I hate to classify a game only midway through the season as a must-win, but this one feels like it. Pitt's NCAA hopes might not be completely over if they can't win against Rutgers on Wednesday, but they'll have taken a severe hit.
Pitt, believe it or not, is already just past the middle of their season and with 15 games left, this is one of the few that the Panthers should win.
The problem for Pitt is that their remaining schedule is incredibly difficult. There are seven games against ranked teams in Louisville (two), UConn, Marquette, Syracuse, UConn, and Georgetown. Then there's Seton Hall and West Virginia (two) as well. With a schedule like that, Pitt can't afford to lose games to teams like Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are 9-7, but have only played two true road games - and they lost both of those, dropping contests to South Florida and Miami (FL). There's dynamo guard Eli Carter to watch for (the freshman has averaged nearly 25 points a game over his past four against UConn, West Virginia, Florida, and South Florida) and if Pitt can't slow him down, they're going to be in trouble. Rutgers also just recently beat ranked Florida and UConn teams, so they're clearly no pushover.I still actually maintain this team will be better once they get Tray Woodall back, but the problem is, no one knows when that will be. And while you'd think that the team will come out and play with a fire under their butts after losing to DePaul, you would have also probably thought they would have done that heading into that game after losing to Cincinnati.
Simply put, I can't figure this team out. I know they're better than what they've appeared, but I think the Woodall loss is really killing them right now. They're forced to play a guy like Cameron Wright, who while he may turn into a good player down the road, isn't there right now.
Who knows what to expect come Wednesday. If I had to pick, I'd say they would win, but I would have predicted wins in each of the past four contests as well, so what do I know?