Panthers must do more than just demand respect

A lot has already been said about Pitt's horrid draw, and rightfully so. A lot also has been said about the lack of respect for the Panthers. And that is true. The former they can't do anything about. However, the ability to change the latter is in their hands.

The Panthers had many opportunities over the last few years to truly yank respect from the hands of disbelievers. The last was a brutal, hard fought loss to Connecticut in the Big East Final. Player for player, on an individual basis, UConn is the consensus choice for the most talented team in the country. Is it a disgrace to lose to such an excellent team? No. But playing hard and losing does not garner a team respect. Maybe pity disguised as respect, but beating somebody at your task is the only true way to get it.

It was there for the the Panthers' taking. They had it in their grasp. And UConn snatched it away. That's why UConn has the respect, not because they thrashed a rival in a regular season game as Pitt did to them. No, they, like others who have it, get their respect one way and one way only - they take it. They don't demand it. They don't hope for it. They take it.

Pitt hasn't taken it yet. Sure, they have had amazingly courageous and successful seasons in the past few years. But, against Kent State two years ago, they lost to an inferior team. The season went down the drain and took respect with it. Last year, against a very good, but very beatable Marquette team, again the Panthers failed to grab their respect when it truly counted.

So you say Pitt got no respect with this draw? Well, you are right. A No. 3 seed is highly debatable. A potential second round match-up against a lower ranked team in the opponent's home state is the basketball version of a slap in the face followed by a punch in the crotch.

So, what should Pitt players and coaches do? Cry? Call "foul"? That's what a team that has no respect does. Those days need to be over for the Panthers. With respect, it's better to take than receive, and that's what the Panthers need to do. Not demand it. Not hope for it. Take it. Beat Central Florida with authority. Beat Wisconsin in a sea of red. Show the world you deserved a higher seed than Oklahoma State. It's time, Panthers. It's time to take what is yours. No matter who is in your way. Grab it. Make it impossible for anybody to ever deny you respect again. Only then will the country know that the Pitt Panthers are a force in the basketball world. And will be as long as they keep taking what they want.


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