Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

The jury is still out on how good Pittsburgh is

February 28, 2014 Columns No Comments

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – As crunch time is upon us, one of many questions out there is what to make of Pittsburgh. The Panthers are clearly a good team, though certainly beatable, but just how good they are is up for debate. As they entered a season-ending stretch that sees them playing three of four on the road with a three-game losing streak, winning on Wednesday night at Boston College would seem a good way to move forward. They did it with a 66-59 win, but it’s also one that leaves the jury out on how good the Panthers are.

At the same time, the opportunity to change that is there.

Beating Boston College doesn’t move the needle. As the Panthers aren’t really a bubble team, beating them also doesn’t necessarily constitute avoiding a bad loss. The three-game losing streak, on the other hand, is something to nip in the bud, especially at the start of a stretch with three of four on the road, and they did that.

Pittsburgh also won despite injuries hampering them. Head coach Jamie Dixon said they didn’t have a live practice on Tuesday because he had several players banged up and didn’t want to risk losing another player. Chris Jones couldn’t lift one arm, Talib Zanna was limping, and Mike Young was wearing a back brace. The latter two start for the Panthers.

“I made that decision, which I don’t think I’ve ever done and I hope I never have to do again,” said Dixon of not practicing.

The Panthers’ profile includes some good wins. They won the Progressive Legends Classic with wins over improving Texas Tech and Stanford. They beat Penn State, and in ACC play have knocked off Maryland twice and Clemson. But in that list, there is only one team that may be in the NCAA Tournament, which is Stanford, and the Cardinal are not a lock to make it (and they lost at Arizona State on Wednesday night in a so-so showing.)

Pittsburgh will also have to wait until the ACC Tournament to get another chance for a win over a sure NCAA Tournament team. Their final three games are at Notre Dame, home against NC State and at Clemson. None are NCAA Tournament locks and only Clemson has much of a shot, and Littlejohn Coliseum is not an easy place to play.

There is something to be said for winning the games you’re “supposed to” win. Pittsburgh has done that. They don’t have a bad loss on the resume, with the worst one being to a Florida State team that is on the bubble. But they haven’t broken through against teams sure to be in the tournament, like Syracuse (lost twice), Virginia, Duke and North Carolina.

What this adds up to is that the Panthers are good, but just how good they are is an open question. Watch them and you get an idea, as they have talent. They have solid seniors in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, as well as improving junior Cameron Wright and one of the most underrated point guards in sophomore James Robinson. Durand Johnson, out for the season with a right knee injury, is also pretty good. Look at their results and you get a mixed impression given who they have defeated and who they have lost to. How good they are should be clearer in a couple of weeks, and that means there is opportunity there for them.

“We haven’t played as good, there’s no question,” said Dixon. “There’s obvious reasons why, but as I told our guys, why can’t it be now?”

Now would be a good time for that, as would the ACC Tournament in two weeks. The Panthers can only play the games on their schedule, and that contains no sure NCAA Tournament teams until possibly the conference tournament. All they can do is win and get better along the way. If they do more of that, the debate on how good they really are may come to an end just in time.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about several big pieces of news away from game play, one of which puts a lot in perspective. We also talk about the lack of dominant teams and how this has shown up in the results, especially this past weekend.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 4, 2018

January 4, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we start with a big game in the Big East, then move on to the sudden lack of undefeated teams, a big injury in the ACC, and a powerhouse that looks vulnerable in a stacked conference they have long ruled.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a bizarre finish to an early-season tournament game, the Pac-12’s early struggles, Florida teams going in different directions and two northeast teams trending less relevant even as they excite fans at a famous arena.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017 by

In our pre-Thanksgiving podcast, we look at a key injury that is likely to be devastating for his team and an under-the-radar 4-0 week, then move on to some early SEC impressions and a couple of teams that just continue to win.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 9, 2017

November 10, 2017 by

The season is almost here, and we take a look at some of what to expect this coming season. We have preseason polls, conference changes, a look at some conferences and some matchups to start the season.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.