So there they were, thousands of fans in blue and gold, spilling out of their ticketed seats and into the 100 levels at Madison Square Garden, screaming their lungs out as Pittsburgh’s Tyrell Biggs tried to tell a reporter that his team’s win was a coup for the little guy.

“People doubted us, wrote us off, said that we was gonna lose,” he said. “People actually thought we was gonna lose to Cincinnati, then we got through Cincinnati. They thought we was gonna lose to Louisville, got through them. People, even the commentators, ESPN, they said we wasn’t gonna get past Georgetown, no way, no how. But we did it.”

On the other end of things – in the Hoya student section, at the Tombs, in Alumni Lounge – fans spilled out of their ticketed seats and into the cold. Georgetown the neighborhood was nearly as quiet as it had been at the start of the game, when such phenomenon as a Philadelphia Pizza Co. without customers is reported to have been witnessed. There was considerable resentment in the air, and the bitterness didn’t quite match up with the charming Cinderella story Pittsburgh was telling.

It’s the old script, isn’t it? Every upset victory is one of grit’s greatest accomplishments, just like every win is a team effort and every playoff contender takes it one game at a time. Every time Andy Katz picks your opponent to win, it’s because he isn’t giving you the respect you deserve.

For a fan base that had to see Syracuse supporters storm the court after a medium-sized win, that had already seen Pittsburgh “shock” Georgetown once before, such talk can be a little sickening. The Hoyas had been playing catch-up since Biggs himself hit a jumper two-thirds through the first half; nearly every time, they stumbled into giving the Panthers repeated second-half free throws; the schadenfreude on Jamie Dixon’s grinning face was too much to bear.

Yet, despite all this, Biggs was almost right. There really was something impressive about Pittsburgh’s Big East title run. It’s just that surpassing this season’s expectations has just about nothing to do with it.

This decade, the Pittsburgh Panthers have been college basketball’s equivalent of the Boston Red Sox, making a name for themselves (albeit more quietly than Boston) by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Between 2001 and 2007, the Panthers reached the Big East championship game a remarkable six times. Equally remarkably, they lost five of those games.

In 2001, Pittsburgh led Boston College by 11 points in the first half. The Golden Eagles followed with runs of 9-2, 13-0 and 19-0, kicking the Panthers’ title hopes in the stomach.

In 2002, the Panthers were tied with Connecticut in overtime; Pittsburgh’s Brandin Knight overcame a knee injury – walking out through the same tunnel as injured Knick Willis Reed – just in time to heave a potential game-winner and see it bounce off the rim. Knight collapsed in pain. The Huskies pulled away in double overtime.

In 2004, with Dixon now the head coach, the punishment came from Connecticut yet again. Pittsburgh had been leading since the beginning of the second quarter, often by as much as 10 or 12 points, before the Huskies took the lead with two minutes left. After a short back-and-forth battle, UConn’s Emeka Okafor hit the game-winning jumper with 30 seconds remaining. Two free throws later, it was Connecticut 61, Pittsburgh 58.

In 2006, Pittsburgh had a 13-point lead over Syracuse that slowly and steadily shrunk as the game wore on. With just eight seconds left, and the Orange up by five, Carl Krauser’s late three-pointer narrowed the score. Still, it wasn’t enough to stop Gerry McNamara’s Orange, owners of the last real miracle in the Big East tournament, from completing their comeback.

Finally, in 2007, Pittsburgh faced Georgetown. They lost. You may have heard about it.

Tyrell Biggs is just a junior, and so the loss to Syracuse is the only tragic sports pain he can claim to have felt. But for those who knew the older Pittsburgh teams, the sense of relief, of deservedness, is understandable.

This time around, it was Georgetown on the short end. The results were painful, and the sense of loss will probably linger into late March, no matter how engaging those NCAA tournament brackets might be. But at least it didn’t come after two overtimes.

If it had, the Hoyas would be the team deserving a title. This year, that team was the Panthers.

Alex Fumelli is a senior in the College and a former features and sports editor for THE HOYA. He can be reached at fumellithehoya.com. THE MENDOZA LINE appears every other Tuesday in HOYA SPORTS.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.

