Wow. I thought a couple weeks ago that Pitt had a shot to beat Duke, but I don't think anyone expected a performance quite like that one. I don't think there's one thing you could really point to today Pitt did not do well in. They defended pretty well, offense was really smooth, and there wasn't really a player you could point to and say "he didn't do well today".
First off, I was hard on Jamel Artis and Michael Young after the Louisville game, and they were pretty great today. After combining for 8 turnovers against Louisville they both had only 3 together today, and the offense was much much better for it. Artis was aggressive, and managed to keep things under control. He lead Pitt with 17 shooting 60% from the field, including 40% from three. He added 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. Just a really really good game from him and hopefully a sign of things to come. Mike Young didn't play as much as he's used to (more on that in a second), but still shot a solid 4/9 from the field for 10 points, 7 rebounds, and a monstrous block. Pitt's two best players stepped up today, and it really showed.
Ryan Luther and Sheldon Jeter came off the bench and really contributed. I don't know what has sparked this run by Luther, but he's on fire. In his last two games, both against top 15 teams, Ryan Luther is 10/13 shooting for 27 points , 3/4 from 3, 8 rebounds, 4 assists.He's making NBA range threes, getting put backs, drawing charges. It's really been phenomenal to see, and his development could be really helpful for Pitt down the stretch. Dixon seemed to realize Luther was having a day, and kept Mike Young on the bench in the mean time. As I mentioned, it's not like Young wasn't playing well, but Luther just seemed really hot at the time so Dixon kept Young out. Sheldon Jeter had a great day as well, going 5-8 for 11 points, including a huge dunk on a breakaway. I think his breakaway/dunk was the moment the crowd realized Pitt could definitely beat this Duke team. That moment was the loudest I've heard the Pete in a few seasons, and it was awesome to watch. Jeter has been up and down this year, but when he plays well, he really makes a big impact.
Chris Jones had a very good day as well, and he hit some really impressive step back jumpers at times to keep Pitt's offense in rhythm. He was tasked with guarding Grayson Allen, and did OK in that regard. Allen still got 22, but you definitely didn't get the "Oh my gosh Allen is destroying Pitt" vibe other star players have garnered against Pitt.
Last but not least, James Robinson. He got a standing ovation during the senior day ceremony, and he deserved another after his performance today. He had very James Robinson stats of 14 points on 4/10 shooting (2 -6 from three), backed up by 7 assists and only 1 turnover. Robinson has been one of the best passing guards to ever come through Pitt, but tonight he backed it up with some points as well in key moments. There was one pass from Robinson to Jones that was simply fantastic, and it was a microcosm of Robinson's career here. He won less games than a lot of other classes before him did, but he started four years for a reason. He's a very good player, and a great representative of Pitt, and Pitt fans should be thankful for him. He stayed within the realm of what he could do, and though that was frustrating at times when you wanted more, it worked.
I said last week that I think Pitt needed to win two of Duke and 1 of Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech or 1 in the ACC tourney to 100% punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, and I still feel that way. Pitt has the first part of that locked up, and I feel pretty good with how this team is playing going into the last two games on the road. Neither will be easy wins, but Pitt has played well it's last 3 games or so and seem to be peaking at the right time.
You want to know a crazy thought? If a few things happen, Pitt could be a 4 seed in the ACC. If Miami beats Notre Dame, North Carolina is able to beat Duke, and Pitt wins its last two, they would be 4th in the ACC (sans Louisville) with tie breakers over Cuse, Notre Dame, and Duke. Obviously, a lot can happen in the next week, but it's something to think about.
Lastly, Jamie Dixon had a weird vibe about him in his presser. If you can find video of it, I highly suggest watching it. Towards the end, he seems to exude a little bit of confidence in where his team is right now. Saying they're starting to come together, and peaking at the right time. Considering the way last season finished, it's certainly something exciting to see. If Pitt wins its last two games, their season will have ended up pretty decent considering where they were at certain points