So now that we've reached the end of Pitt's season, it's time to evaluate. To do that, I'll use a commonly referred to theory: expectations change.
Expectations change throughout the course of a season. Coming into the season, I predicted Pitt would win 23 games
. Seemed I was pretty close on that one. That said, I was wildly inaccurate about Dante Taylor playing a large role and Gary McGhee, a small one. But based on winning that many games, I was hoping for a Sweet 16 appearance and would have deemed that as a success.
After the first game against Wofford, a narrow win, expectations changed drastically. At that point, it appeared Pitt would be going through growing pains of a much higher degree. If they could barely beat Wofford at home, how could they get through the rugged Big East? That was the question a lot of people had, including myself. Wofford, of course, turned into a pretty decent team who made the tournament, but all in all, Pitt normally beats those types of teams a little more easily. So, yes, even after only one game, my expectations had changed. I figured they would get better throughout the course of the season, but thought my 23-win prediction was looking like a bit of a reach.
But, then that all changed.
First, Pitt beat Wichita State in what was essentially a road game. Then they played a highly-ranked Texas team to basically a tie for about 30 minutes. They stumbled against Indiana, but then rattled off eight wins in a row including three on the road against undefeated Syracuse and solid teams Cincinnati and UCONN, and then a comeback win at home against Louisville.
That sound you then heard were Pitt fans stumbling over themselves to get back on the bandwagon.
Losing four out of their next five was quieted by the team going 8-1 the rest of the regular season. Pitt wrapped a 24-7 regular season and better yet, had beaten a bunch of top teams on the way in Syracuse, West Virginia, and Villanova. True, they had shown their down moments at times and lost to a few teams they shouldn't have, but what team doesn't?
So at the end of it all, at 24-8 heading into the NCAA Tournament, the team had fulfilled my expectations from the beginning of the season. They didn't take a direct path, but they had gotten there. As a 3-seed, I think you've got to win at least two games in the tournament.
It's easy to say that coming into the season, an NCAA tournament berth was sufficient. But after such a successful regular season, it's expected that we should have wanted more. For example, Syracuse was not expected to do much, either. They were picked somewhere around the middle of the pack in the Big East and many of their fans probably would have been happy with an NCAA tournament appearance had you asked them at the beginning of the season. Now that they became a #1 seed, if they had gone out in the first round, wouldn't that be considered a colossal disappointment? Of course it would have. Why? Because they tore through the regular season and their expectations CHANGED.
I think Coach Dixon did a heck of a job coaching and give him a lot of credit with doing more with less. But this team was not only capable of winning two games in the tournament, it SHOULD have. All in all, as a 3-seed, you've got to get to the second weekend and Pitt failed to achieve that.
If you want to claim that Pitt had a successful regular season, but disappointing tournament, I can accept that. But I tend to group the tournament in with the season, so for me, Pitt could have done better.