Here I am, back once again! A beacon of hope in a world of despair! Fear not my friends all is not lost. These are indeed trying times, but that game will not define our season. I am not going to sit here and put lipstick on a pig and tell you that that game was good. I'm delusional but I'm not stupid. That was bad. But I will tell you not to give up hope and provide you with legitimate reasons for optimism.
A bad loss in the regular season does not mean you cannot have success. Looking at last year's Sweet 16 participants, the following schools had blowout losses of 17 or more points during the regular season: Florida (78-58 to Kentucky), Wisconsin (59-41 to Michigan), Baylor (92-74 to Kansas), Indiana (80-63 to Michigan St), Marquette (74-57 to Vanderbilt and 76-59 to ND), Cincinnati ( 95-78 vs Marquette), NC State (74-55 to UNC), Xavier (64-42 to Oral Roberts), Louisville (90-59 to Providence) and last but not least UNC (90-57 to Florida St). So 10 teams that made the Sweet 16 had blowout losses of at least 17 points on their resumes. Two teams got blown out worse than we did and went to the Final 4 and the Elite 8 in Louisville and UNC.
Our offense obviously needs improvement. That being said, B1G teams like Wisconsin have played slow grind it out low scoring games and still managed to have success in the NCAA tournament. There were 5 at large teams with offenses worse than 100 that made the NCAA tournament: Louisville (103rd, Final 4), UVA (132nd, 2nd round), Alabama (109th, 2nd round), BYU (115th, 2nd round), and USF (153rd, 3rd round). I am confident our offense will improve, but even if it remains mediocre that does not mean we cannot still have success.
I believe this team will continue to improve and be a team to reckon with by the end of the season. Remember, this is still the same team that scored 78 points in a win over UCLA, 72 in an OT game against #5 Indiana, and destroyed Texas in Madison Square Garden. We're not going to average in the 80s or even the 70s, but it's not unreasonable to expect the Hoyas to get back to scoring in the 60s regularly and with our good defense that's all we really need.
While that was a rough loss it was not as bad as the final score indicated. On numerous occasions the Hoyas made a run and were on the verge of cutting the lead to single digits only to be disrupted by a bad call or by a lucky Pitt shot. While our defense was the worst it's looked all year, Pitt was also incredibly lucky. How many times did the ball bounce around the hoop before falling in? How many times did a Pitt player throw up a prayer and have it bank off the backboard and in? Pitt also hit well above their normal shooting percentage from three point range. Basically Pitt could not have replicated a lot of their shots even with no one guarding them. It was their night - they were hot and everything they threw up was working. Sometimes you run into a hot team and there's nothing much you can do about it.
Another reason to be encouraged despite the poor showing was coach's willingness to switch it up and try something different. Mainly, going to the bench and pressing and entire game against a Big East opponent. I especially think we saw some great things from Moses Ayegba. I also think we saw DSR regain some of his confidence and swagger which had been sorely lacking since his first two games of the season. Another bright spot in this game was Nate Lubick. Nate, DSR, and Moses all need to have confidence to take open shots. They showed that in this game. If confidence and playing time for Moses and DSR are results of this game then it won't all have been in vain.
A final reason for confidence is motivation. Pitt was 0-2 in the Big East and had a huge chip on their shoulders coming into the game. They came out guns blazing and had more energy and fire than the Hoyas. Well, now the shoe is on the other foot. The team will come out with something to prove on Saturday. I would not want to be St. John's right now. I expect us to go out there and pound the Johnies and take out all our frustration from this past game on them.
We've learned over and over again that the regular season has less and less importance. If you don't succeed in March then November-February don't matter to most people. We've been dealing with that from one side of the fence for the past couple of years. Well it works both ways. If we have success in March then this game will be forgotten. Do you think Louisville fans dwelt on their 31 point drubbing at the hands of Providence while they were celebrating their Final Four birth? Of course not! This team is far from a finished product. They will improve and the season is far from over. I for one am going to be behind the team supporting them on their journey no matter what.
I think Nate Lubick in the Postgame has the best advice: "We have to remain positive that we're going to fix these things and move on from there."