Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SO LET'S GET OFF JAMIE'S BACK



"Clearing My Desk"


commentary
by Ang Spagnolo



Now that Pitt has bowed out in the "Elite Eight" round of the NCAAs by a basket scored with half a second left on the clock, do you think that now we can all get off Jamie Dixon's back?

In a sport where oftentimes games are won at the foul line, the Panthers ran into something that's almost impossible to beat: near-perfect free throw shooting. In fact, I think a good argument could be made that the fear of Villanova's impeccable free throw shooting paralyzed Pitt in the last seconds from taking more aggressive action to block that final shot that sealed their fate once again.

Sadly, it was the last time that this team, that was arguably the best in Pitt history, would ever take the floor together. Gone next year are Sam Young, LeVance Fields, Tyrell Biggs and probably DeJuan Blair. That team will basically be starting over and shouldn't have very high expectations. But don't be too quick to count out Jamie Dixon...don't forget, he's won more games in his first six years than any college coach ever. That's saying something.

It's sad that this team came so close to "the promised land" of the "Final Four". But in losing to Villanova, a team that beat them by ten points earlier in the season when DeJuan Blair was in foul trouble the entire game, the Panthers certainly didn't lose to a slouch opponent. This was an all Big East battle that was one of the more compelling games played in this tournament this year.

No amount of consolation will be adequate for the Panthers or their fans, however. This was one of the most difficult losses at the University ever, but it only goes to show how each season Jamie Dixon continues to build on the prior one.

While no one will be expecting Pitt to go 31-5 next year, don't be surprised if Dixon pulls another rabbit out of his hat. For example, one of the blue chip John Calipari recruits at Memphis is said to be looking to move to Pitt since Calipari has decided to go to Kentucky. The NCAA allows a student-athlete to be released from his commitment in these types of circumstances. Pitt could indeed find itself with not one but two McDonald's All Americans next year in an ironic twist of fate.

Pitt fans and all Pittsburghers should be thrilled to have Jamie Dixon plying his trade at Pitt. That national title is going to come some day. I certainly wouldn't bet against him doing it.