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:
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 4, 2014
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.