So, uh, about that “shock the world” and “expect a miracle,” not so much. Mild concern for the first 5-8 minutes when Pitt was clanging shots and the Golden Eagles were shooting well. Then reality set in. Not to mention a 2-part great spark plug performance.
Keith Benjamin may have struggled with his shot in the first half (0-5) but he was attacking the basket and got fouled. Most importantly, he made 5-6 on free throws which seemed to encourage the whole team. Then Gilbert Brown came off the bench throwing down baskets. Again, attacking the basket rewarded. It seems, he is still feeling confident.
That opened the perimeter up along with the needed obsession to watch Blair and Young — hey, at least ORU wasn’t completely fooled by Young’s pump fake — left Fields and Ramon wide open to drain 3s. The ORU defensive prowess, clearly wasn’t nearly as good as advertised.
Pitt took care of Oral Roberts 82-63. Clearly, taking them seriously.
It also means, Pitt has gotten past the “worst case” scenario.
Best Case: Absurd Big East tourney roll carries over, picks up steam with Bob Knight endorsement, shatters Sweet 16 ceiling and does not end until the Panthers are in San Antonio losing a pitched championship battle to North Carolina. Sam Young keeps blocking shots, Levance Fields and Ronald Ramon keep making jumpers, and nobody can get close enough to take advantage of Pitt’s scattershot free-throw shooting.
Worst Case: Take the Panthers out of the Garden and you take the starch out of the Panthers. Absurd Big East roll ends in thin mountain air against experienced Oral Roberts, intensifying the belief that Pitt will not get beyond the Sweet 16 anytime this century, no matter how it comes into the Big Dance. Panthers return home to watch West Virginia going farther.
“Anything that’s said outside the locker room is not even an issue for us,” guard Sam Young said. “If it’s not us, if it’s not the coaches, if it’s not the staff, we try not to even pay attention to it. We’re still going to come out with a chip on our shoulder. We’re still going to be hungry.”
Said guard Levance Fields: “That Big East championship may be in the minds of the fans and you all, but that’s over with for us.”
Speaking of scary, it’s always disturbing when some sports sites send writers from other sports — who haven’t covered or paid attention to anything else the whole time — to cover a region. In this case, sending Sporting News CFB writer Matt Hayes to Denver. Nice things to say about Pitt, factually, um, huh?
The NCAA Tournament? Hell, at one point, Pitt was in danger of missing the Big East Tournament. How bad did it get? How about guys playing out of position in games. And practices consisting of only film study and shot drills because there weren’t 10 guys to scrimmage.
Missing the BET? When was that a possibility? After Pitt lost their first game of the conference slate?Â And don’t get me started on whatever attempt at a timeline there is in the piece.
Pitt played solid defense once more. Only ORU hitting some wildly deep 3s kept them from being completely destroyed. The Golden Eagles were only 13-41 (31.7%) inside the 3-point line.
As for concern that Pitt’s physical play will get them in trouble outside of the Big East. I guess it’s always a worry, but for Saturday’s game against Michigan State, it shouldn’t be a big issue. Of course the toughness of the team is no longer in any doubt.