I’m going to preface this by saying I hate losses. I hate suffering them, I hate that inevitable feeling of watching them, and most of all I hate writing about them. Someone commented on an earlier post that we “procrastinate” writing our articles about losses, and there’s a reason for that. After you watch the team that you love implode in the last few minutes of a game, the last thing you want to do is then think about it more. However, tonight, I’m going to do just that, and get some real frustrations out. This is going to be a bit of an angry post tonight, so don’t get overly offended.

First of all, I’m absolutely disgusted with the play of Sam Young. He is a good ballplayer, but he seems to think he’s some sort of NBA superstar already. Pittsburgh Panthers basketball is all about players who are willing to be a part of a team, not someone who wants to showboat for their own good. When you have a clear path to the hoop with 5 minutes left, down three points, that ball HAS TO GO IN THE HOOP. To watch Sam try and showboat was nauseating, and he should honestly be benched for a game to teach him a lesson. All he had to do was go up with two hands and drop the ball through the basket. Instead, he decided to show everybody just how “awesome” he was with a giant one-handed slam and instead gave Notre Dame all the momentum. Bricking a three-pointer he shouldn’t be taking two minutes later doesn’t help, either. Against a team with a 34-game home winning streak, the last thing to do is give them any more momentum.

Secondly, I’ve never seen a team lose their confidence and energy so quickly down the stretch. Whatever happened to the team of Duke and Washington has left completely. We’re still talented but we miss Mike Cook more than anybody could ever realize. Keith and Ronny aren’t the kind of players to keep a team’s confidence up, Cookie was the kind of guy who could stop a collapse and keep the Panthers in it. Instead, as soon as Notre Dame gets momentum with a few minutes left, we fold like a cheap lawn chair. Yes, McAlarney hit some tough threes down the stretch, but he only had 3 on the game, a number that Pitt should easily have overcome. Instead, he drops one tough trey in our faces and we completely forget our game plan. It’s like Jamie Dixon has to call a timeout every five minutes and go “Hey! Remember our game plan? Let’s play some defense!” and we do it for about 5 minutes, and start lapsing again. It’s really sad to watch, and every Pitt fan sees it coming. There used to be a point where we’d say that we hit a rough patch and could hit some shots down the stretch, but it’s now hitting a point where we go down by a few points with 2 minutes left and the fans just KNOW that it’s over. Something about the Panthers just shows that they’ve given up. It’s really just awful.

The scary thing is, how do you fix that? How do you get a team’s energy up when the other team hits a few shots? I used to have a tennis coach, up at a summer camp I went to, who would give great lectures- not just about tennis, but about sports and life in general. My personal favorite was a lecture called “Hills and Valleys.” The basic point was that in every game you’re going to have hills, and you’re going to have- you guessed it- valleys. The best players, and teams, are the ones that understand their hills and valleys, and don’t let either one get into their head. The Panthers become overconfident in their hills, and completely lose it when they go into their valleys. The best teams in the country are the ones that understand when their shots aren’t falling and go back to basics- great defense, simple offense, and ride the valley back up into a wave. The Panthers have a terrible mental game about their hills and valleys, and they desperately need someone to carry them through. I just can’t see anybody on this team stepping up and doing it. I really worry about this team for the rest of the season. See you all at the Louisville game, which really should determine our fate for the rest of the season. There’s rarely must-win games in college basketball, but the Sunday matchup is certainly one for our Pittsburgh Panthers.


Notre Dame Preview

Usually, my previews go something like this: I find some stats on the team, talk about their key players, and give my hopes that Pitt can win the game. Today, I’m gonna go with a little bit of a different approach and speak from the heart. It’s not because I’m lazy, mostly because I want to switch things up a little bit.

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

Pink the Pete

Tomorrow at 2pm, your #18 women’s basketball team will take on the #2 UConn Huskies in the inaugural “Pink the Pete” event.

During the past two weeks there has been a national push to promote breast cancer awareness in women’s basketball. Many teams across the country have had similar events. Last Sunday, Pitt donned pink uniforms in their game at Notre Dame. Notre Dame was too cool to wear any pink for their own event, but tomorrow we will see the Panthers dress in new white home jerseys with pink accents against the UConn women in all pink road jerseys.

