment I was enrolled at Pitt, we have had a top 25 basketball team each and every year. However, at the end of the season, I feel completely empty, used, hurt, and depressed. Kent State, Marquette, Pacific, Bradley, UCLA, and now Michigan State have all led me down this path. While people remember certain things and why they dislike certain people, I will always have a special place of hatred in my heart for guys like Antonio Gates, Dwayne Wade, Patrick O’Bryant, Aaron Afflalo, and now Drew Nietzel.
I feel like all of those teams and players have taken something from me. If you are reading this site, then you are most likely one of the “better” or more informed fans out there. To us, we invest so much energy into each team, every season. Every year though, we just see it end with heart break. We can look back and think about the night that we lost Mike Cook, but took down the most famous college basketball program in the world. I will think of the night I drove to Dayton with many friends and we saw Levance fall to injury while losing one of the hardest to watch Pitt games in recent history. We had Ronalds 3 to take our West Virginia. Washington was a great game where only tenths of a second helped us preserve a victory. Most recently, we had an incredible run through the Big East Tournament after wondering which 8-9 game we would be seeded in.
Every year we have had reason to believe that we could have gone deep into the tournament. Our 2002-2003 team was one of the greatest college teams ever assembled, but the main thing I can only remember about them was Donatas Zavackas taking his shoes off and refusing to enter the game. My anger at him was quickly removed as the next night we were all sure that Ben Howland was leaving to go to UCLA. It always seems like it is something that holds us back. We see a player who hasn’t been playing well, or a player who is more of an unknown come to life and destroy the Panthers. We see a team that is shooting lights out have one of the poorest shooting percentage games of the season. Every year it is something that absolutely breaks our heart.
The only thing that can help is time. Hopefully the distraction of class, Pitt football, and the rest of life will allow some of us to move on sooner than later. It just is an awful pain knowing that no matter how far we have to look back and think about this season, we will be left with the memory that this team was poised to make a great run, but came up short once again.
I have the belief that being a Pitt fan is one of the hardest things a person can do. While it may not feel that way for everyone, I feel that I am part of each and every Pitt team. I want to rejoice with them, but that also means I have to suffer with them. Someday I hope we are able to have our chance to celebrate at a level greater than Big East Championships. I love where we are at now, but deep down, the fact that this is our best dynasty ever, yet we do not have the success in the NCAA tournament is very upsetting. Maybe I am greedy, maybe I am hoping for something that we can never achieve, but as much as I love winning the Big East, I want that chance to celebrate success at the larger level. For football, a win in a BCS game would be great, but I will always want that national championship. For basketball, I feel like we have such a mountain to overcome that a final four appearance would mean the world to me, but I feel that we as fans, and what we have experienced, should have the opportunity to celebrate a national championship.
Hopefully we will rebound. I can’t promise you that we will. The off-season is always one of the hardest times because now we will have to deal with the big questions. Is Sam coming back? What will we do at the 2 for next year. Do we move Dejuan or stick with him at center? Will the coaching vacancies somehow pull Jamie’s name into the mix AGAIN. This is the hard part. While we are all upset over what happened yesterday, we won’t be able to feel anywhere close to complete until next October when Pitt basketball starts a new season.
Hopefully next year will fulfill all of the goals we have for this team, but I really hate having to say wait until next year, every year.