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Throwback Team Thursday: 2009 Pitt Basketball

The 2008-2009 Pitt basketball team was regarded as one of the most physical in the country. The squad had high expectations after winning the Big East title in 2007-2008 and returning most of their key players.

Pitt was led by their “Big 3”: undersized big man DeJuan Blair (Spurs), scoring machine Sam Young (Pacers), and scrappy, slightly overweight point guard Levance Fields (nowhere to be found). The group led Pitt to the most impressive basketball season in the school’s history, going 15-3 in a very tough Big East and holding college basketball’s number one ranking for three weeks.

Pitt’s main rivals that season were the highly talented UConn Huskies, who boasted a lineup with five future NBA players: Jeff Adrien, AJ Price, Stanley Robinson, Hasheem Thabeet, and Kemba Walker. In a nationally televised game between the two powerhouses, DeJuan Blair set the tone right away, nearly ripping off Hasheem Thabeet’s arm in a battle for a rebound. Keep in mind that Blair stands in at 6’7, while Thabeet stands in around 7’3.

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As the #2 seed in the Big East Tournament, Pitt stumbled in their first game, losing to the 7-seed West Virginia by 14 points. Despite the bashing at the hands of an inferior opponent, Pitt’s resume was still strong enough to earn them the number one seed in the NCAA tourney.

With Fields and Young both seniors and Blair likely to declare for the NBA Draft early, this was Pitt’s last chance for the foreseeable future to make a deep postseason run. After taking care of East Tennessee State, Oklahoma State, and Xavier to make it to the Elite Eight, Pitt found itself matched up with conference foe Villanova. Having already lost a close contest to Villanova earlier in the season, analysts marked this game as the best matchup of the Elite Eight, and they weren’t wrong.

The game went back-and-forth and was dubbed the most physical of the entire season, a perfect example of Big East play from the 2008-2009 season. After Pitt hit two free throws to tie the game at 76 with 5.5 seconds left, the defense completely broke down, allowing Villanova stud Scottie Reynolds to go coast-to-coast and hit a game winner to send the Wildcats to the Final Four (three Final Four teams were from the Big East). The game went down as one of the best in NBA history, and marked the end of one of the grittiest “Big 3s” in college basketball history.

As Blair and Young enjoy moderately successful NBA careers, we can only hope Levance Fields still has some glory days ahead, as he was last cut by BC Krasnye Krylya Samara of the Russian League. In honor of Levance, here was his greatest moment, single-handedly bringing Pitt to their Sweet 16 win over Xavier:

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About The Author


Josh Langer is a Sport Management major at the University of Michigan. His favorite athlete is Kareem Rush and once dedicated an AIM screename to him.

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