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January 31, 2004

Bring It Above Ground

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 11:04 pm

We got some interesting arguing going in the comments, regarding the recruitment of Morelli, and other such that has gotten kind of long, and oat times a little varied so I’m going to post them and offer my thoughts. I would have done this sooner, but I’ve been a little busy.

It starts with a reader actually identifying himself. John from Fox Chapel (or who I will just call JFC):

Who is writing this column??? I could do a much better job. For starters,who cares about Anthoney Morelli. Harris should just let him walk. Morelli’s only claim to fame will be to add to a long list of high school prospects from Western Pa. that are overhyped. ie: Jawon Walker, Josh Lay, Tutu Fergusen. Harris should try looking over on the other side of the state if he really wants to get some players. Either that or stick to that fertile breading ground in Florida.

To which Lee responded,

I won’t argue that Morelli and his Dad haven’t been acting like spoiled brats. However, I won’t call him untalented either. He’s a legitimate five star prospect on every recruiting service that I’ve seen.

And although I agree that Western PA is generally overrated as far as recruiting grounds go, plenty of legitimate blue chippers have come out of our region recently. Michigan’s Steve Breaston and Marlin Jackson come to mind, although LaVarr Arrington wasn’t too far back either. Pat, a little help here?

JFC countered:

David Abdul was also rated as a 5 star prospect out of the tri state area. He has turned into a goat and is going to be beaten out by Gressel for the kicker spot. How about the other highly touted QB prospect from western Pa Tyler Palko. I have been to Pitt practices and it painfully obvious that he will be beaten out by Luke Getsy for the quarterback spot. What I am trying to say is that the recruiting services like the idea of spotting the next great Western Pa. quarterback. They find the kid who is hyped by the local media and throw five stars on him simply because thats where he is from. Watch the kid that starts for Ohio State this year, Justin Zwick, and tell me he is not better than Palko despite being rated LOWER.

As far as Breaston and the others are concerned, your always going to find a few acorns. It is Western Pa. after all. The fact is in Pa. we run the ball ALOT. Which skews the acurracy of a QB evaluation. Breasten was a great athlete at woddy high. Otherwise the guys PA. produces are along the lines or on the defensive side of the ball.

Pat joined the fun.

I’d love to help, Lee, but John from Fox Chapel makes a good point.

There are plenty of Division 1-AA and II schools who ended up with former Pitt recruits who were the second coming of either Marino or Dorsett (remember Zimmermann from Penn Trafford?).

Pitt has wisely broadened its recruiting base, particularly in Ohio. That being said, we HAVE to keep the local top tier talent – if for no other reason than to keep the fans and HS coaches happy. If and when a genuine 2nd Dorsett or Marino does spring fourth, we’ll need all the help we can get to land them.

Lee, again:

All I’m saying is that I haven’t seen anything yet that would lead me to believe that Morelli, in particular, is overrated. That being said, he may have some maturity issues and (as we all agree) Western PA quarterbacks are often overrated.

And incidentally, John from Fox Chapel is right about Ohio State’s Justin Zwick.

JFC replied,

Since you both conceded to some of my arguments I will concede to one of yours. Athletically Morelli is a top notch prospect. 6-4 200 lbs, a cannon and 4.7 in the 40 is probably the frame people dream about on a QB. That being said, does anybody wonder why his completion percentage was so low??? Coaches at the elite 11 said Morelli needed to work on reading defenses. In other words Morelli is not that smart!!! Hes got the tools but not the squash!!!Morelli is going to remind people of Chris Rix. A guy that should be good but contstantly finds a way to selfdestruct. They dumb the offense down to Rix’s level at FSU but Harris would not do that here. So do we really want Morelli??? No because I do not want to suffer through three bad seasons in order for him to have one good season.

Lee:

Good point about Morelli’s mellon.

On the way up to State College tonight, I heard Phil Grosz, the Editor of Blue White Illustrated (and G&W Recruiting), practically guarantee on WRSC that Morelli would be a Nittany Lion come Wednesday. It looks more and more like — for better or worse — we won’t have to suffer the idiot after all.

But even if it turns out to be for the better, I still can’t stand losing anything to Penn State… even spoiled brats.

That being said, I still can’t believe that any quarterback would rather be developed by the likes of Jay Paterno (PSU’s quarterback coach) rather than Walt Harris. But oh well.

Finally, JFC:

How does Penn State do it??? I mean with the UPMC complex on the south side Pitt has comperable facilities. They have a coach that will probably see you through all four years which PSU does not. Pitt has a dynamic offense while PSU’s looks worse every year. How does one get sold on playing for PSU besides the fact of Beaver Stadium.

