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Pitt Basketball: Pitt Vs. UNC-Asheville in NCAA Tournament

Pitt begins its journey to the Final Four on Thursday and while the game should be easy, there are a few things could make more challenging than expected.

2008-09 should serve as a good reminder of why even No. 16 seeds have to be taken seriously.

Ah, 2008-09 - the year Pitt reached the Elite Eight and had been the farthest they'd ever been since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. While most people remember the Villanova game where Pitt fell just short of reaching the Final Four, I remember sitting in an office at work, wondering if Pitt would make it out of the first round.

That's because Pitt had an extremely difficult time with East Tennessee State. Pitt held only a three-point lead at the half, and guess what - it didn't get better from there. The Panthers led by two with only four minutes left in the game and by only five with under two minutes remaining. They eventually won by ten, but anyone watching the game knows it went down to the wire.

That East Tennessee State team, by the way, had no quality wins and was likely a worse team than Pitt will face on Thursday. Now, if that Pitt team, which had more talent than this year's team, could struggle, then there's no reason to think that the current Panthers can't.

UNC-Asheville isn't a great team, but they are a hot one, having won their past seven games. And as I mentioned on Wednesday, they played respectably in road games at North Carolina and Georgetown.

Pitt needs to absolutely come out and punch UNC-Asheville in the mouth. And even more importantly than that...

Not. Let. Up. The team already has the attitude, but now needs to deliver on Ashton Gibbs' promise of getting to the Final Four. And guess what - it's time.

It's absolutely time to put up or shut up. In some of Pitt's tournament team seasons in the 2000s, there was a lot of talk about getting disrespected. About getting saddled with poor seeds. Well that time is over.

No excuses.

No complaining.

No losses.

Pitt's bracket is set up for a Final Four run and while it's not necessarily now or never, this may be their best chance to get to the promised land.

But it all starts on Thursday - not Saturday.