What a great season of college basketball so far. There are so many good teams and players out there, that great games and moments are happening on a daily basis. But who is the nation's best team? As postseason play rapidly approaches, I have to agree with the current polls and say it's the Pittsburgh Panthers.
After waiting 101 years for their first number one ranking, the Panthers have achieved it for the second time this season. It's nice to be number 1 on Feb 23, but it means absolutely nothing. Jamie Dixon and the Panthers would like to be number 1 the first Monday in April.
Going into this season it appeared that the North Carolina Tarheels were head and shoulders above any team in the nation, but that is simply not the case. If any team in the nation is more dominant than the rest it is the Panthers. I feel the top 5 teams in the nation: Pitt, U Conn, Oklahoma, UNC and Memphis are about as even as they get and you can add Louisville into that group as well. Any of these teams can defeat the rest on any given night.
5 reasons why Pitt will win the national title
1. Physical Play- Pitt will wear you down physically. Very few teams in the nation can match up with them physically. You saw U Conn's Hasheem Thabeet fall victim to Pitt"s physicality. He wasn't the first and won't be the last.
2. Dejuan Blair- Blair flat out has been a man among boys this season and as long as he can stay out of foul trouble, I like him against any big man in the nation, including Hansbrough and Griffin.
3. Senior Leadership- Senior laden teams tend to really do well in March, and the combination of Young, Fields and Biggs will be no different. They have a goal and are determined to reach it.
4. Levance Fields- Guard play is huge in March and I put Fields up against any guard in the nation. His assist to turnover ration is tops in the nation and having him out there is like having a second head coach on the floor.
5. Jamie Dixon- Dixon doesn't get the respect he deserves as one of the games top coaches and he won't til he gets the Panthers past the Sweet 16. Despite that, Dixon should be mentioned among the games elite coaches.
5 Reasons they won't
1. Dejuan Blair- No team is directly affected by the way the game is officiated like the Panthers. If they run into a tightly called game in the tourney like they usually do, then they could be in trouble. Blair must stay out of foul trouble or Pitt has no chance.
2. Perimeter Shooting- The pressure will be on Jermaine Dixon, Brad Wannamaker and Ashton Gibbs to knock down jumpers or it will be another early exit.
3. Past history- The Panthers haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 under Dixon and that's all they will be hearing until they do it.
4. Defense- This Pitt just isn't as good defensively as teams past. At times that sacrafice defense for offense. They don't guard the perrimeter well and their on ball defense is lacking at times.
5. Free throw shooting- The kryptonite for Pitt teams for years. I have no answers here, but the Panthers haven't been good from the charity stripe in about 15 years. It can cost them a tournament game. Exhibit 1- the 2008 Memphis Tigers
Having said all that i still like this team to make a long run and possibly cut down the nets when it's all said and done. This is the first Pitt team that is not just a great defensive team. The Panthers can score with any team in the nation offensively and I believe it will continue through the tournament.