Pitt basketball: Pitt is not worthy of an NCAA tournament bid as of now

The Pitt basketball team huddling during a match with NC State on March 3.

The Pitt basketball team huddling during a match with NC State on March 3.

After a tough loss to TJ Warren and NC State, Pitt is officially on the bubble, and if they are not careful, their bubble might just burst. If selection day was today, Pitt would not make the NCAA tournament. Missing out on the NCAA tournament would be a disappointing way to end the season.

At 22-8, the Pitt Panther’s stock is dropping fast. After a promising start to the season, the Panthers have lost six of their last 10 games and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament.

At their peak this season, the Panthers were ranked 18th in the nation and sat comfortably at 16-1. They were taking the ACC by storm, with a 6-2 conference record many analysts thought Pitt was poised to finish at the top of the ACC.

This Pitt basketball team seemed to have all of the right pieces. The Panthers starting lineup is made up of Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson, who are seniors, Cameron Wright, a junior, James Robinson, a sophomore and Michael Young, a true freshman. This lineup is a good match of veteran leadership and underclassman talent that has been a recipe for success for many teams in the past.

Head coach Jamie Dixon had his Pitt basketball team playing what seemed like a good mix of tough and physical Big East basketball and run and gun ACC basketball. They were beating ACC teams with relative ease, regularly eclipsing the 75 point mark. Then suddenly, Pitt suffered a rare home loss to Duke, and they have not been the same since.

Pitt has gone 4-6 including that Duke loss, and of their four wins, three of them have come in overtime. This Pitt team is spiraling downward and the end result may not be favorable to the fans.

At this point, Pitt has to be considered a bubble team as their overall body of work is unimpressive. Their most recent losses to Florida State and NC State have weakened their tournament resume immensely as both teams are ranked outside of the RPI top-50.

Many analysts and fans are beginning to doubt the Panther’s chances at making the NCAA tournament. ESPN analyst and bracket expert Joe Lunardi responded to a fan’s tweet inquiring about Pitt’s tournament chances:

Coach Dixon’s coaching style is coming under scrutiny. He has been on the wrong end of several close games that came down to key coaching decisions. During his 11years as head coach of the Panthers, Dixon has rarely received criticism from anyone, but lately with the team struggling, even Dixon cannot escape negative comments.

Following the loss to NC State, senior Lamar Patterson was asked if he thought his team’s recent struggles would put their tournament chances in jeopardy, he seemed confident and said “nah, I think we will be fine.” For his sake, I hope he is right, both seniors have played their hearts out this year and have not been receiving much help from the rest of the team.

I think that this team will not make the NCAA tournament with their current body of work.  If they lose to Clemson on Saturday they will fall to 22-9 and most likely the sixth seed in the ACC tournament.  With a strength of schedule of 91 and a majority of their wins coming against teams ranked outside of the RPI top-100, Pitt’s tournament resume is weak.

This Pitt basketball team needs to beat Clemson which will earn them the five seed in the ACC tournament.  Once in the ACC tournament, they need to beat the bottom feeder they play in the second round and then they will secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. With that, it would not hurt to win their third round matchup and make it to the semifinals of the ACC tournament.

  • vinnie12

    dO THE WRITERS HERE JUST LOOK AT THE STATS,or do they actually watch any games!
    Pitt has had a hard luck stretch losing to last second shots and bad A.C.C. officiating!
    It seems kind of strange that after all of the press that Pitt and Syracuse were dominating the A.C.C. the officials suddenly started to call the games more in favor of the other A.C.C. teams. A little payback I presume!

    • Aron Minkoff

      I am not quite sure what you are getting in regards to officiating. I really do not think the officials are in collision to cause Pitt and Syracuse to lose games.

      As for the bad luck, yes Pitt has had its fair share of bad luck, but when every team that you play is having their “best” night against you, it is you not the other team. Pitt should not have allowed themselves to be in a situation where luck had anything to do with the outcome.

      That being said, after today’s win, I think Pitt is safe and in the tournament.

  • Jim G – class of “67

    As a life long Pitt basketball fan (and class of ’67 grad), I’ve noticed a difference in this year’s team – even from the beginning of the season – watch the time out huddles – the players are looking at the sky, the fans, their shoes – but seldom seem to be listening or paying attention to Coach Dixon. Even the assistant coaches seem “tuned out”. I think your assessment of their NCAA bid opportunities are right on the mark. Based on their first game against Clemson, they should win but ……….

    • Aron Minkoff

      They hopefully will beat Cemson, but at this point, they have not given me any reason to believe that they are capable of winning.

      I agree with you, often times this season, the players seem uninterested by the game and often times seem to accept defeat. Cam Wright’s body language Monday night was horrific. He was not even being subbed out and still took himself out of the game. It is not the winning way, and is not the “Pitt Way” that Jamie Dixon has tried to establish.

      • Carp21

        They have been in every game and have not been beaten badly except Duke, btw if Dawkins had not gotten hot late…you never know. Pitt is a team who can very easily win the ACC tournament, yes their resume isn’t the best but the effort is there and I don’t think this group is going to just fold with so much to lose. All said and done Pitt picks it up and earns a 6 seed, at worst 8.

        • Aron Minkoff

          Losing Durand Johnson hurt the Panthers a lot. That being said if Josh Newkirk can replicate Monday’s performance throughout the ACC tournament who knows.

          Some players have shown effort, but the rare strains where effort is not acceptable.

          I do agree with you, if Pitt wins the ACC tournament they will be a six seed. I do not think they get past the ACC semifinals, I think their current ceiling is an eight or a nine seed.