Pitt Is Nearing Must-Win Territory to Make the Tournament

Photo acquired from Pitt Athletics

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For the first time in several years we are discussing Pitt being on the precipice of an NCAA Tournament bid.  Since Jamie Dixon parted ways for TCU, it would have taken an improbable ACC Tournament Championship run to get the Panthers to the Big Dance.  Not this season, however, as Pitt is currently in the tournament per most bracketologists.  But they are on the bubble.

Now, there's still a long way to go, and the ACC Tournament can change a lot, so I'm going to focus on the remainder of the regular season.  Keep in mind, with all of these scenarios, everything could change with a sustained run in the ACC Tournament, or Pitt winning the ACC Championship.  However, given their regular season so far, Pitt has very little wiggle room remaining if they want to make the tournament.  The Florida State loss at home on Saturday really put the Panthers behind the eight ball.

Tonight, Pitt looks for a bounce back win against Wake Forest at home.  Wake Forest is a good opponent, but they are unranked and the game is at home.  This type of loss would all but bury the Panthers.  Back-to-back losses at home against unranked opponents would have a huge negative impact on Pitt's resume.  If Pitt loses tonight, they would have to essentially win out and pick up a couple wins in the ACC Tournament.  Maybe even more.

If Pitt wins tonight, they have a huge home game on Saturday against a ranked Miami team.  Because of the Florida State loss, Pitt desperately needs another big win on their resume to counter it.  A win against Miami would be just that.  If Pitt were to lose Saturday against Miami, the opportunity for another good, resume-boosting, win is limited until the ACC Tournament.  

So Pitt would then look for a win at Chapel Hill against the Tar Heels on February 1st.  This game on the 1st, a home game against Syracuse on February 25th, and an away game at Miami to finish out the regular season on March 4th, are really the only remaining possibilities for wins that boost a resume.  In my opinion, Pitt has to win two of those remaining four games against good opponents. 

Aside from those four (a home and away at Miami, an away game against UNC, and home against Syracuse) Pitt is playing the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the ACC Standings.  Louisville, Florida State (again), Boston College, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Notre Dame.  If Pitt suffers a loss to one of these opponents, I'm not sure how they bounce back from it.  They'd most likely need to win all four of those games against better opponents and against Wake Forest tonight.  They definitely could not suffer two losses to these lesser opponents and still make the tournament.  

So you see, that while Pitt is not quite at "must-win" territory just yet, they are nearing it.  And they certainly have very little wiggle room.  Of their 11 games remaining, they need to win at least eight.  And two of them need to come from those five games against greater opponents.  Those "greater opponents" being Wake Forest, Miami (twice), North Carolina, and  Syracuse.

Remember, all of these situations are predicated on Pitt not outright earning the spot with an ACC Championship win.  And even a sustained ACC Tournament run could greatly boost Pitt's chances at making the Dance.  They are also just predictions by me, and I am not a professional bracketologist.  But I think it outlines how little wiggle room the Panthers have the rest of the way if they want to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.  

A run to the tournament could start tonight, so get your popcorn ready and tune in tonight at 7PM on the ACC Network.  Or if you're willing to brave the weather, Pack the Pete, and get a ticket.  It should be a good one.