Also I found another intertesing Pitt site. I will leave the link. http://www.livelogcity.com/users/pittsburgh/

Starting with the final item. I checked out the blog that opened today. Looks good. Adding it to the blogroll. JFC, though, didn’t just “find” it. He is apparently John Beard on the blog — or else the guy is stealing his comments — nothing to be embarrassed about trying to pimp your blog.

Now going back to the first item. Why bother with Morelli? Pat made his point about keeping the WPa. coaches happy. I’ll suggest a couple other reasons.

1) In recruiting, perception is reality; and perceived recruiting success helps build the schools name recognition and desirability (though not as much as being a winning, good program). You never know if the recruit is going to pan out as expected. Is he going to be a stud from the moment he gets on the field (Fitzgerald)? Is he going to be a complete bust after high school? Is he going to take a few years and/or the right system before he flourishes (Carson Palmer or Jeff Smoker)? Who knows at this point. It is all projection. A huge industry and obsessiveness from fans has sprung from it.

2) You always protect your turf first, then spread outward. You cannot be seen to lose the good players in your own backyard to be a good program. Ohio St., Michigan, Texas, and the like very rarely lose out to other schools for players that are within 50-100 miles of the school. And then you keep expanding from there.

Morelli is perceived to be a blue chipper in Pitt’s backyard. Add in his early commitment to Pitt, plus the bad season Pitt had with the blows to the Big East; and losing Morelli is a big trumpet to a lot of potential recruits that Pitt is not the good choice. I’m trying to remember the column from the fall about how Rutherford committing to Pitt was a huge moment for signifying Pitt’s resurgence to other recruits. I thought it a little ridiculous, but there was a small truth there. I remember early in John Majors, the sequel. Pitt was the finalist for a top blue chip, can’t miss WPa. QB (for some reason I am drawing a complete blank on his name). Instead, he chose ND to win 2-3 Heismans. Pitt never contended for another blue chipper until after Majors was gone.

As to the issue of David Abdul going from blue chipper to goat as a kicker as an example. That is completely ignoring the job he did last year as a freshman. Now, I’m not going to defend or excuse Abdul’s performance this past year. Let’s just concede, though, that there were extenuating circumstances, and he could very well rebound next year.

So Palko was rated ahead of Zwick coming out of high school. It wasn’t by much. Both were considered top blue chippers. Everyone wants lists, though, so one has to be placed in front of the other. Your criticisms of Palko’s ability, though, is unnerving. It reminds me of some comments that I read about him following the Big 33 game. They said he would be better off as a safety, and reminded a scout of that drunk QB from Ohio St. at the end of the Cooper era (whose name is also escaping me). Trust me, that was not a comparison that could make you feel good.

Regarding Morelli’s smarts. I don’t know. Maybe when the colleges are allowed to make the kids take the Wonderlic tests like the NFL does, we can get a better idea. I’d say the Morelli family tantrum (if it is true and not a pretext) suggests that he won’t be happy unless he starts as a freshman and in a system to his liking (are they related to Eric Lindros’ family?). I could see him transferring from a school at least once if his family doesn’t get their way. As it stands, I’ll take your word that he does not have the mental part.

As for the final thing on UPMC and why would anyone play for PSU on offense. First, can we stop this ridiculous self-congratulations on the practice facility? It only counts for so much. No matter how much we may not like PSU, they have history, tradition that can be evoked and a very widespread and active alumni base. If football players went to college based on geography, then Oklahoma and Nebraska would never have been powers; and Fordham and Columbia would be fighting off the recruits.

January 29, 2004

Lovin’ Krauser

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:42 am

Krauser’s late game heroics against BC, dovetailed nicely with some puff pieces. The local one from the Tribune-Review matches him with Isaiah Thomas — apparently an idol of Krauser’s. Talks of Krauser wanting the ball in crunch time. The big moment when the game is on the line, etc.

More importantly is the short piece in this week’s Sport’s Illustrated (subs. only). It stressed Krauser and his NYC roots.

Pittsburgh sophomore point guard Carl Krauser will never be accused of forgetting his roots. Before every game Krauser writes only the strong survive in nyc on his sneakers, and whenever he makes a good play, he forms an X with his arms, which, he’ll readily tell one and all, represents the final letter of the Bronx. After Pitt’s 66-45 drubbing of Syracuse at the Carrier Dome last Saturday, in which Krauser scored just five points but had 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals, he mentioned either the Bronx or New York City seven times in one conversation.

Krauser is also all business, as evidenced by his photo in the Panthers’ media guide, in which he’s scowling at the camera as if he’s just smelled expired milk. It’s a look that Krauser no doubt used to good advantage when he was an amateur boxer, his other love until he decided to focus on basketball at age 15.

