Vukovcan: The Pitt Basketball Rebuild Reaches Another Milestone; Enjoy it, Panther Fans
The rebuild of the Pitt men’s basketball program reached a huge milestone on Sunday evening.
No longer do people associated with the team (and fans) have to reference back to 2015-16 when talking about March Madness and the NCAA Tournament.
Because this 2023 Pitt team is going dancing.
Although it was by a slimmer margin than a lot of people thought it would be, Pitt was one of the 68 teams selected for the men’s basketball tournament.
Despite opening and closing the season with runs of 1-3, the Panthers did enough in between those eight games, including wins over Northwestern, Virginia, NC State, Miami and North Carolina to earn a tournament bid. We found out after the Selection Show that those wins over North Carolina proved to be large because the Tar Heels were the third team excluded from the field, right behind Oklahoma State and Rutgers.
I’ll have to admit, it was fun tuning in to CBS and feeling nervous and some anxiety to find out whether Pitt would make it. Most of the time during the Jamie Dixon era everyone knew Pitt was going to be in the field, it was just a matter of what seed they would receive.
That wasn’t the case yesterday and if there were a few more bid stealers, Pitt wouldn’t have received a bid. That’s how close things were to having a completely different emotion around Pitt this Monday morning.
While most people are excited about the upcoming opportunity to watch Pitt this week and possibly select them for a couple rounds in a March Madness bracket poll that they may be playing, not everyone is happy.
I guess the saying is true that you can’t please everyone.
The fact that Pitt is playing in the First Four games has some fans upset–or even embarrassed–feeling as though the First Four games aren’t real tournament games.
First of all, that’s completely ridiculous. The tournament field has 68 teams, and the First Four teams have the same chance to win the title as everyone else, so, yes Pitt is a real tournament team.
As far as being upset at being an 11 seed, they should feel extremely fortunate to be an 11 seed instead of 8, 9 or even 10 seed.
If the goal is to have the best path and chance to win as many games as possible, as it should be, Pitt finds themselves in a perfect spot.
By no means am I saying that Pitt’s potential schedule is easy, but I do believe they’ve been matched up with ideal opponents and the real chance to advance to next weekend. I sure as heck would rather have Pitt’s draw than being a No. 8 or No. 9 seed with the winner playing a No. 1 seed. Or, being the No. 10 seed, who will play the following No. 7 seeds: Michigan State, Missouri or Texas A&M.
Mississippi State is a defensive oriented team, that isn’t a strong offensive team, so if Pitt’s 3-point shooting is on, they’ll have a good chance to win. After that, odds are that it would be a matchup against Iowa State (19-13), a team that’s lost five of their last seven games.
The other benefit that Pitt should receive by playing in this First Four game, is that it gives Pitt fans the opportunity to make the four-hour drive to Dayton to watch and support their team. I’d be surprised and disappointed if UD Arena isn’t filled with a lot of people wearing blue and yellow.
This season is a success and something that Jeff Capel will be able to use as a springboard into next year, no matter what happens against Mississippi State.
However, if Pitt is able to earn a win tomorrow, that will just be the cherry on the sundae for this magical season.
Goal No. 1 for Capel in his attempt to truly rebuild Pitt was to have a winning season, especially within the ACC. He checked that box. Goal No. 2 was to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, either this season or next. That was also accomplished.
Now the goal becomes for Pitt to win their first NCAA Tournament game since the 2013-14 season.
Although it won’t be easy as Mississippi State are the early favorites, Pitt’s chance of checking another box became more realistic because of being selected as the 11th seed.
The Madness begins officially begins tomorrow. Enjoy it and don’t take these moments for granted Panther fans!
H2P ! …. can’t wait to watch them although given my location in europe, it will be a 1:00 a.m. start for me.