I threw out some thoughts a few days ago on five things that stood out to me about Pitt’s non-conference schedule. Later, I asked you for your thoughts. In looking at the Panthers’ overall work in the pre-ACC games, I’m mostly pleased with how things shook out.
Some people were talking about the team winning as few as 5-6 games this season and the Panthers have already won eight. In terms of what I expected, I think the team performed about to where I thought they would and possibly even a little better.
Looking at the team’s five losses, I think the only one that really surprised me was the home loss to Montana and even that came in overtime. Navy isn’t a good team but playing on the road in a special game for the Midshipmen wasn’t the easiest draw in the world for a team largely comprised of players new to Division I basketball. Pitt was the underdog in that game and I don’t think I expected them to win it.
Purely in terms of wins and losses, this team was probably about where they should have been.
Looking at some of the individual outcomes, there were a few surprises, though. While beating Penn State would have been difficult, I don’t think anyone expected the Panthers to be manhandled they way they were. And equally surprising was Pitt hanging with No. 18 West Virginia. The Panthers were down big early but also fought back in the second half and trailed by five inside of three minutes before losing by nine.
Along the way outside of those games, we’ve seen some bad things. The Panthers, for example, had a big lead on Delaware State (one of the weakest teams in the country), only to nearly blow it at the end. We saw the same against Mount St. Mary’s as Pitt was forced to overtime despite a 15-point lead with only 8 1⁄2 minutes left to play.
But some good things happened, too.
Despite some close calls, Pitt managed to win seven of its last eight games. They played Oklahoma State well before losing by only six. They defeated Duquesne in the City Game rivalry. They even had a 20-point win, something that seemed impossible early in the season, by defeating McNeese by 21.
When you add it all up, its been a non-conference season full of ups and downs. But with an 8-5 record from a really inexperienced team, there’s not much more I could have asked for from them. And as I wrote earlier, this is a team that is, for the most part, improving.
Next up, the ACC.