Could it be true? Could the Pittsburgh Panthers miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the Jamie Dixon era?
Similar to driving on 279 on your way to the ‘Burgh, the city skyline appears its head. You are getting close to a wonderful city full of magnificent sports history.
In this case, the skyline is nothing to be thrilled about. That skyline is the NIT Tournament.
The Panthers took one step to the NIT after their loss to Depaul 84-81 on Thursday night. They are now 0-3 in the Big East.
Taking nothing away from the Blue Demons who are 10-4 under Oliver Purnell, but losing to Depaul makes for an awful loss especially when you are a program like Pittsburgh.
Depaul was led by Brandon Young who scored 26 points and Cleveland Melvin who scored 20. Jeremiah Kelly and Moses Morgan chipped in with double-figures.
Looking at the box score it seems improbable that the Panthers lost. They had five guys that scored in double-digits and Dante Taylor tallied nine, Pittsburgh was +18 in rebounding, +11 on offensive boards and +4 in free-throw makes.
What went wrong?
Struggling in conference on the road is normal, believe it or not. The difference between this year and past years is the one guy with killer instinct.
Brandin Knight, Karl Krauser, LeVance Fields and Brad Wanamaker were guys that you could trust late in the game regardless of how out of control (Krauser) or how poor their foul shooting (Knight) was. They all wanted to take or play a part in clutch moments late in games. They all had play-making abilities that could take over a game whether it’s creating their own shot or setting up others.
Who is that guy this year?
Ashton Gibbs is forced to be that guy when clearly he is not. He is your typical run around screens, catch and shoot type of player that needs a point guard capable of setting him up.
He struggles to create his own shot, set up others and doesn’t have that leadership quality that the previous guys mentioned have. His lousy shooting (39 percent) represents this.
It may sound like I’m nitpicking, but a guy who was picked the Big East Preseason Player of the Year should be expected of more than 39 percent from the floor.
The NIT is on the horizon unless they pull it together.