Pittsburgh Panthers Must Stop Slide To Avoid Becoming a Bubble Team

By Gregory Philson
Pitt Panthers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Panthers have lost three straight games and have not played well offensively for a month. Pitt looked like an early-season ACC favorite when the Panthers started off 4-0 in conference play and took the Syracuse Orange down to the wire at the Carrier Dome Jan. 18.

Now, just slightly more than a month removed from that game, the Panthers are in what seems like a must win-out scenario just to solidify an NCAA tournament spot. The Panthers were all but a lock just two weeks ago, but the recent slide mixed with an offense that is extremely inefficient places coach Jamie Dixon in a position no one thought was possible.

Pittsburgh luckily has a favorable schedule coming up in the last two weeks of the regular season, but just because it looks winnable on paper does not mean the Panthers can think like that. Pittsburgh’s offense has been shooting less than 40 percent in a majority of its games in the last month, and even in the two victories over the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies it was more about Lamar Patterson putting the team on his shoulders than a total team effort.

Despite those efforts by Patterson, he has also lost his shooting touch. Patterson spent much of the non-conference season and some of the ACC season shooting more than 50 percent from the field, but has now slipped to only 45 percent on the season. His decline coincides with the Panthers’ plight.

The Panthers start their last stretch of games at Boston College on Wednesday. The Eagles have already upset Syracuse, and with the way Olivier Hanlan can light up a scoreboard, losing that game is not out of the question. Pitt must win there to not only stop this losing streak, but also just to gain confidence. The Panthers then head to South Bend to face the Notre Dame Irish on Saturday. This is another victory on paper, but the Irish do have enough talent to out-offense the Panthers.

This week is extremely important to the Panthers. It is likely their recent play has lowered their tournament seed to a nine or 10, but if the losing continues, it may be an NIT-bid the Panthers receive come postseason tournament time.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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