PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Yes, Pitt's season has been the worst we've seen in a decade. And no, this isn't where we all expected Pitt to be playing in March.
But, to me, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Panthers accepting a bid to play in the College Basketball Invitational.
I can't say I'm surprised there's been so much of a negative uproar this season. This is the Pitt fan base we're talking about — one that rarely holds back an opinion and is seemingly never satisfied — and NCAA Tournament appearances have become an expectation with coach Jamie Dixon at the helm.
But I am surprised that so many fans are opposed to the Panthers choosing to play a little more basketball this season, even if the tournament has three letters in its acronym instead of four.
To those fans I must ask: where's the harm?
Playing in the CBI can't hurt Pitt at all. Rather, it probably can only help.
The Panthers are young this year and the CBI will provide them an opportunity to get a few more weeks of game action and practice. For a guy like J.J. Moore, who has shown flashes of dominance over the past few weeks, this extra time could be extremely valuable.
The CBI gives seniors Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson a chance to play a few more games and possibly go out on a high note. For the careers they've had, the deserve as much.
No, they can't be national champions. But they can play a few more games with a Pitt jersey on their backs. That's why they came to Pitt, right?
And for freshmen like John Johnson, Malcolm Gilbert and Cameron Wright and sophomores like Moore, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, the CBI offers added time to learn and grow in Jamie Dixon's system.
Whatever Pitt does in the CBI, it likely won't propel them to greatness in 2012-13. But it could provide some valuable learning going into the offseason.
The notion that participating in this tournament would be detrimental or problematic couldn't be farther from the truth. And so far I haven't heard one good reason from dissenters to sway me in that direction.
No, the CBI will not hurt recruiting or the image of the program. One bad season can't hurt Dixon's resume. Every program has down years and we're finally at the point where Pitt is in the midst of one — far fewer times than Syracuse, North Carolina or Kansas over the last decade, mind you.
No, the CBI will not be an embarrassment to the players. Nothing could be more embarrassing than losing to DePaul, or losing to Wagner at home, or going 5-13 in Big East play this season. We passed the low point long ago.
And no, paying to host home games in the CBI isn't foolish. To an athletic department, $35,000 isn't a crippling chunk of change. Writing a few of these checks gives students and alumni a few more chances to see the Panthers play at the Pete before we have to wait until next winter for college basketball again.
I liken it to Pitt football and a hypothetical situation. Say the football team appears in five straight New Year's Day bowls and they follow it up with a sub par 7-5 season. That record earns them a BBVA Compass Bowl berth, which we've seen all too often lately.
What person in their right mind would choose not to play in that bowl game? I can't imagine fans clamoring for the kids to stay in Oakland and study rather than play one more game.
That's what we've got here — a proud basketball program that has appeared in the NCAA Tournament every year of the last decade. It's in a rebuilding year with a chance to continue playing and get some extra work in before the offseason.
There are no real negatives here. Pitt gets to play a few more games, fans can choose to watch if they so desire and we could see some benefits from this down the road.
While the season has been a bust, the CBI offers an opportunity for the Panthers to continue working on their problems.
To me, that seems to be exactly what Pitt needs.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
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