Despite playing on the road against a team that needed this game as badly as the Panthers to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, I felt that Pitt had a pretty good chance to win Tuesday's game against Wake Forest. The Panthers had won three out of four and were fresh off a double-digit win against No. 17 Florida State this weekend.
At one point, Pitt held a 19-point lead and seemed poised to take the game. But after yet another late collapse, they go home 63-59 losers. Full disclosure here in that I didn't see the game. From the gamethread and checking out the play-by-play afterwards, it looks as if I benefited from that.
The frustration with this team is entirely justified, of course. Blowing 19-point leads against beatable teams is sort of ridiculous. And when you consider all of the leads they've lost or nearly lost this year, it's even more incredulous. And I can't even go down the Kevin Stallings rabbit hole right now.
This is less about their ability to make the NCAA Tournament (which I wrote earlier that they could even with 14 losses) right now and more about what they've shown they are at this point. Can Pitt still technically make the NCAA Tournament? Well, if they won their last three games and took one in the ACC Tournament, maybe. But when you consider the reality of that with a team that just blew a 19-point lead to a team that is in the same exact position they are and one of the ACC's weaker teams, then I don't know you how you justify that such a run is possible.
I remember thinking at one point this week that I would love to see this team squeak into the NCAA Tournament because they've shown they can play when they're running on all cylinders. But for whatever reason, this team simply can't hold leads. I still believe that if they got into the NCAAs they could put together a two-game run and make a Sweet 16. But when you think about it, just about any P5 program (and many mid-majors) can do that, too, if they play their best. While this team has some talent at the top, stringing off two wins to advance to the second weekend isn't really something exclusive only to them.
In the end, Pitt likely to be undone by their refusal or ability (I can't quite decide which yet) to put teams away. I'm not sure if this is a team that runs out of gas or a team that simply gets disinterested. I'm inclined to believe it's the latter but, knowing the position they were in absolutely needing a win and having so many sizable leads blown or nearly blown this year, it's sort of mind-boggling that disinterest continues to take over.