Feb 26, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon reacts to the call of an official during the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Pittsburgh 57-54. (Credit: Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE)
'If' is a funny word.
Doesn't really mean all that much since it's predicated on something happening that did or didn't. Pitt fans, though, are readily familiar with that word. If Pitt hadn't run into a Dwyane Wade-led Marquette team in the Sweet 16 in 2003. If Pitt hadn't allowed Scottie Reynolds to make a last-second layup in the Elite Eight in 2009. If DeJuan Blair had stuck around for another season or two. If ... well, you get the idea.
Seems like that word has always gone against Pitt when it comes to basketball (and, please - let's not even get into football). But for once, that wasn't the case when it came to two of Pitt's newcomers this season.
Trey Zeigler had plenty of offers from premier schools a few years ago. But in the end, he shunned them all and instead headed to Central Michigan to play for his father, Ernie. Zeigler has largely gone unnoticed while playing for the Chippewas (and, be honest - if you're outside the state of Michigan, did you even know that was Central Michigan's nickname?) despite averaging 16 points a game during his first two seasons there.
Now, it's difficult to feel good about anyone being fired. And while Jamie Dixon, who coached aside the elder Zeigler under Ben Howland at Pitt, surely wasn't thrilled to hear that news, Pitt may have been the biggest beneficiary of his departure. When Zeigler was fired, his son decided to look elsewhere. And despite some heavyweights again being interested in his services, the Zeigler family tie with Pitt paid off and was surely one of the reasons Trey chose the Panthers.
Pitt also had things break their way when landing super recruit, Steven Adams.
Adams, now regarded as one of the top five freshman for 2012, was a bit under the radar when head coach Jamie Dixon discovered him in New Zealand. Pitt got a bit of a break when Dixon was named as Team USA's Under-19 head coach that played in New Zealand in the World Championships. He got a close up look at the then 16-year old Adams before virtually anyone else had and was able to get a commitment from him fairly early.
It's possible that 'if' Dixon wasn't given that assignment that there was still a chance he could have come to Pitt. But the Panthers would have had to contend against many other big time programs and landing Adams among the likes of North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut, or UCLA might have been a bit tougher.
But that wasn't even the only issue as another likely scenario was that Adams could have been spotted by NBA scouts early on and bypassed college altogether since he's been out of high school long enough. Adams was actually eligible to try his luck with the NBA Draft this year, but didn't have a ton of exposure. Because of that, he was a bit hidden from scouts.
The chances are good that Pitt not only returns to the NCAAs this season, but makes a bit of noise. All of that's been made possible with the additions of Adams and Zeigler.
For more on Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation's Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.