Monday, March 17, 2014

Maybe we've been too hard on Pitt for its failure to reach the Final Four

Like a lot of Pitt basketball fans, I've had many dreams over the years of watching my favorite team cut down the nets in some gym somewhere after reaching the Promised Land of collegiate basketball--the Final Four.

 Unfortunately, despite making it to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the previous 12 seasons, dating back to the 2001/2002 campaign, the closest the Panthers have come is the Elite 8, which they lost in agonizing fashion to Scottie Reynolds and Villanova.

 Speaking of which, the Wildcats obviously advanced to the Final Four after dispatching Pitt, and as it turns out, that occurrence wasn't exactly the exception to the rule.

 Six of the 11 teams that knocked the Panthers out of the tournament since 2002 actually went on to reach the Final Four.

 In 2003, behind future NBA legend Dwyane Wade, Marquette defeated the Panthers in the regional semi-finals before reaching the Final Four.

 A season later, Oklahoma St. did the exact same thing and then went on to defeat St. Joseph's in the regional finals to reach the Final Four.

 Three seasons later, Jamie Dixon's Panthers faced off against the team with the coach that resurrected the program in the early 00s--Ben Howland--who led his new team--UCLA--to the Final Four after knocking off his old team in the, you guessed it, regional semi-finals.

 Then there was the aforementioned agony in 2009.

 After that, came a loss to Butler in the round of 32 in 2011, which Pitt entered as a number one seed. Butler then went on to make its second straight appearance in the National Championship game (and suffer its second straight loss), falling to Connecticut.

 And finally, a season ago, the Panthers, a number eight seed, were simply dismantled by number nine seed Wichita St., who then went on to, again, you guessed it, reach the Final Four.

 Kind of amazing when you think about it. Maybe the Panthers just need to get a better draw.

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