Colin Dunlap: One Win Should Satisfy Pitt Fans
One and done.
That’s good enough for me. Surely some will want more, some might even demand more, but if the Pitt basketball team wins a game and then bows out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round to No. 1-seeded Florida, that’s enough for me to look at this season as a success.
Call me easy to please.
Call me someone with the mentality of a loser.
Call me both.
That’s all well and good; I’m fine with where I stand on this.
The Panthers (25-9), who finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and reached the conference tournament semifinals, will play Colorado (23-11) on Thursday afternoon in Orlando, Fla. in an opening round South Region game. Pitt is the No. 9 seed, with Colorado, which tied for third in the Pac-12, entering as the No. 8 seed.
Even as Pitt arrives at the game as the lesser seed, there really isn’t much of an excuse for the Panthers to not push past Colorado.
Pitt has the pedigree and, compared to Colorado, is an aristocrat in the world of college basketball, as Jamie Dixon has guided the program to appearances in the tournament in 10 of his 11 years in charge. Conversely, Colorado is making just the fourth trip since 1998 and, in that span, won a lone game — a 68-64 victory against UNLV in the first round two seasons ago. On top of that, Colorado shot to a 14-3 record while playing with standout Spencer Dinwiddie this season, but since he was felled by an ACL injury, the Buffs are just 9-8.
Quite simply, Pitt is definitely better than Colorado historically and one can make a more than strong case better than them this season, despite the seeding. If Pitt doesn’t beat Colorado, it would be a momentous failure for Dixon and his squad, as the Panthers get to stay in the time zone, make a quick flight down to Florida and are much more accustomed to the bright lights and big stage of the NCAA tournament than their first round opponent is.
So what does Dixon know about Colorado?
“I haven’t seen them a lot,” Dixon told 93.7 The Fan soon after the brackets were unveiled. “And I don’t know their personnel that well. You wish you had time to watch, and stay up late at night and watch those West Coast games, but we have to get some rest and have to watch the teams we’re preparing for [in our conference].”
Again, Colorado should be a breeze.
But then there’s Florida. In Florida.
The Gators would storm into that Saturday game with a 33-2 record and, undeniably, be bolstered in Orlando by a parochial crowd charged with the duty of making life tough for Pitt.
If Pitt meets Florida in the second round, here’s saying Pitt most likely loses.
Here’s also saying Pitt — which would end the season at 26-10 if that were to happen — would have had one hell of a year.
Consider: Dixon has had to play freshmen Michael Young, Josh Newkirk and Jamel Artis substantially, with each averaging over 15 minutes per game. Pitt also went through key stretches this season with seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna at less than full strength.
One can satisfactorily wonder — even with Zanna playing brilliantly down the stretch — if both are at full-tilt headed into the NCAA tournament.
And then there was the worst news. Pitt’s best outside threat, sophomore Durand Johnson, was lost for the season in January when he was chopped down by a knee injury.
Clump that together and Pitt being here, entering the NCAA tournament with a 25-9 record, has to be looked at a significant achievement; I will go so far as to say one of Dixon’s better coaching jobs. There’s really no other way to see things, as far as I’m concerned.
To that end, if Pitt can get past Colorado and then loses to Florida in this tournament, it would be impossible for me to find any disappointment in anything that went on.
And, frankly, I don’t know how anyone could.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here