I’m not sure what I think about this one. Both teams seemed willing to play slightly slower than a snail’s pace, so that’s how it went. In a game like that, the more efficient team at both ends wins. Notre Dame was the more efficient team. They won, and they deserved it. That much is obvious. Should Pitt have pushed the tempo a bit more? I don’t think so as evidenced by the fact that they were in it until the very last possession. My diagnosis is this: Pitt took some 3’s in the first half, and they just weren’t falling. Good teams (maybe well coached teams is more of what I want to say there) admit when it’s not their night to play the game they want to and find a way to win anyway. Pitt made an attempt at that by trying to be more aggressive driving the lane, and it worked sometimes and resulted in forced shots other times. It wasn’t perfect, but it kept Pitt in the game. That’s for sure. But I’m almost positive that if Pitt hits a few 3’s, this is a totally different game. Notre Dame deserved that game because they made the Panthers one dimensional. The Irish frontcourt did a wonderful job sealing off the low post, so when the shots didn’t fall the only option left was taking your man off the dribble. If they make some shots and put some pressure on Notre Dame at two fronts, they can put Notre Dame on their heels a bit. I have a sinking suspicion that when Notre Dame gets down by more than 5 or 10 for the first time that the tendency to run and gun will surface again and it’ll be a hard freight train to stop. But I guess we’ll see whenever that happens. Some other random thoughts:
- Pitt didn’t get much in the way of bench points. You have to temper your expectations with the final score, but it still wasn’t a real great showing.
- The best argument for Pitt speeding up the tempo in this game? Notre Dame only went 7 players deep (even with a foul out). An up and down game really wears guys out.
- Jay Bilas made a big deal about the switching on the ball screens. I saw it too, and I’m a big Jay Bilas fan, but I’m not sure it was that huge of a deal. Pitt switches a lot like that, and their guards are usually very good at guarding bigger guys. This game they got their lunch eaten, but there’s not much you can do there. The other options are to not hedge on screens and allow some open 3’s, or play zone and allow some open 3’s. Neither one sounded all that good, either. The bigger hole in Pitt’s defense that I saw was the uncontested layups when a guy was too eager to double team late in a shot clock.
- I’m sure this is the type of game that non-Big East fans tuned out. That’s fine. This was a game where you had to appreciate the defense: the screens, the switching, the help side, etc. Most people don’t have the patience for that. Their loss.
So that’s pretty much it until selection Sunday. I think the consensus for Pitt is a 3 or 4 seed. We’ll have to see. If they could ever play consistently, they’d be Final Four material. I’m not holding out hope for that, though. Which is why as a Pitt fan I’ll take that 3/4 seed and say ‘Thank You’.