The Pitt Panthers lost to the Miami Hurricanes 78-76 on Saturday night in Coral Gables. Miami will share the ACC regular season championship (their first since 2012-2013) with UVA and the Canes will be the number one seed in the ACC Tournament next week. Due to the loss and wins by Duke, UVA, and Clemson, Pitt will now be the fifth seed and face the winner of GT-FSU on Wednesday.
The first half was back and forth with neither team separating. In fact, neither team led by double digits at any point in the game. Miami was up four at the half and stayed in front the rest of the game. Seemingly every time Pitt would get close, the Hurricanes had an answer. Twice in the final five minutes, Hinson hit a three to cut the deficit to three points only for Wooga Poplar to answer with a three of his own on the next possession. Rebounding continues to be an issue for Pitt against good teams. Miami had a 42-20 advantage (14 to 3 on offensive end) on the glass. For comparison, Pitt out-rebounded Miami 39-30 (12-1 offensive) in Pittsburgh in January.
- Tall wings continue to be a problem for Pitt. Pitt’s wing players are mostly between 6’3 and 6’5. When they play teams with 6’7” and 6’8” guys at those positions it creates problems on both ends. They can’t rebound as well, and their opponent’s length disrupts the offense.
- Hinson and Sibande had excellent games. Hinson had 24 and Sibande had 16. Miami led by 7 with a minute to play and those two players almost willed Pitt to another crazy comeback win. Nelly Cummings hit a three with a little over seven minutes left in the game to bring Pitt to within six at 66-60. Other than a free throw from Burton, all the remaining points were scored by either Blake or Nike.
- Pitt’s tournament chances are in serious danger. The bad news is that losing your final two games (one to a bad team) is not good. The good news is that the committee has said previously that they do not factor in how teams finish as this has no barring on tournament performance. In their eyes, Pitt could have lost these two games in mid January instead of March. The bad news is that they’re now forced into a Wednesday ACCT game against a bad team. A loss to either GT or FSU and Pitt is headed to the NIT. They simply cannot afford another bad loss. This makes the ND loss hurt even more now because I think a win there would’ve locked up a bid even with a Miami loss today because they’d have no more chances for bad losses to torpedo their resume (unless of course 15 seed Louisville somehow beat BC, UNC and Pitt on three consecutive days).
- They’re tired - What happens when players are tired? They’re short on shots, they get out-rebounded, and they foul too much. Pitt did all three of those things today. I’m particularly concerned with the play of Federiko lately. He had committed four or more fouls in seven of his last eight games since February 1. He only had three today, but overall he has not been the same player he was defensively in January.
- Pitt was somehow there at the end. Once again, Miami had a big lead in the final minutes and once again Pitt somehow had a chance to win it. State of the U even called Pitt Miami’s kryptonite in their recap and is discouraged to be in Pitt’s half of the bracket. I’d love a Pitt Miami rematch in the ACC Semis on Friday, but it’ll be tall order to get to that point.
21-10 (14-6) 5th ACC
Perspective is funny sometimes. If someone told you at the beginning of the season that would be Pitt’s record, every Pitt fan would’ve signed up for it. And yet, after the last week, it feels like a disappointment. I believe this season has been a success. The team has been fun to watch, competitive in nearly every game since the end of November, and re-captured the fanbase’s attention. I think some of the frustration, for me, comes from the uncertainty of the future. The ride back to the top of college basketball isn’t a straight line anymore. When Pitt made the 2002 NCAA tournament, you knew it was just the beginning. They were starting several underclassmen, who would continue to develop, and the program would continue to rise. I’m not sure there are fifteen programs in college basketball you can be sure of that now. Pitt is losing a ton in the offseason, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to replicate this team’s chemistry. Tournament appearances are not something to be taken for granted. And because of the chaos of March Madness, the best way to have success is to just be there a lot. Teams like Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, etc. can overcome losing to teams like Bradley, Northern Iowa, Mercer, Lehigh, Saint Peters, etc. because they’ll just be back the next year. If you get a 1 and a 2 seed for long enough, eventually you’ll make it to a final four and hopefullly win a national championship. Duke has been a number one seed fourteen times since 1986. They lost in the regionals seven of those years. Kansas has also had a one seed fourteen times. And their season ended before the final four in ten of them.
I don’t know if Pitt is going dancing this year. I hope they do. It’s fun to be there. To have a chance at something magical. To see your team in the One Shining Moment montage. I always used to say that the only enjoyable time when Pitt is in the tournament is when they are still in it but not currently playing. During the game, it is just one massive ball of stress. I hope this year it’s different. If they make it, I hope every Pitt fan just savors the moment,
Hail to Pitt.