Pitt basketball: Pitt Panthers barely survive a hurricane

Coming into the game against Miami on Wednesday, the Pitt basketball team had lost two games in a row and were facing a huge identity crisis.  Panthers star senior Lamar Patterson had struggled in both losses, and Pitt was in need of a bounce-back win. After a scare, the Panthers were able to persevere over the Hurricanes 59-54 in overtime.

Even though the Panthers were able to earn a much-needed win, they were only able to score 46 points in regulation, and shot just 33.3 percent for the game.  This performance was slightly better than their miserable showing against Virginia.  All in all, these poor shooting performances and low score totals are becoming all too common for the Panthers as they continue to move through the season.

The following game against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Pitt needed two overtimes to beat an abundantly terrible Virginia Tech team.  For the third straight game since the Duke loss, Pitt failed to record 50 points in regulation.  For the second game in a row, Pitt faced an ACC bottom feeder and was unable to secure a victory in regulation.

This got me wondering, what happened to this team?  What is this team’s identity?  Will they be able to win games and succeed in March with this low scoring, strong-defensive style of play?

When Pitt made the switch of conferences from the Big East to the ACC, many wondered how they would fare.  Would the Panthers bump-and-grind rough way of play be successful in a more finesse and scoring oriented ACC?  Up until last week, it appeared as if they would succeed with their hybrid style of basketball in the ACC.  Pitt was turning in scores in the 70’s and 80’s as they cruised past ACC foes.

Lately, as Pitt got into the meat of their schedule and began to play tougher teams, Pitt backed down.  The strong shooting and high scoring has dissipated and this team is mire image of its prior self.

What happened?

In my opinion, it appears as if Pitt has resorted back to its Big East style of play when playing against teams who have more skill than them.  In the Big East, Pitt won many games by out-muscling teams.

That style of play will not allow them to win too many games in the ACC.  The ACC referees call a much tighter game and are not going to let Pitt get away with as much.

This Pitt team has a ton of talent and they have shown it time and time again throughout the season.  They have been competitive in all four of their losses to date.

I think that this Pitts team’s greatest flaw is their fear of winning big games, and lack of confidence in their shooting abilities.

Pitt seems to be afraid to showcase their shooting abilities on the big stage.  Throughout their non-conference schedule Pitt was paced by their superb shooting and was quickly silencing many critics who were weary of their ACC potential.

I rated this team as a perfect combination of Big East basketball and ACC basketball.  They seemed to have struck a balance in shooting in physicality, a balance that appeared as if they were poised to take the ACC by storm.

All of the sudden they lost their confidence in their shooting and the low scoring has many worried.  It simply seems that Pitt only wants to resort back to their physical style of play when playing the better ACC teams.  However when they started ACC play they appeared perfectly comfortable shooting frequently and running scores high.

This cannot all be blamed on the loss of sixth man Durand Johnson at the beginning of January.  One has to point to the 80-65 loss to Duke, when Pitt attempted to play the more physical finesse game that had worked relatively flawlessly earlier.  Since that game, Pitt has failed to record more than 48 points in regulation.  That loss to Duke seems to have really shaken their confidence.

I hope that this is not the start of a trend, and Pitt earns a huge season-defining win against first ranked Syracuse on Wednesday.

Do you think Pitt will have a successful end to the season?