Pitt reaching the Final Four seems inevitable

1 Comment

The Big East is turning into Pitt’s personal playground. That’s a promising sign for a program dying to get back to the Final Four.

A 57-54 win at Villanova Saturday night gave the Panthers their first win at The Palestra Pavilion 17 years and marked the first time they’ve won 11 of their first 12 Big East games. Not bad for team playing without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs.

“It was fun. A hostile environment, no Ashton Gibbs and we got the win,” said senior Brad Wanamaker, who scored a team-high 21 points, including most of the clutch baskets that usually fall to Gibbs.

That gives Pitt (23-2, 11-1) a sizable lead heading into its final six Big East games. Notre Dame – its one conference loss – is 10-3, while the rest of the league is no better than 8-4. If you’re a believer that the Big East is the nation’s best conference, the fact that Pitt’s running away with the league should be an indicator of what March holds.

For comparison, the 2008-09 Pitt squad that finished 31-5, reached No. 1 in the rankings, nabbed a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance and reached the Elite Eight features tempo-free numbers that are awfully close to this year’s edition. (That Sam Young-DeJuan Blair-Levance Fields team didn’t win the Big East but had stiffer competition in Louisville and UConn.) The offense is slightly worse, but the defense is better.

People have noticed, too.

“I think [this Pitt team] compares to their team in ’09. Their depth, their experience, their veteran guys are awesome,” ‘Nova coach Jay Wright told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook.

Pitt’s detractors love to write them off as a team that thrives in the regular season and falters in March for varying reasons, usually related to their offense. (Because reaching the Final Four is soooo easy.) Yet Cook writes that the more Pitt plays, the tougher it’s gonna be to ignore their Final Four chances.

After all, this is a team that just won at ‘Nova without its leading scorer. That should speak volumes. From Cook’s column:

… I like No. 4 Pitt’s chances as much as any team’s. There is no dominant club this season. No. 1 Ohio State lost Saturday at Wisconsin, the last of the unbeatens to fall. Pitt already has beaten one of the teams ahead of it in the polls — No. 3 Texas.

That Texas win was back in November, before the Longhorns turned into the nation’s nastiest defensive team. But that’s nitpicking given that Pitt’s offense is an incredible blend of talent, depth and impressive rebounding.

And that defense? Ask Jay Wright about it. For one of the few times this year, the Panthers won by shutting down an opposing offense, not by displaying an unstoppable offense.

Offense, defense, depth, talent. Pitt has it all. If this isn’t the year the Panthers return to the Final Four, not sure when it’ll happen.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

VIDEO: Boise State robbed of insane, buzzer-beating win on incorrect timing by officials

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 1.07.34 AM
Leave a comment

It looked like James Webb III of Boise State had hit the season’s craziest buzzer-beater.

With 0.8 seconds left, he caught an in-bounds pass on the run on the right wing, hoisted up a prayer of a three and watched as it banked it as the buzzer sounded.

It’s pretty fantastic:

And it also clearly left his hands before time expired, but there was a reason for that. According to the officials, the clock (for the road team, mind you) did not start when the ball was caught.

They were right.

Where they were wrong was determining that it took more than a second for Webb to catch and release the shot, meaning that they were wrong to waive off the bucket.

This awesome slo-mo clip of the shot from Matt Stephens of the Coloradoan is all the evidence I need, but if you need more, Sportscenter anchor Scott Van Pelt clocked it at 0.7 seconds:

The game would go to overtime, where Colorado State would go on to win, 97-93.

As you can imagine, Boise State players and coaches were livid with the call.

“I hope it’s not a situation where you get an apology later but don’t get the win. I don’t understand it,” head coach Leon Rice said in a radio interview after the game. “I hope they got it right somehow, some way. I don’t know. It didn’t look right to me, but I’m not the official.”

This comes just four days after officials blew a call in a game between New Mexico and San Diego State that allowed the Aztecs to force overtime and eventually beat the Lobos. (That call may have determined the outcome of the Mountain West regular season title, to boot.)

New Mexico was essentially told, “my bad”, but the league as a result.

And Boise State will probably get the same treatment despite the fact that, if the league determines that the referees botched this call as well, the tame technically was over then.

Will they have the guts to award the Broncos a road win that they earned and deserve?

I doubt it.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement from the officiating crew:

Tulsa rallies to hand No. 16 SMU 1st home loss 82-77

Tulsa guard James Woodard (10) shoots a free throw during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against SMU Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Dallas.  Tulsa won 82-77. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
Leave a comment

DALLAS (AP) Shaquille Harrison had 21 points, Pat Birt hit a crucial 3-pointer and scored 12 of his 17 points after halftime and Tulsa rallied from eight points down in the second half to beat No. 16 SMU 82-77 on Wednesday night.

Nic Moore scored 27 to lead the Mustangs (20-3, 9-3 American Athletic). They lost for the first time in 13 home games and dropped to 2-3 since their 18-0 start to a season that won’t include postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.

Moore twice hit 3-pointers to pull SMU within a point in the final minute, but Birt answered the first with a 3 and James Woodard followed the second with two of his six free throws in the final 1:04.

The Golden Hurricane (16-8, 8-4) ended a four-game losing streak against SMU with their eighth win in 10 games since an 0-2 conference start.