So there they were, thousands of fans in blue and gold, spilling out of their ticketed seats and into the 100 levels at Madison Square Garden, screaming their lungs out as Pittsburgh’s Tyrell Biggs tried to tell a reporter that his team’s win was a coup for the little guy.

“People doubted us, wrote us off, said that we was gonna lose,” he said. “People actually thought we was gonna lose to Cincinnati, then we got through Cincinnati. They thought we was gonna lose to Louisville, got through them. People, even the commentators, ESPN, they said we wasn’t gonna get past Georgetown, no way, no how. But we did it.”

On the other end of things – in the Hoya student section, at the Tombs, in Alumni Lounge – fans spilled out of their ticketed seats and into the cold. Georgetown the neighborhood was nearly as quiet as it had been at the start of the game, when such phenomenon as a Philadelphia Pizza Co. without customers is reported to have been witnessed. There was considerable resentment in the air, and the bitterness didn’t quite match up with the charming Cinderella story Pittsburgh was telling.

It’s the old script, isn’t it? Every upset victory is one of grit’s greatest accomplishments, just like every win is a team effort and every playoff contender takes it one game at a time. Every time Andy Katz picks your opponent to win, it’s because he isn’t giving you the respect you deserve.

For a fan base that had to see Syracuse supporters storm the court after a medium-sized win, that had already seen Pittsburgh “shock” Georgetown once before, such talk can be a little sickening. The Hoyas had been playing catch-up since Biggs himself hit a jumper two-thirds through the first half; nearly every time, they stumbled into giving the Panthers repeated second-half free throws; the schadenfreude on Jamie Dixon’s grinning face was too much to bear.

Yet, despite all this, Biggs was almost right. There really was something impressive about Pittsburgh’s Big East title run. It’s just that surpassing this season’s expectations has just about nothing to do with it.

This decade, the Pittsburgh Panthers have been college basketball’s equivalent of the Boston Red Sox, making a name for themselves (albeit more quietly than Boston) by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Between 2001 and 2007, the Panthers reached the Big East championship game a remarkable six times. Equally remarkably, they lost five of those games.

In 2001, Pittsburgh led Boston College by 11 points in the first half. The Golden Eagles followed with runs of 9-2, 13-0 and 19-0, kicking the Panthers’ title hopes in the stomach.

In 2002, the Panthers were tied with Connecticut in overtime; Pittsburgh’s Brandin Knight overcame a knee injury – walking out through the same tunnel as injured Knick Willis Reed – just in time to heave a potential game-winner and see it bounce off the rim. Knight collapsed in pain. The Huskies pulled away in double overtime.

In 2004, with Dixon now the head coach, the punishment came from Connecticut yet again. Pittsburgh had been leading since the beginning of the second quarter, often by as much as 10 or 12 points, before the Huskies took the lead with two minutes left. After a short back-and-forth battle, UConn’s Emeka Okafor hit the game-winning jumper with 30 seconds remaining. Two free throws later, it was Connecticut 61, Pittsburgh 58.

In 2006, Pittsburgh had a 13-point lead over Syracuse that slowly and steadily shrunk as the game wore on. With just eight seconds left, and the Orange up by five, Carl Krauser’s late three-pointer narrowed the score. Still, it wasn’t enough to stop Gerry McNamara’s Orange, owners of the last real miracle in the Big East tournament, from completing their comeback.

Finally, in 2007, Pittsburgh faced Georgetown. They lost. You may have heard about it.

Tyrell Biggs is just a junior, and so the loss to Syracuse is the only tragic sports pain he can claim to have felt. But for those who knew the older Pittsburgh teams, the sense of relief, of deservedness, is understandable.

This time around, it was Georgetown on the short end. The results were painful, and the sense of loss will probably linger into late March, no matter how engaging those NCAA tournament brackets might be. But at least it didn’t come after two overtimes.

If it had, the Hoyas would be the team deserving a title. This year, that team was the Panthers.

Alex Fumelli is a senior in the College and a former features and sports editor for THE HOYA. He can be reached at fumellithehoya.com. THE MENDOZA LINE appears every other Tuesday in HOYA SPORTS.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.