Sorry I’ve been a little behind on the recap of Friday’s game against Fairleigh Dickinson, I spent this weekend down in the enemy territory of Morgantown, proudly wearing a Pitt shirt and getting many nasty looks. That being said, I was extremely impressed with the Panther’s performance on Friday night. Sure, the final score was a 23-point win, but this is a team that was up 32 points and cruising before emptying the bench one final time, and could have easily pushed the score up past 40 if they tried for the last 5 minutes of the game.
The Panther faithful learned a lot from this game: first off, the Zoo is going to come out in force this season, but I’ll talk about that more in a bit. Second, Dwight Miller will most likely be redshirting this year (assuming no injuries), as he was the only scholarship player not to see the court in a game where a non-redshirt player most certainly would have. I think this is a good move, as Miller’s depth in the frontcourt is not needed this year, and he’ll certainly benefit from the extra year under Dixon’s coaching. Also, the freshman this year will be huge contributors to the Pitt squad, and I think they will be more than ready to handle the Big East conference. Jermaine Dixon, with two years of college basketball experience, is going to be a huge asset to this team with his defense and poise, and the young trio of Woodall, Gibbs, and Robinson will all add energy and talent to the bench, and give the Panthers a strong 2nd unit to give the starters a rest.
Levance Fields actually played. I can not believe I am writing that sentence. Not only did he play, but he scored 15 points and added 8 assists with zero turnovers. Not a bad game for someone who hasn’t really played at full strength in 11 months, and I hope that he continues to get stronger without any setbacks for the rest of the year. Final thought on the game: DeJuan Blair will be the MVP of this team. Yes, Sam Young is incredible, but his scoring will go down this season as other options emerge, but DeJuan’s presence under the basket is undeniable. He lost 10 pounds this offseason and looks much more fit around the hoop, adding in a short jumper to his arsenal of post moves, and he will average 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this year, Big East included, and could be All-Big East and possible All-America mention by the time this season is over. He’s got things to work on, but trust me on this.
Finally, the Zoo’s got some heat for some of the things that were said on Friday night’s game. This was a non-conference game, and yet the Zoo filled to capacity and THEN some, adding standing room only students, which is unheard of for a non-conference Pitt basketball game. They were loud nearly the entire game, also new territory for a student section that has (at times) gotten quiet when the Panthers are up by 30 points. I understand, it’s tough to yell and scream as much when the other team is getting beat into submission, but I was really happy the way this crowd reacted tonight. There’s been some heat on a few messages boards about the “50 sucks” chants that occured, but I have no problem with them. Isn’t the point of every chant to insinuate that the player is in some way inferior? If we chant “airball” we’re trying to remind that player that they missed a shot horribly, trying to get into his head. What are we supposed to chant? “Nice try?” “You’ll make it again next time?” This is college basketball, not high school, and these kids should be prepared to go against opponents who will try to get into their heads. As long as the Zoo does not get vulgar or lower ourselves to petty homophobic insults, I will support anything they chant. It gives the Panthers an incredible home-court advantage, and those alumni who bash the Zoo should think about if they want the reputation of their school to be a place where opponents can just waltz in and play a quiet game with little jeering OR cheering. This is our house!