Each week when I brainstorm on what to write about, there are two main questions that I consider: 1) What do my readers want to read about?; and 2) How timely is the subject? Being that my past few articles were on the Steelers and the Pitt football team, while those topics were well deserved, I realized that we are coming up on February and I have only written about the #2 ranked Pitt basketball once this season. Thus, on Monday morning, I decided that I would do my midweek article on Pitt beating Notre Dame to win their 20th game this season. The win would mark 10 straight years with 20 wins, and I would write about how the city may over look them with the hype of the Penguins and Steelers the way it is. I was sure Pitt was going to win this game. They lost their last two contests against the Fighting Irish and there is no way they would lose a third. Well, come Monday night, it was time for a new angle on my article as Pitt’s number 2 ranking will be short lived as they let one slip to the Fighting Irish at the “Pete”.
With their record now standing at 19-2, what do we know about this Pitt team? Are people going to get down on them because of a single loss, only their second of the season? Notre Dame always plays tough with their slow pace style of play and they proved worthy again Monday night. Playing big for the Irish were Scott Carleton, who dropped 16 points, including 5-6 from downtown, and Ben “Yes, Tyler’s brother” Hansbrough, who Pitt seemingly had no answer for. Am I worried about this loss? Not at all. When you play in the toughest conference in the country, you are bound to lose a game here and there over a 30-plus game season. If anyone expects perfection, they need to step back down to the planet we all live on. Does it make me think Notre Dame has Pitt’s number? Until proven otherwise, yes. The fact that Ashton Gibbs had a down night, shooting only 4-13, including 1-5 from the arc, didn’t help Pitt’s chances either last night.
All of the talk this year is that this may be Coach Jamie Dixon’s best team since he has taken over for his predecessor Ben Howland. I personally don’t agree. The team with the most depth and best shooting skills, sure, I’d be willing to accept that argument. Even if Pitt goes on to the Final Four or further this year, I still won’t say this is his best squad. I believe that was the 2008-2009 team, with the likes of Dejuan Blair, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon and Levance Fields. Young and Blair are currently making waves in the NBA and Fields was a great quarterback for the Panthers. When this team lost on a last second, full court layup by Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds, Pitt saw their best chance at the Final Four since 1941, slip by in the blink of an eye. “If Pitt makes the Final Four this year, it will be Dixon’s first trip there. So how couldn’t this team be his best?”, people may ask. Well, simply, the field of teams out there this year doesn’t even come close to matching the teams in the Big Dance last year. Looking around the country, I feel there aren’t any dominate teams. Ohio State is relying on a freshman big to carry their team. Duke is overrated in my opinion. Any of the Elite Eight teams from the 2009 Tournament could defeat any of the Final Four teams this year. This may be a bold statement to make towards the end of January, but it’s what I believe.
Will Pitt’s depth help them this year in the tournament or is somebody going to have to step up to be the shining star? If BYU has a kid named Jimmer Fredette, who’s leading the nation in scoring, does Pitt then need to find someone who can have the ball in the final minute who can say, “Coach, I got this”. I don’t believe so. I believe with how deep they are, and the fact that the whole team buys into the system, Pitt will be fine just the way they are. Beating teams like UConn, Texas, Maryland and Syracuse shows the type of team that Pitt has. So, please don’t worry about the loss to Notre Dame Monday night. Just enjoy the ride and look forward to 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