Last night, one of the more improbable seasons in Panthers basketball history came to an end. You all know the storyline; lose Gray, Kendall, Graves to graduation and Cook and Fields to injuries, and by the time conference play rolls around this team has no starters from last year and is looking NIT-bound. Fellow Big East coaches were calling Jamie Dixon and telling him to pack it in and get some young guys playing time for next year. Then they get Fields back and the incredible run through the Big East Tournament inspires national media attention and more bandwagon-jumping than a lot of die-hard fans can stand. It certainly looked like it would be a magical season.
Then, like the Persians at Thermopylae, the Panthers ran into a wall of Spartans blocking their path to the Sweet 16, and we all also know how this storyline ends . . . you'll have to forgive me, the wounds are too fresh for me to bear repeating the details. So what are we to make of this season, now that it is over?
Ironically, its about exactly what a lot of us expected. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Pitt would lose in the second round, I would have gone "Damn, thats a shame, but after the talent we loss, its to be expected." But when we look at the end result, we lose sight of some very important details, detail that I hope will provide some comfort after the loss.
Now if you had told me the following--The Panthers won the Big East Championship. Sam Young developed into one of the Big East's best players. Gilbert Brown matured a tremendous amount and began showing us the skills NBA scouts will be drooling over in a year or two. DeJuan Blair, despite hitting the wall late in the season proved to be one of the best freshmen in the country. Jamie Dixon continued to show everyone that he gets more out of his players than all but a handful of the game's elite coaches. Heck, even Tyrell Biggs began to look decent for the first time in his career-- I would have gone "Holy S*** thats a heck of a season, I can't wait!"
And that list doesn't even begin to describe the guts, heart, and determination it took for this team not to give up when Fields and Cook went down. I think it would be fair to say that this season did not end the way any of us wanted it to, but at the same time, this year was an incredible journey to be a part of, and we bagged another Big East Championship and established ourselves as one of the best programs in the toughest conference in America. So good work Panthers. We all are too often motivated to describe a season by the way it ends, and to do so in this case would be tragic. This was an amazing season, and an amazing story, and I, and I'm sure many of my fellow Panther fans, are really glad we got to be a part of it.