With a football game and two basketball games to kick off the season, there was a lot to digest. We've had lots of game coverage that you can take a look at, but here are my general thoughts on all we saw.
- Because the football team is still in the Big East race, I'm hearing lots of comparisons on this year's team to the 2004 squad that went to the BCS after a multi-team tie. These two teams are entirely different and the biggest thing is that team won close games. They were 5-0 in games determined by five points or less. This team? 0-3 in games decided by that margin. This program might not be all that far away, but until they figure out how to win close games, they've got a while to go in my opinion.
- The win against Louisville was a big one. Not only was it a conference win, but the Cardinals are essentially right where Pitt is - fighting for a bowl game. Bowl committees don't always take the best teams and a lot of the selections have to do with picking teams close to the site, how well their fans travel, and their overall appeal. But beating Louisville could give the Panthers another feather in their cap if a bowl is trying to decide on one of those two teams should they both be bowl-eligible.
- Went to the Albany game on Friday and Pitt looked sharp. The team has relied on defense and rebounding as their staples, but if this team can shoot as well as they did in that game, they're going to be nearly impossible to beat.
- Didn't see much of the game against Rider mostly because the 49ers were on TV and as a longtime Frisco fan, times that they're televised on the East coast are few and far between. But when I tuned in for about the past ten minutes, Rider was shooting lights out and it wasn't until around the final minute when Pitt started putting them away. It's just another reminder that college basketball can be crazy in March and regardless of how well you play, it's still easy to get beaten. And here's the thing about that narrow win:- Pitt didn't come out and completely lay an egg. They shot 50% from the field and won the rebounding battle 40-16. But when the other team turns the ball over only five times and also shoots well, it's difficult to open up a large lead.
- Didn't hear the tone in which he said this, but Jamie Dixon didn't sound all that amused in the post-game interview:
"We're always concerned this time of year," Dixon said. "We've got to get better. This better not be our best, put it that way."
- Two games in is hardly a time to say 'I told you so,' but my earlier prediction that Khem Birch wouldn't have a huge year might not be that far off. I wrote a while back that Birch wouldn't be an immediate offensive star and as I said later, I didn't think he'd start right away. We're a long ways away and my guess is that Birch will definitely make an impact this season. But on such a talented team, he'll really need to play well in order to take away minutes from guys like Nasir Robinson and even Dante Taylor.
- Again, it's early, but Tray Woodall is looking like the real deal to me. I'm still not sure he's the No. 2 scorer this team needs and as I mentioned in a game preview Q&A for the Albany contest, this may be a 'by committee' type of thing. But it's not just scoring where Woodall is valuable and through two games, he's got 20 assists (which, at this point right now, leads the NCAA). If Woodall plays the position competently, any major scoring contributions will be a bonus.