One shot can have so much affect. It can win a game as well as lose a game. It can make a season, as well as break a season. The Pitt men’s basketball team knows this all to well when two years ago, the Big East player of the year, Scottie Reynolds of Villanova, ended the Panther’s hopes of a Final Four with one full court layup. One shot, that was it.
After a surprising season last year, when the Panthers took the Big East by storm after being ranked 9th in the conference in the preseason in what everyone thought to be a rebuilding year. This year however, the Panthers go from being the hunter’s, to being the hunted. They come into the season ranked 1st in the conference and 4th and 5th in the media and coaches poll in the nation. Led by Seniors Gary McGhee and Brad Wanamaker, as well as budding Junior star, Ashton Gibbs, the Panthers look to live up to expectations and deliver Coach Jamie Dixon his first Final Four appearance.
What seperates the Panthers from the other top teams in the nation is they don’t have that one go to guy. That can be seen as a positive or negative thing depending on how you look at it. Team ball is what the Panthers preach and all the players buy into the system. When the game is on the line however, will they have that guy who can take over the game and put the team on his back for the victory? Maybe that guy will be Gibbs. Or maybe Wanamaker. But the one person I expect to really turn heads this year is Talib Zanna, the redshirt freshman out of Nigeria. History shows Dixon’s ability to turn big men into legitimate players in their second years with the program. Chris Taft, Aaron Gray and Dejuan Blair can testify to that. Look for Zanna to continue the trend.
What will constitute as a successful season for Pitt this year? Do they have to win the National Championship or make the Final Four? To me, anything short of the Elite Eight and a Big East Championship will be a disappointment. Coach Dixon is a great Coach, but won’t reach the elite status until he takes his team to the Final Four. Since Pitt has had trouble getting over the hump and getting there, I can’t say that I will expect it from them until they are able to do it. Will I be surprised if they make it there? Not at all. With a successful regular season, the Panther’s should be well prepared to make a big run at the big dance.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com