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Pitt (more specifically, Jamie Dixon) has entered a rare territory in sports. You know what I'm talking about. Every year, they're ranked and perceived among the best at what they do. But for some reason, they just can't break through to the next level of winning. Some finally reach it, like Peyton Manning, Bill Cowher, or Kevin Garnett. Others never enter that cherished territory, like Karl Malone or Charles Barkley. And another group actively fights the "can't win the big one" battle to this day, players such as Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, and Alexander Ovechkin. At times on Sunday, I thought another chapter would be added in Pitt and Dixon's ever-growing library of not reaching the next level. Luckily, Sam Young and Dejuan Blair had other thoughts, because the Panthers will get another opportunity to try and alter that existing perception based largely on their efforts.

Playing all 40 minutes, Young finished with 32 points and eight boards following a pre-game in which he listened to 1970's Go-Go funk music. Hey, whatever it takes, 23. His teammate, the unstoppable force that is Dejuan Blair, added 10 points and 12 rebounds, yet another double-double to add to his storied archive. But the X-factor in this game was not Carl Krauser, but another Panther point guard. Levance Fields had, by all accounts, a rough go on Friday afternoon against East Tennessee State. He looked tentative, his shot was off, he was uncharacteristically committing turnovers; it was not the same Levance Fields we all knew and loved. Sunday's performance was more akin to the Fields we've watched the past four seasons.

It was the guard from Xaverian that helped set up a third-round matchup with Xavier, scoring 13 (nine from three-point range) and dishing out nine assists in a truly gutsy performance, given his recent bouts with injury. In a way, Fields has a bit of Ben Roethlisberger in him, in that he always seems to save his best for last. If ever I see Fields lining up a three-pointer with, say, three minutes or less, I'm going to say that's probably a high-percentage shot.

I'm not making the point that Young or Blair shouldn't get their due for what transpired today, because that would simply be absurd. They were both invaluable. But what Fields did on this day should not get lost in the shuffle, either. It was Fields who hit a three to tie the score at 49 at the first-half buzzer. It was Fields who hustled for a rebound on a missed foul shot when all the other players stood around and watched. And it was Fields who nailed a three with his team nursing a two-point lead with 1:30 left, setting up a five-point cushion that would only grow from that point on.

So Pitt lives to see another day, despite back-to-back tests that might have caught some fans off guard. Sure, we would all hope to see the Panthers blow out each opponent by 30, but this is March. Memphis has struggled. Louisville has struggled. Michigan State struggled too. But the fact remains that 14 of the top 16 seeds remain, with only Wake Forest and Washington dropping the ball. We've moved up to the heavyweight round, and Pitt has earned their ticket., thanks in great part to the aforementioned triumvirate of talent. Now it's up to them whether they want to be remembered as the NCAA basketball equivalent of Kevin Garnett or Tony Romo going into the offseason.


--Obi Muonelo led Oklahoma State with 19 points
--Pitt held the edge in rebounding, 39-21
--The Cowboys held a lead as big as eight (23-15) in the first half
--Thursday's game against Xavier tips at 7:27 Eastern in Boston
--In case you've forgotten, Xavier is coached by former Panther Sean Miller, the 1987-88 Big East Freshman of the Year and a Pitt assistant under Ralph Willard in 1995-96.

--In our Mondesi Madness bracket, "JLo43" leads the field with 57 poins through two rounds. Meanwhile, I'm holding down 260th place quite nicely. You can see the full standings here.

And while you're there, check out some of the inspired team names, like "Dixon Normous", "Blair Stearns", "Welcome to Tradio" (a great Stern Show reference), "Ernest Saves Dionte Christmas", "The Dejuan Blair Witch Project", "Dijon Blair", "InClemente Weather", and many, many more.

--One more thing while we're on the topic of contests...dtascuba220 is the winner of the Roethlisberger caption contest, with the entry, "This is the fist I'm going to use to punch Kevin Colbert for putting together the same line that got me killed last season." So dtascuba220, please contact me for details on getting your prize.

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HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I really like Pitt to get to the Final 4. Fact of the matter is that Oklahoma State landed a haymaker and could only muster a tie by halftime. They matchup well with Xavier and Duke and they can play the revenge card with Nova.

nuthinhere said...

Wait, you mean THAT Sean Miller?? Well damn! I remember watching him play when he was at Blackhawk HS. I guess he's doing alright then.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Pitt has weathered 2 huge haymakers so far and have 2 wins to show for it.

Would I like to see them win by 30 points? Yes.

But they are going on to Boston now and 48 other teams have already gone home.

okel dokel said...

Adam must be disappointed; I believe he picked this as his "upset special" in his bracket.

I noticed on that 50 percent of the poll respondents selected Pitt as the team that looks "most vulnerable" heading in to the Sweet 16.

I'm thinking that is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Pitt will be fine. Xavier is playing better, but I honestly don't believe they're that good. Should be a win unless Pitt lays a total egg.

Justin said...

Wow, this site is growing. You're in 260th place? Last year there couldn't have been more than 100 total...

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I am in 348th!

I guess the only upset I was getting from Marquette was my stomach.