Photo: Flickr/The Cleveland Kid
Pitt basketball is one of my true passions and I have been left heartbroken the past nine years when we were eliminated from the NCAA tournament. However, this year is going to be different and The Pittsburgh Panthers Are Going To Win The NCAA Championship.Here’s why:
1) All of the major schools loose talent early to the NBA draft. Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and Russell Westbrook should all still be in college. Pitt recruits solid players, but not NBA players who leave school early. As a result, we are an experienced team with three seniors in the starting lineup. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas recently spoke about how down college basketball is this year – highlighted by the lack of true NBA talent. When the talent isn’t there, experience takes over, and our experience will take us to the title.
2) I believe teams have due factors which help get them over the edge. Pitt has been knocking on the door for the past nine seasons. We have suffered so many close losses in NCAA tournament games which could have went our way had it not been for one or two plays. If you knock on the door enough, eventually it is going to open — and this is the year that it opens.
3) All signs point to Pitt being a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. While the tournament is known for its upsets and excitement, it is usually a number 1 seed that cuts down the nets on the final night of the season. Pitt is well on its way to securing a number 1 seed and the one seeds are generally dominant. In fact, the last 4 NCAA champions were a number 1 seed. And when Pitt gets its 1 seed on Sunday, it will be in position to continue this trend when it cuts down the nets in Houston.
4) The Big East is by far and away the best conference in the country. This season Pitt was the outright winner of the Big East Conference for the first time in the school history. The number one team from the number one conference will be the last of the 68 teams standing at the end of the NCAA tournament.
5) Upsets frequently happen in the tournament as any team can go hot or cold on a given night. Therefore it is important for teams to have stabilizing factors that you know can be counted on night after night. Pitt is the second leading rebounding team in the country, thanks in large part to Gary McGhee. At six-foot-10-inches tall and 250 pounds, McGhee dominates the glass and we can count on him being a force in the middle every single night. McGhee also rarely gets in foul trouble, which isn’t always the case for a big man. This stabilizing man in the middle is going to dominate the boards all the way through Houston.
6) Pitt has the best backcourt in the country. Dick Vitale always says that you need great guard play to advance far into the NCAA tournament. Two years back, when Pitt was a Number 1 seed, we had great play down low with Dejaun Blair and great play on the wing with Sam Young, however we lacked great guard play. This season, with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamker – we have the most dynamic backcourt in the nation. We also have Travon Woodall who has turned out to be one of the best backup guards in the country. And the Pitt backcourt is going to be the primary force behind our run through six NCAA tournament games.
7) One of the biggest problems Pitt has faced over the past nine years in the NCAA tournament has been its lack of scoring and slow pace. When you play in the half court and eat up the shot clock, you are essentially limiting the amount of possessions in the game. This then limits the margin for error and Pitt has found themselves in tight games against teams they are clearly better than. This year, Pitt can get out and run like never before because of its three guard triumvirate. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim recently marveled at how this Pitt team is different from other Pitt teams because of its ability to score. This new look Pitt offence is going to be one reason why this Pitt team does what no other Pitt team could do in the past nine NCAA tournaments.
8) Our leader is not only a great coach, but he is also a great man. Jamie Dixon this year set the D1 record for the most wins by a coach in his first eight years. And while he has yet to take us to the promised land – he is clearly one of the top coaches in the country. In addition to that, he is also a role model to many. This past October, Jamie Dixon helped rescue two people whom had been involved in a serious car accident. Many people failed to pull over and help, but Coach Dixon not only pulled over, but he also cut his hands while trying to help people out of their cars.
Coach Dixon tragically lost his sister to heart disease in 2006. Jamie has since co-founded the Maggie Dixon foundation to help bring awareness to heart disease and make people informed about things they can do to prevent it. This is the type of leader that not only the players, but also the entire student body look up to and admire. I wouldn’t want anyone else coaching this team. And Jamie Dixon is the man who is going to bring the University of Pittsburgh its first basketball championship.
Lastly, to all of my Pitt boys whom I will be seeing next week, I know some of you are going to say that I just jinxed it. However, for the past nine years, there have been tons of stores in the media that make predictions for the NCAA tournament, and they never select us. So maybe this is what we need.
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