The Pittsburgh Panthers under Jamie Dixon have been known as a great regular season team. Currently in his tenth year at the helm, Dixon has won over 20 games every season he has been the head coach, and is likely to do so again this season. The problem for the Panthers has never been the regular season. Instead, it has been that time in March when everyone puts on their fanciest slippers and claim it is manly to do so.
Some experts like to claim that it is the fault of the Big East Conference. That Big East officials let players play, to the point of near-boxing matches breaking out, but NCAA Tournament officials are the complete opposite, blowing the whistle if a stiff breeze knocks over a player. Maybe that is the reason, or maybe it is because Pitt is so beat up from the Big East schedule that the time the NCAA Tournament starts, there is nothing left in the player’s gas tanks.
But nobody could really know the answer to these problems, because if they had, Dixon would have fixed it.
However, this season provides an opportunity the Panthers have rarely had before: a chance to rest their players down the stretch but not having to do so during the Big East Tournament. Let me tell you what I’m talking about, Willis, Pitt’s next three games are against ranked, tough Big East opponents. Not an easy three games for any team in the nation. But after that stretch, the Panthers close against four winnable teams, three of which are essentially Big East cupcakes.
If Pitt were able to come out of their first three games with two wins, it is essentially smooth sailing for the Panthers the rest of the regular season. Giving Dixon and his players ample time to rest on their laurels. Even if Dixon essentially wanted to sit his stars in the last three games, nobody would notice, as long as they suited up for the Big East Tournament.
Dixon wouldn’t think of doing something so Greg Popovich-y, but he should consider it. Pitt has only made it past the Sweet Sixteen once under Dixon, and his teams have become the butt of jokes come March. Trying a different approach at the end up the season, especially given the schedule they have, could prove worthwhile for the Big Each Coach of the Year(2004).
We know he wouldn’t do such a thing. Heck, he could lose two out of those three first games and not have a chance to use my recommendation. But, Pitt fans need a deep run in March, because they know all to well that their football team doesn’t do anything special for the school.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone