On Thursday, Pitt won their first NCAA tournament game over a team that was seeded higher than them since 1981 with a 77-48 victory over the Colorado Buffaloes.
The Panthers roared out of the gate with a 13-0 run and they never looked back. This Pitt basketball team looked the best that they have looked all season. In fact, this was the best that I have ever seen a Jamie Dixon coached team play since the Levance Fields and Sam Young era.
For a team that was averaging just a bit over 60 points per game, the Panthers finished a nice first half with a 46-18 advantage. The 28-point lead was the largest halftime lead for any team in NCAA tournament history. Who saw that one coming?
Pitt was led by senior center Talib Zanna who recorded 18 points and five rebounds. Zanna continued his phenomenal stretch of games in March where he is averaging 15.5 ppg and 11 rpg. He has been special this month in leading the Panthers to their first victory in the NCAA tournament since 2011.
The Panthers continued their tough defense and unselfishness with the ball. They recorded 18 assists and forced 17 turnovers. Perhaps none is better at distributing the ball than point guard James Robinson. Robinson finished the day with eight dishes and only one turnover. The sophomore guard continues to mature down the stretch and has been vital to this Pitt basketball team.
Pitt will face off with the number one overall seed Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon. Florida did not look so good today as they just escaped 16th seed Albany by a score of 67-53. Albany was able to stay close to Florida all game but ultimately proved to be less physical and not capable of hanging with the much better Gators.
Pitt will have their hands full on Saturday with the Gators. Perhaps the biggest test of all will sit on Mr. Zanna’s shoulders in the form of 6-foot-9 big man Patric Young. Young has not been stellar for the Gators but teams with size have been able to bully the Panthers all season. But, given Zanna’s recent play, it seems like Pitt can handle the big men.
If momentum truly does count in the NCAA tournament than there is no team hotter than the Panthers. Considering how down they were just three weeks ago, the month of March has been fairly kind to them and they saved their best basketball for when it counts.
Florida on the other hand, has been cutting it close recently, beating Kentucky and Tennessee by one and six respectively in the SEC tournament.
If Pitt has any chance at winning this game they need to get out to a fast start and continue to build upon that lead. Obviously Florida is a much better team than Colorado but if Pitt plays that way again there are not many teams that will be able to beat them.
Florida should escape this match with the Panthers, however it will be close. If Pitt, can keep it close than who knows what can happen, this could be a monumental upset and huge bracketbuster.
The game will be on CBS at 12:15 pm on Saturday.
Do you think the Panthers have what it takes to win?