I think all fans, in the past couple weeks, have talked about how much respect the Panthers have NOT received by the national media. Analysts have simply not been high on the Panthers. Call it an unfair remembrance of tournaments past, but analysts just don’t think this team will go far. This is expected for our team at this point, but are Pitt fans just as skeptical of this team? The Panthers have always done extremely well in the regular season, bringing home wins that sometimes it had no business to win, but always seeming to fall in the tournament a little early than we all thought they should. With the Elite Eight run a few years ago combined with last season’s early exit, the football team falling flat on its face, and the Steelers losing the Super Bowl (yes, honestly) I have a feeling Panther fans don’t want to go all in. They’re scared to get fully behind this team because they don’t want to be let down again. They don’t want their hearts broken, and that’s very understandable. They pick all the things wrong with this team. A lot of them are legitimate concerns, and things to look out for around the tournament though.
I think we’re coming to a point, though, that we have to realize what this team is. This team has 6 wins against RPI top 25 teams. They’ve had only 1 loss on the road, and it was a buzzer beater at the electric Garden. They’ve gone into tough places like the Coliseum and the Pavilion and pulled out improbable wins. They have a great post player in Gary McGhee, the best all around player in the country (in my opinion) in Brad Wannamaker, the show-stopper in Gil Brown (who WILL show up when he’s called), the scrappy under-the-rim player in Nasir Robinson, and a go-to scorer and game changer in Ashton Gibbs. With quality guys like Travon, Lamar, Dante, and the JJ’s off the bench I think this team has all the components it needs.
The idea here is that I think if Pitt is able to go in to the Yum! Center (that hurts to type) and pull out a win, this team is legit. This team, in the truest sense of that word, is capable of great things. If this team pulls out this win, I think it tells us that this team is ready for greatness. It tells us that this team has won too many of too many different types of games to lose too early in the tournament. They’re adaptable and can win shootouts or grind it out with in-your-face kind of games. If they win this game, I think they are a lock for a #1 seed. If they win this game, I think it’s time for everyone in this school and in this city to get behind this team all the way, and BELIEVE that this team will accomplish great things. Fans have to believe this team can make it to Houston, and maybe do more. I think this team is better than the Elite Eight team. They’re not nearly as flashy or pretty, but damn can they win games. They’re much more diverse, and not nearly as vulnerable as that team was. That team relied on its Big 3, but if those guys weren’t doing well the team didn’t do well. This team doesn’t have a Big 3. Maybe as Brad said, it has a Big 7, just a bunch of really good guys.
And what if they lose this game? Maybe then we still have to figure some things out. To lose a game against a top-15 team on the road, in a place that will be rocking has no shame. We just won’t be quite as sure about this team. I think we learn much more about this team if we win than if we lose. Like I said, if Pitt wins, I think Pitt is it.