Okay, so Pitt won this thing? Great - pardon my enthusiasm. Still ...
I fully give the team props for not folding and playing hard in the tournament. You can say that there were times they didn't play great - and that'd be accurate. But to have to win several games a row (despite the fact that most were at home) means that they had to put forth an effort to win.
This isn't a time to re-hash thoughts about playing in the CBI, but instead to commend the team on a good effort. There's plenty I didn't like about participating, but to say that some good didn't come out of it would be foolish. While I would have liked to see a guy like Malcolm Gilbert (who could be thrust into a pretty important role next season) get more minutes, for him to play extra games at all was at least a small bonus.
And then there's the fact that Pitt won. If you're going to play, might as well win. Now, I'm not all that thrilled about that trophy ending up in the case at the Pete, where it's destined to go. As I said before, every time we see it, we'll be reminded of this year when the Panthers didn't reach the NCAAs (or even the NIT). But again, what's the alternative, I suppose - losing?
So, okay, what's the deal for next year? Here's how I see it.Pitt will be better. I think they'll make the NCAAs, but I'm not sure this will be the 30ish-win team we've seen before. The team was young this year ... really young. All of those guys are a year older. Pitt does lose Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson (and please - stop ... don't tell me how Pitt will be great without Gibbs because 'look how they did against Washington State' - #idiotic), but will get Steven Adams and James Robinson - two heralded freshmen. More importantly, guys like Lamar Patterson (the tournament's MVP, by the way) and J.J. Moore stepped up late in the year and showed they can play bigger roles. Pitt also has Tray Woodall coming back, who will hopefully be a year older/wiser.
And in all of this, I think Jamie Dixon grew up a bit. I can't say in what way, necessarily, but I think dealing with such a young squad will help him in the long run. Let's face it - this will happen again. Might not be next year or even a few years from now, but if programs like North Carolina and Duke can have down years, then so can Pitt.
In a nutshell, I'm pretty encouraged about what Pitt brings back. Don't want to look too far ahead, but if Steven Adams somehow sticks around for a second season, that team two years from now should be sick.
In a good way, for our older readers.