Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Damage Control

Yeah, so THE WHEEL caught a flat in a bad way last night.

Pitt put on a clinic to show everyone in the nation why they're never able to get over that Sweet 16 hump. They played sloppy and unorganized in the first half. Quite simply, they did not play Pitt basketball.

Give credit to Rick Pitino for going with a full-court press right from the outset, as Pitt looked completely flustered in turning the ball over a disgusting 16 times before the end of the first half alone.

This is the team with the best assist/turnover ratio in the nation.

Aaron Gray got in foul trouble early and had to ride the bench for most of the second half.

This is a guy who averages a double-double and leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.

Pitt's normally reliable shooters laid an absolute egg from behind the arc, dropping an abysmal 2-of-17 from three-point range.

This is the best three-shooting team in the Big East.

The beauty of this year's team is that they're so deep and so balanced, if one facet of their game isn't working, the points have always come from somewhere else. That's the whole concept of THE WHEEL to begin with.

But when nothing is working, well, you end up with what happened last night. And quite frankly, it's the least disappointed I've ever been after a double digit loss.

For one thing, Pitt was due for a game like this. It happens at least once a year, although usually it's on the road to Seton Hall or something. It is frustrating that it happened at home, and that it was so lopsided, because the team really takes pride in establishing the Pete as a fortress where opposing teams have next to no chance. But it was unlikely from the very beginning that Pitt (or any team, for that matter) is going to finish the Big East schedule with just one loss. And the Big East is such that, for the most part, any team can knock off any other team on any given night. This isn't such a bitter pill to swallow, after all.

Furthermore, I think a performance like this was exactly what Pitt needed. Heading into the home stretch of the conference schedule, Pitt was starting to coast. Nothing like a 13-point home loss to provide that proverbial kick in the ass. This is the slap in the face Pitt needs to get motivated for a couple of weeks that includes trips to Marquette and Georgetown.

Pitt's still in the driver's seat as far as the regular season championship is concerned, and it would take a pretty big disaster to avoid receiving one of the four first-round byes in the Big East tourney, but even so, these next couple of weeks will be very telling.

Hopefully, when it's all said and done, we can look back at this loss as the turning point (for the better) in the season Pitt finally ended their Sweet 16 hoodoo.

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