If your favorite college basketball team finished the season with a 26-10 record, you’d be pretty excited with that, right? What if you found out they went 11-7 in their conference, good for fifth place and an NCAA Tournament bid? OK, not bad. But what if your favorite team was the Pittsburgh Panthers, and the 2013-14 season really was just more of the same for a program that’s always decent, always competitive, and never a true factor on the national scene.
As usual, the Panthers dominated, starting 10-0 and 16-1 and losing games to the Cincinnati Bearcats and Syracuse Orange by a total of six points on the way to an 18-2 mark. But Pittsburgh finished 8-8, lost in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, and won one NCAA Tournament game before bowing out meekly to Florida Gators.
Perhaps most disturbing to Panthers fans is the fact Pittsburgh lost five games at home in 2013-14, a number almost unheard of for Pittsburgh teams in the era of head coach Jamie Dixon. Here is an evaluation of the Panthers on offense and defense, as well as overall.
OFFENSE: The Panthers are usually somewhat challenged offensively, but senior Lamar Patterson (17.6 points per game) was at times one of the ACC’s best players before cooling off a bit later in the year. Post player Talib Zanna averaged nearly 13 points a game and shot almost 58 percent from the floor, often putting back Pittsburgh misses as he was a beast on the offensive boards. Pittsburgh was in the top third in the nation in scoring, among the nation’s best in assists (15.6 per game) and shot a respectable 46.1 percent from the field as a team. The Panthers weren’t particularly deep, with Cameron Wright (10.5 PPG) the only other Pitt player to average in double figures. However, in six losses to quality teams, the Panthers failed to score 60 points.
DEFENSE: Pittsburgh stifled a string of non-descript, non-conference opponents early in the year before losing a 44-43 slobber-knocker to Cincinnati for its first loss of the season. The second loss to Syracuse saw the Panthers only allow 59 points and for the season, Pitt was 20th in the nation in scoring defense (61.9 PPG). But at times, the Panthers were exposed. Pitt gave up 80 points in a significant home loss to Duke, and 75 and 71, respectively, in back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Florida State. Zanna had little help as a rim protector, with the Panthers averaging only three blocks a game, 235th in the nation. Pitt wasn’t as consistent defensively as it has been in past years and the difference in offensive quality between ACC and many Big East teams showed in Pitt’s results this season.
OVERALL: Pittburgh’s season wasn’t a disappointment, save for perhaps tailing off somewhat dramatically after the 18-2 start. But it wasn’t a step forward, either. The Panthers have are a gaudy 340-103 record in the last 13 seasons, but just one Elite Eight loss to show for it. Pittsburgh’s average season the last 13 years is 26-7. This year, the Panthers went 26-10. Nothing more to see here.
Twitter-Style, the 2013-14 Panthers in 140 (or less): “Pitt started like a house of fire, ended with barely a flicker. #SendItInJerome”