Just as Pitt's four-game winning streak wasn't expected, neither was this. I'm sure that somewhere I entertained the notion that Pitt could lose against South Florida, but not sure I ever believed it would happen.
I'm in no mood to try to break down stats, talk about Ashton Gibbs' bad night, or add up Pitt's pile of turnovers. That said, here are a few thoughts on the game.
First things first - I underestimated USF. We've all done it, but it's still hard to believe whenever a prognostication goes woefully wrong. In the Q&A with Voodoo Five this week, I threw out the notion that the Bulls probably weren't as good as their record. That was built on the fact that South Florida didn't have a single credible win to their account in my estimation. They hung with UConn and beat a bad Villanova team on the road, but that was about it.
The thing I didn't account for nearly as much as I should have was that South Florida's defense is for real. Not 'for real' in terms of top ten or anything insane like that, but that team gets after it. Pitt missed their share of open looks and, yeah, a boatload of turnovers (most of them of the idiotic variety) didn't help, but the Bulls' defense was definitely good.
The other point, obviously, is that USF was red hot, making nearly 60% of their shots. Hard to beat a team shooting that well - and it's nearly impossible to do when you shoot as poorly as Pitt did.
So, okay, there's this little issue of the NCAA Tournament. How does this affect the team's chances? It hurts, but it ain't over.I said before the Villanova game that Pitt needed to get to 21 wins. The Panthers have 15 and still have six games left. A 5-1 stint and a win in the Big East tournament gets there. Even if the team doesn't get to 21, I think 20 would put them on the bubble.
As I see it, Pitt really, really needs to beat either UConn or Louisville down the stretch. Both games are on the road, so neither will be particularly easy, but this is the spot the team's put itself in by losing to South Florida (as well as, you know, losing to Rutgers, DePaul, et al).
Like nearly everyone else, I wrote this team off when they lost eight in a row. I'm not going to do it again just because of one loss in a game that looked winnable. The Panthers need to take care of business starting with Sunday's game on the road against Seton Hall ... and that won't be all that easy.