After 10 consecutive seasons of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament the Pittsburgh Panthers men's basketball team is in danger of missing the competition for the second consecutive year. On Saturday the Panthers lost to Marquette resulting in three losses in their last four games. The Panthers are currently sitting at 13-4, (1-3) in the Big East. The team annihilated the then 19th ranked Georgetown by nearly 30 points just days earlier simply didn't seem to show up against the Golden Eagles on Saturday.
Pitt's offense looked stagnant throughout the game especially when facing zone defense, a striking similarity to the offence's performance against Rutgers on January 5th. It definitely didn't help that Pitt's floor general Tray Woodall left with concussion-like symptoms just three and a half minutes into the game after a scary head-to-head collision with Marquette's Derrick Wilson. Woodall did not return to the game which is disconcerting to Panther fans everywhere because a groin injury to Woodall last year seemed to derail the team early on. Pitt never really recovered from the injury resulting in the team's first vacancy the NCAA Tournament in a decade.
The Panthers shot just under 40% for the game, but it never really got out of hand. Neither team could capitalize down the stretch, which resulted in a buzzer-beating three from Lamar Paterson. The Panthers had all the momentum moving into the overtime period but came out flat missing open shots and free throws. A problem that has always seemed to haunt Pitt in big games is their free throw shooting, which turned out to be a deciding factor in the game with Pitt shooting just 50% (13 for 26) and Marquette countering at 77% (23 for 30). The loss was the second of the year at home for the Panthers.
Pittsburgh used to be nearly unbeatable at the Peterson Event Center but in the last two years it seems home court advantage is becoming less and less relevant. In its 11-year history as Pitt's home, the Panthers are 174-21 at the Pete with nine losses, seven in Big East play, coming in the last two years. The season is far from over, but if Pitt loses to Villanova on Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Panthers will have an uphill battle the rest of the way moving through the rest of Big East play, culminating with back-to-back games against Louisville and Syracuse on January 28th and February 2nd.
Before the season, hopes were high for the Panthers, especially with the addition of freshman center Steven Adams. Many scouts saw Adams as a one-and-done type player but he has not lived up to his pedigree as a Rivals five star recruit, at least on the offensive end of the floor. Adams led the Panthers with four blocks against Marquette which is twice as many field goals as the seven-footer attempted, and made. For the Panthers to be successful they must begin to work the ball down low and get some more production from Adams who is averaging just 4.5 points per game in the Big East and has yet to score from the free throw line.
Pitt's next four games against Villanova, Connecticut, Providence and DePaul are extremely important to the team's post-season hopes. I am still optimistic, but cautiously so. If the Panthers don't improve their rebounding, offensive efficiency against zone defense and frontcourt scoring it could be another long season in Oakland.

Posted in College Sports

Leave a Reply