Saturday, March 7, 2009

PANTHERS HAVE LOOK OF A CHAMPION


There's never been an NCAA national championship ever played before in Pittsburgh--until yesterday that is. The Pitt Panthers, everyday looking more and more like the future national champions yesterday chopped down the Giant Sequoia known as UConn for the second time this year. It was only the sixth time in NCAA history that a team had beaten a top ranked team twice in the same season.

Above: This species of Giant Sequoia, Giganticus Uconnus, was felled yesterday with a terrible crash, which led many to comment afterward, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."

The Panthers looked like a finely-tuned Ferrari yesterday running the break and executing beautiful outlet passes. Sam Young, with 31 points. seemed virtually unstoppable as he was able to hit from the outside, slash to the hoop or make the spectacular slam that he is so well known for.

Levance Fields, who was injured a few nights ago when he landed hard on the court, did not practice all week and didn't even warm up with the team. But amazingly, there he was at tipoff leading the offense and outwardly displaying no ill effects from his bruised tailbone, at least nothing that a little cortisone shot couldn't handle. Fields didn't have a good day shooting going 4-14, but he turned in his usual masterpiece of assists to turnovers with 12 assists and just
two turnovers.

UConn came into the contest with a plan to seal off DeJuan Blair from hurting them inside. He had destroyed them the last time they played. However, while they may have accomplished this goal, the overplay allowed Pitt's perimeter game to operate with much less pressure and that to many scores. Once again it was a rough and tumble game that has become the trademark of both schools and the Big East.

With this win Pitt now has the highest RPI in the country and stands to have a great possibility of securing the overall number one seed in the tournament depending on the outcome of the Big East. This would mean that they would receive the number one spot in the East Regional which would have their early round games taking place closer to home. The NCAA Championship this year is being played at Detroit's Ford Field, site of the Steelers victory over Seattle three years ago in SuperBowl XL. I'm sure that if Pitt were to make it to the Final Four, that Detroit could expect a similar invasion of Pittsburgh fans.

Pitt certainly has the look and feel of a national champion. This team has every facet of its' game in perfect balance, from heavy senior leadership in Fields, Young and Biggs, the power forward DeJuan Blair, great shooters in Gilbert Brown, Aston Gibbs, Brad Wannamaker and Jeramie Dixon, to bench depth, ball-handling skills, and an ability to flat out explode on opponents leaving them gasping for air alongside the raod. The team plays great defense and can run the bejezzus out of the floor excelling in great outlet passes.

These last two games against Marquette and UConn have been two of the most impressive wins I've ever seen any Pitt team have. That they beat these two team back-to-back only adds to the growing consensus that it is very clear that this is the very best unit Pitt has ever assembled and most observors seem to feel that it is indeed Pitt's year to finally win it all. Basketball can be a funny game though. Teams can have off shooting nights or come up against a Coppin State or opponent of that ilk and sometimes struggle. Also, foul trouble can very often rear its' ugly head, especially in the NCAAs where they call 'em a lot closer. We all know what can happen when Pitt's "Cloverfield Monster" gets himself in foul trouble. It can be this team' only achilles heel.

Below: Achilles "Takes one for the team."