For the first time since cracking the rankings five weeks ago, this Pitt basketball team is no longer ranked in the top 25. Last week was a tough one for the Panthers as they dropped two games to conference foes Syracuse and North Carolina. Syracuse came into the Petersen Events Center (the Pete) ranked first overall. Since the Petersen Events Center opened in 2002, Pitt was 9-0 against opponents ranked in the top 25 prior to its game with the Orange. Pitt held a lead for a majority of the game, but the Panthers were unable to escape the game with a victory. Syracuse freshman sensation Tyler Ennis connected on a near half-court shot to give the Orange a 58-56 win as time expired.
This was a demoralizing loss for the Panthers and their fans who left the Pete in shock.
The Panthers looked clearly shaken in their next matchup with North Carolina. The Panthers went through several stretches where they were completely unable to score a basket. North Carolina took advantage of the Panthers lack of confidence and were able to gain a 13 point lead more than half way through the second-half.
The Tar Heels were able to hold off a spirited late comeback and fend off the Panthers 75-71. Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon seemed to be at a loss for words following the game. “I thought we did some good things, but at the end of the day we came into here to outrebound them and we didn’t, and we had more turnovers than they did…We’ve got to go out and execute better.”
The Panthers having last played on Saturday have a full week off until their next game against Florida State on Sunday. The Seminoles come into the game with the Panthers with a 6-8 ACC record and on paper appear to be an easy matchup for the Panthers.
Actually, all five of the Panthers remaining games appear to be easy on paper. The Panthers five remaining opponents are Florida State, Boston College, Notre Dame, North Carolina State and Clemson. The five teams have a combined conference record of 26-38.
However, Boston College, who will be hosting Pitt, just upset Syracuse on their home court. The Eagles seem determined to cause as much havoc as possible at the end of the season. Boston College is 7-19 and most likely not heading to any postseason tournament. That being said, mounting wins against the ACC elite would certainly help ease the pain of an unsuccessful campaign.
The game that worries me the most is the match with Notre Dame at the Joyce Center in South Bend, IN. The Irish have always been a tough matchup for the Panthers, and Notre Dame always plays well at home.
The Panthers currently sit at 20-6 and look to be in a good position to win at least four of their last five. This would put them in a good position to earn a first round bye for the ACC tournament which is afforded to the top four teams from conference play.