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Halfway Home

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Well, here we are, halfway through Pitt's regular season. Hard to believe in a way, but it's gone by fast. Let's recap a bit -

To start, I'm still enjoying Pitt's three-point road win against Cincinnati. It seems the bus ride home wasn't exactly a smooth one. These two wins are bigger than many can imagine. Pitt's not only proved they can win on the road against solid opponents, but they're now effectively 3-0 in the conference. Now, I really hate to do this, but I don't see any way Pitt misses the tournament. With 13 wins already and eight games against lower-tier teams (check the schedule), I'm sorry, but it seems as if 20-21 wins is all but a certainty.

So here's to me popping the champagne cork early. I think this team is surely tournament-bound. As Chas over at Pitt Blather reminds us, there are sure to be some stumbles along the way. But this team has put itself in a good position and can afford some of those hiccups, which are sure to come.

Now, at the beginning of the season, I predicted an ambitious 23-7 record (could not predict one game as it wasn't known if we'd be playing Texas or Iowa in the early non-conference tournament). So taking that game out, to this point in the season, I've been pretty on calling for 12-2. Unfortunately, I got some of those games wrong, even though the record was right.

Disclaimers: Had I called for a prediction after the Wofford game, it would have been much worse. I also had a few other things wrong in there.

Okay, back to predictions. Seeing where Pitt is at, 23-7 might not be too bad, so I'll basically stick with that for now (23-8 with the added Texas game). So given that, what are my expectations for the team? I'll stick with simply making the tournament again. At this point, a first-round loss would be painful, but could be understandable with a young team. It's way too early to start talking about advancing in the tournament at this point.

I really have a hard time coming to grips that Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown make such a difference on the team, but that indeed appears to be the case.

But not everyone is sold. Gary Parrish at CBSSportsline.com may be this year's Doug Gottlieb for Pitt fans as after the Syracuse win, he still didn't rank the Panthers.

So with that said, let's get on with the second half of the regular season - starting next week at UCONN.

A few other news and notes:

- Ashton Gibbs didn't make the cut for the Midseason Top 30 List for the Naismith Award.

- Pitt's women's team are playing the Backyard Brawl...now.

- Ashton Gibbs was named Andy Katz's Player of the Week.

- I was somewhat surprised during the Pitt/Cincy game to see that it was Pitt's only scheduled appearance on Big Monday. I wonder if they'll regret that should Pitt continue steamrolling opponents as they have been.