I really hate the overuse of that, but it's the first thing I thought of as this game came to a close. In the end, Pitt fell to North Carolina State in the ACC Tournament, losing 81-70 and ending the little hope they had at a conference title.
After a slow start to the season, Pitt later rebounded with wins over Top 15 teams, North Carolina and Notre Dame. That threw an oversized monkey wrench into the oh-so-popular fan narrative that 'This team sucks' and officially got us all wondering how good this team was.
We got our answer late in the season.
Pitt bumbled its way to an 0-3 close to the regular season, dropping two games to utterly bad teams. And against North Carolina State tonight, the Panthers were simply blown out of the gym by a hot team. There were some decent wins in the middle of the season, but overall, Pitt sandwiched them with a poor start and a worse finish.
The popular thing to say was that Pitt didn't show up in Wednesday's loss to the Wolfpack, but it wasn't entirely one of those situations. Defensively? Oh yeah, they were a mess. But that has really been the case most of the year. Overall, they really weren't terrible on offense and could have beaten some teams with this kind of effort. They made a little over 42% of their shots, turned the ball over a manageable seven times, and their 70 points were more than their season average. They just ran into a buzzsaw with North Carolina State playing out of their minds and making more than half of their shots (think the exact opposite of the Tar Heels game where North Carolina did some good things but Pitt could do no wrong).
Anthony Barber (oh, excuse me ... Cat), a player that averages about 12 points a game, went off for a career-high 34. Pitt had no answer not only for him but Trevor Lacey (who you might recall, thought about coming to Pitt), who added 21. The guard play this year has been really streaky at both ends of the court and the Panthers just couldn't keep up with those guys. For as much as we talk about the problem in the middle (and there is one), a lack of truly athletic guards that can shoot and defend is equally as glaring.
One thing that really kind of bugged me is that Pitt's intensity picked up in the second half. What, y'all didn't know this game was for keeps and couldn't come out a little more desperate early on? Come on.
At the end of the day, the Wolfpack are just a better team than Pitt this year. A lot of teams are. But this isn't a program in peril, boys and girls - it's a program that is thin outside of Mike Young and Jamel Artis, and threw virtually all underclassmen out there. If Pitt has another few seasons like this one, we can talk. But it's far too easy/convenient to forget that this team still averaged 25 wins a year the past two seasons. The Panthers haven't been elite lately, but they've still been very good.
Pitt wasn't good enough to make the NCAA Tournament this year and that stuff just happens. Frustrating? Yep, but there's little reason to believe that the Panthers are going to be immune to any sort of rebuilding. And when you lose your sixth man for the year and your top two players from last year due to graduation, things like this year are bound to happen. Again, give these guys a chance to grow up - this team will be better next year and can be scary good in two seasons.
NITerrific > CBIncredible