My Humblest Apologies, Pitt

By Jeff Lippman - September 24, 2007

It was less than a week ago that I wrote the Big East battle for third place would come down to Louisville and Notre Dame, but I'd like to add another team into that mix.

Agnus Berenato and her Pitt Panthers will be a very good team next season, and one the rest of the Big East will not be excited to see on the schedule.

The Panthers are receiving preseason Top 25 rankings by a few different publications across the country, and with the team returning six starters from last season, including 2005-06 Big East all-Big East performer Mallorie Winn - injured last year before playing a game - it shouldn't come as a shock that Pitt is garnering these accolades.

Berenato will be starting her fifth season at the helm of the Panthers and has improved the team record-wise each season since 2003 when she took over the team. That year they finished 6-20, the next season they jumped to 13-15 and then blossomed into back-to-back 20-win seasons.

It seems the pieces are falling into place for Pitt like getting the long rectangle in Tetris when you really need it.

You'd think losing an All-Conference performer to injury, especially the team's senior point guard, would be a major hit for a team that finished with 22 wins for the first time in school history.

But Winn's injury just made Berenato want to make the NCAA Tournament even more, and replacing Winn with sophomore Shavonte Zellous, the Panthers did just that. Pitt went to its first-ever NCAA Tournament, won the most games in school history (24), won a first-round game against James Madison and finished the season ranked in the AP Poll for the first time since 1979.

Are you winded? That's a lot of firsts.

All Zellous did to back up the loss of Winn was improve her points per game average 12 points to 19 per, while becoming the Big East's Most Improved Player.

So now, with Winn back after redshirting last year, the Panthers have two established point guards leading the way.

Both point guards have quite the presence in the paint to feed the ball in Pitt's best player and Kodak/WBCA District I All-American Marcedes Walker.

Walker, a 6-foot-3 bruising center, is on the preseason Wade Trophy Watch list and will be able to match up with the best the Big East has to offer.

Yes, the pieces to the puzzle are all there for Pitt this season. All their players are healthy and the team is jampacked with experience and talent. They made their first NCAA tourney last year and got their first tourney win out of the way. Now they expect more from a team that is better.

So I'm sorry Pitt for leaving you out before, and I'm sorry Notre Dame and Louisville, you have company.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 02:03 PM on September 24, 2007
Comments (1)


Glad to see the blog going again in full force. Women's basketball season is here.

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