Animals from the Oakland Zoo are short of breath. Their beloved Panthers, one of the most consistent and successful regular season teams of our generation, have lost four in a row. A first for the Jaime Dixon era.
For a few days, I was struggling to pinpoint the painpoint.
Watching them play, they looked to have severe problems at both ends of the court, even though many of the Panther's team stats were at or just below last season's averages.
The problem with my assessment was that I was incorporating numbers from games against low majors; teams like Albany, South Carolina State and St. Francis. You don't get cupcakes in the Big East, and the early returns against conference foes (and Wagner!) paint a much different picture.
While it's a small sample size, take a look at the disparity of Pittsburgh's offensive and defensive numbers between this season and last.
Basically, the Panthers have done a complete 180. I understand we're comparing three conference games from 2011-2012 to 18 conference games from 2010-2011, but the schedule is only going to get more difficult for Pitt. Extrapolate the data and these numbers could swell to eye-gouging record levels.
In just the next three weeks alone the Panthers must travel to Marquette and Syracuse, and host Louisville and Georgetown. From there, February brings trips to Seton Hall, Louisville and UConn.
The Panthers must win nine of their next 15 games just to ensure their 11th consecutive 20+ win season, but even that would constitute a wildly unsuccessful year and put them in the NIT.
At 0-3 and nowhere to run, it's a treacherous uphill battle from here on out.