The Oakland Zoo has made 3000 pink breast cancer ribbons for the event. Some ribbons were sold earlier this week to raise money for breast cancer research and the rest will be donated tomorrow and handed out to all fans in attendance.

Everyone is encouraged to wear pink and students will be given free pink t-shirts by the athletic department to commemorate the event.

Even if you haven’t seen a women’s game yet this year, or ever, come out tomorrow and see two of the top 20 teams in the country battle. Agnus has really grown Pitt an awesome program in her time here and they have been ranked as high as #14 this season. They have really held their own in a tough Big East conference that at one point had 7 of the top 20 teams in the RPI.

Pitt narrowly lost to Rutgers at home, who then beat UConn for their only loss of the year.
Pitt won substantially at home against Syracuse, who gave UConn one of their closest games of the year.

Marred by Marquette once again

I have learned to respect Marquette a great deal in the past few years. No team has given us as many problems as Marquette. Even Georgetown, the likely repeat conference champion, is 1-2 against us in the regular season in that period.

I can’t say too many Pitt fans expected to win that game, but the ease with which Marquette won was almost staggering.

After watching the women get absolutely pummeled at WVU on Wednesday, this was a pretty lousy week of basketball.

The only positives I can see in this loss are that Sam Young had another good outing in spite of the lack of any support from the rest of the team, and that Levance is back and has nearly a week to further his recovery and get back to peak condition.

I would not claim that he came back too early. I think had the rest of the team been able to handle things adequately, Levance would have been more comfortable. It is going to be a challenge for him to try to take control of the offense while still injured when nobody seems to be able to shoot or even pass.

I think this week will be good time for the Panthers to rest and prepare for Notre Dame. They never faced the Irish last year, so Jamie should have more than his usual scouting to do. Notre Dame has been performing impressively all year, but I think they are a team that Pitt can beat. I think that Harangody and Blair will be an extremely entertaining matchup in the paint. I think the duo of Levance and Ronald on McAlarney will be pretty good too. I know that Fields still hasn’t had too many full practices under his belt, so hopefully everyone will get more adjusted in the coming few days.

Thoughts On The Last Two Days

Sorry everyone for the lateness of this article operating off of about 20 hours of sleep for an entire week isn’t condusive to writing articles. Overall, New York was an amazing time and I got to see some great basketball at the Garden. Two of the best games I’ve seen Pitt play live on Thursday and Friday, then on Saturday night the worst game I’ve ever seen us play live. Everyone who watched the Georgetown game knows why we lost so me saying it is just piling on. Sitting in the Garden watching us get trashed isn’t a feeling I want to feel again. Give the Hoyas credit though they are by far the best team in the Big East and a legitimate national title contender.

The #3 seed in the West bracket is not good at all. We are staring down a match-up in San Jose with UCLA. I’ve wanted to play UCLA since the day Ben Howland lied to us and said he wasn’t going anywhere but not in California. A neutral court in a tournament that is supposed to be played on neutral courts would have been nice but what can you do. At least we aren’t a #9 seed playing Michigan State like Marquette or a #6 seed who gets to play a great Winthrop team like Notre Dame. The Big East was not given favorable rankings except for Georgetown who could walk right into the Sweet Sixteen with little effort.

As for our opponent in the first round Wright St., they don’t really have an unique look or anything that can put pressure on us. Gray is going to get to tower over their inside guys, so look for him to bounce back a little in the warm-up game. Second round everybody is looking forward to the Duke-Pitt matchup but I think Duke-VCU might be a little closer than everyone expects. VCU was by far the best team in CAA (where last year’s shocker George Mason plays) and they have a good backcourt. If the Dukies don’t play well we can look at VCU in the second round.

I’m not making any predictions as of yet as to how we will play in the tournament because I don’t know which team to expect. The team that played Marquette and Louisville is going to be dangerous but the team that played Georgetown is one and done. My advice just enjoy the ride don’t worry about if we are finally going to get past the Sweet Sixteen. March Madness is one of the best sporting events in the world and every game has something interesting about it.