In The Dawg House

PantherDigest.com senior writer Steve Gephart is back with a new edition of his wildly popular column "In the Dawg House". Steve pontificates on all things connected to college sports and your favorite team, the Pitt Panthers.

The Dawg is Back

It has been a while since the last time I've written a Dawg House, and for that I truly apologize. I have a lot to catch up on in the world of Pitt sports.

It's about time someone from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recognized the amazing story developing right under their noses in Oakland. Ron Cook's column in the March 2 issue of the newspaper clearly puts into perspective the heroic year the Men's Panther basketball team has had. Injuries are certainly a part of the game and any critic could easily point to all the injuries other teams in the Big East (most notably the Louisville Cardinals) have suffered and yet still had even better seasons than Pitt.

But to truly appreciate what the Panthers have accomplished this season, one must take into account where this team stood heading into this season. Even if Mike Cook, Levance Fields, Austin Wallace and Cassin Diggs hadn't missed a ton of games the Panthers were still a very young and mostly inexperienced group of players that was going to have to fight their way to a 20+ win season and a bid to the NCAA tournament. The fact that the Panthers did win those 20+ games and likely extended their season beyond the Big East Tournament while not having the services of the players listed above for most (if not all) of the season is quite an accomplishment in itself.

And that accomplishment becomes even more amazing when one takes into account the fact that most of the players who didn't miss extended time were also playing through significant injuries themselves. Ronald Ramon, Keith Benjamin, DeJuan Blair and Gilbert Brown did a tremendous job keeping the Panthers competitive throughout Big East play despite suffering from a plethora of maladies that would have otherwise kept them out of the lineup if the team has anyone available to come of the bench and take their spots. And since there was no one experienced or capable enough, this valiant group of relatively inexperienced and young players themselves carried on despite their pain. And not only did they continue to play; they accomplished all of the goals expected of this year's club even before the injuries racked their season.

So it's quite a success story for these young players, one that deserves all the accolades their fans can heap upon them. I'm sure some fans will continue to easily dismiss this team's accomplishments in light of their recent shooting and rebounding woes. And we all know many lament the defensive liabilities of this team compared to past editions. But the Dawg can't help being excited about the fact that these young players are getting valuable playing time for the future. And that will come in very handy when the Panthers make their playoff push this year and for the next few years to come. The future is bright for this program not only this year…but for seasons to come.


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