Think back to that feeling you had Saturday night when Pitt had finally lost. When the clock finally hit 0.0. After the craziest 2 seconds of college basketball in probably NCAA and Pitt history, this team’s run was done. It was over. Think about how terrible that felt. No New Orleans, no Houston, no Final Four. 1941 is still a terrible number to current Pitt fans.
Now take a breath. That is the worst it’s ever going to feel, most likely ever. You will probably never feel lower about this team. There are very few ways to lose that hurt more than the way we did Saturday night. I sat in silence for probably a half hour by myself with the TV still on soaking it in. It was kind of just a “Really?”. I didn’t really have any words for it. I let it soak in, though, and thought about it. A great season by a great team was over, albeit shorter than any of us would have wanted. I thought about Gilbert Brown, ending his career with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by a Pitt player. I thought about Nasir’s 16 pts, and his crucial baskets during that comeback run to open the 2nd half. All I started to think about was how sad I was that I would not get to see Brad, Gil, and Gary in a Pitt uniform ever again. Nick might come back for next year as he still has eligibility left. The “We want Rivers!” chants may yet live on to next year.
The fact is though is that all I can do as a fan and lover of this team is realize what have next year. It maybe cliche with “OH, we’ll get em next year!”. If there was ever a program to say that about, though, it’s this one. Two seasons ago, everyone including the fans doubted that this team could repeat the type of year they had. Everyone except Jamie and the team. They knew what they had. They know what they have now. The fact of the matter is this team has been to the tournament 10 straight seasons. They are a contender every single year. This team is making a top 3 finish in the BE a requirement, and a top 3 seed in the tournament a tradition.
Eventually this team will break through. I will not give up on them. I will be there in the Zoo at the blue/gold game and the opener. I’ll be there every single game I can. I will be as loud and supportive as I can, and do everything I can to give every this team every ounce of support I can. I’ll do this becaused the amount of great times and people I’ve met along the journey of this program is remarkable. This loss hurts bad, but how good did you feel in the Zoo or at home when Pitt was on that 19-0 run, and took down Cuse? Taking down Texas at the Garden? Or when Pitt went into Hoopieland and the Pavilion and pulled out victories without Gibbs when even we doubted they could? How about when we won the regular season at home on Senior Night? I’m not even going to talk about the ridiculous wins last year.
I know more great memories lie in store for next season, because I realize what we have and what we have coming in. Somebody is going to surprise us come next season from this team. It always happens. Somebody we had counted out or would literally become worried when they came into a game, the next year we’re wondering how we’ll ever get along with out them. Guys like Gary, or Nas becoming a flat out star this season. Gibbs inexplicably being even more ridiculous of a shooter than before. This team always figures things out, why do we tend to doubt them?
The fans have every year to win a championship. The players only have a limited time, and I feel terrible for our seniors. They worked hard enough to make it, and just came a little short. I’m sad I won’t get to see these guys in a Pitt uniform again. I was only a freshman when Levance, Sam, and DeJuan left. I was sad to see them go, but I feel like I’ve watched this class grow. To see the development and hard work you can only like them even more over the years. I know the Zoo loved this class, and this class loved the Zoo. We have possibly 5 guys coming in though. Khem Birch, Malcom Gilbert, Durand Johnson, Jaylen Bond, and John Johnson. All great players, and winners. Not to mention at least one is of those seemingly elusive “elite” talents that Pitt hasn’t ever seem to grab in Khem Birch.
That’s another class we’ll get to know and love, and it’s entirely possible they help bring the championship finally home to Pittsburgh. The way to know for sure is to support this team. It’ll be that much sweeter if they do it considering we all know exactly how hard it is to make it that far. There will be more losses in the regular season, and in the Big East Tournament. There will be more losses, possibly some heartbreaking, in the NCAA tournament. Oh, there will be losses. I think the best part about this program, though, is we know there will be big wins as well. Even more top 5 teams will come to die at the Pete and the Zoo. We will still go into other teams’ arenas, and pull out improbable wins. This team will rise through the ranks of college basketball, and keep its place amongst the most winning programs in the sport. How do I know all this? That’s all Pitt Basketball has done the last 10 years. We’ve fallen short in the tournament, yes. Eventually the ball will bounce our way, though. Eventually Pitt Basketball will stop making players like Scottie Reynolds famous. Eventually Pitt will make Pitt players famous. Pitt will be famous because of what it accomplished, and not what it failed to do. Pitt will do it. The college basketball world will..