Krauser’s New York City game and combativeness is a major reason why Pitt was 19-1 through Sunday and ranked seventh. He had big shoes to fill this season, taking over at point guard for honorable mention All-America Brandin Knight, whose eligibility expired after leading the Panthers to a 28-5 record and their second straight Sweet 16 appearance last season. Krauser went from an 18.6-minute-a-game backup to a starter, and if there were any doubts about his leadership abilities, they were erased early as he helped Pitt win its first 18 games. Quick, aggressive and flashy, Krauser was averaging 15.1 points, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals a game at week’s end. Says junior forward Chevon Troutman, “We’re more of a running team with him [than with Knight], and he’s definitely more of a scoring option. Even if he has two defenders in front of him, he’s going to push the ball and get somebody open if he doesn’t have a shot.”

Hey, my favorite team is in the Bronx.

Let’s face it. This was the classic let down game for Pitt. Two huge nationally televised road games against the best teams in the conference over the last ten years and going 1-1 last week. Being ranked in the top 10 for two straight weeks (and now heading to 3), a 37-game home winning streak (longest in the country). Everyone noticing Pitt. An opponent that couldn’t beat West Virginia. This is the kind of game that was ripe for the upset.

But Pitt pulled it out 68-58. The story after the game was Karl Krauser taking charge of the game late in the second half.

Since I couldn’t see the game in Cleveland, the news accounts and box score are my only guides. Read the news accounts to get the idea of how close the game actually was. I’m just going to look at the box score for my thoughts. Pat, if you got to see the game, please share your thoughts.

Coach Dixon seems to be making an effort to work McCarroll and Graves into the game more. Yes I know Graves saw a lot of minutes last night because Krauser had early foul trouble, but Graves has been getting more minutes over the past couple weeks. Toree Morris is holding steady at his 6-8 minutes per game. That seems plenty at this point. Demetrius is also steady with 4 minutes and 1 or 2 missed shots per game.

Taft seems to be shooting well at the charity stripe. Jaron Brown, though, eww. Yes, he made those two crucial FTs in the final minutes last night, but that only raised him to .500 for the game. There is no doubt that late in a close game, the other team will always look to send Brown to the line when trailing (hell, I’d consider it even with a lead).

The box score just reads like Pitt’s typical team game. It isn’t flashy. No one player’s line stands out, but everyone does a little of everything.

January 28, 2004

The Continuing Saga of Anthony Morelli

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lee @ 9:37 am

With only a week left before national signing day, the Altoona Mirror included a overview of local college football recruiting in today’s paper. Reflecting local sentiments, Penn State was portrayed as finishing strong and aggressively — in the running for five star recruits Anthony Morelli and New Jersey linebacker Brian Toal. The fact that Morelli had previously committed to Pitt and that Toal has usually listed Miami and Boston College before PSU was not reported until well into the second page of the article.

Pitt, meanwhile, was portrayed as desperately trying to hold on to what little it had.

Living around here, I’m more than used to the pro-Penn State/anti-Pitt sentiment in the Central Pennsylvania media. So all of this didn’t really interest me much. However, the following quote from Harry Psaros of Pantherlair.com regarding Morelli raised my eyebrows a little.

“I hate to say it, but I have a bad vibe about it as far as Pitt is concerned,” Pitt recruiting expert Harry Psaros of Pantherlair.com said. “I think that he began to think about the chance for early playing time… Morelli is probably going to end up at Penn State.”

This being a case of “your own man says so,” I’m officially worried about Morelli now. Has anybody else read anything on Morelli’s leanings? Furthermore, did Morelli ever visit Ohio State? I’m assuming that the Buckeyes have left Morelli alone (like they did Andrew Johnson), but I have no confirmation on that.

Losing Morelli to Penn State would suck huge.

Speaking of things that suck, Pitt has quietly dropped three places to #25 on the Official College Sports Network (by ESPN.com’s Bill Hodge) 2004 recruiting class rankings since yesterday. Ohio State remains at #5 and Penn State remains at #16.

No. 1 Southern California (Top JCs)
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Oklahoma
No. 5 Ohio State
No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Georgia
No. 8 Florida State
No. 9 Miami-Florida
No. 10 Maryland
No. 11 Texas A&M
No. 12 Florida
No. 13 Oregon
No. 14 Alabama
No. 15 Tennessee
No. 16 Penn State
No. 17 Washington
No. 18 Kansas State (Top JCs)
No. 19 Missouri
No. 20 Michigan State
No. 21 UCLA (Top JCs)
No. 22 Texas Tech (Top JCs)
No. 23 Purdue
No. 24 Nebraska
No. 25 Arkansas
Tie No. 25 Arizona State
Tie No. 25 Pittsburgh

Hail to a good end to the recruiting season.

Back in football season, I noted how little attention BC got from the local media. That doesn’t change come basketball season. The Boston Globe’s lone article on the game was really just part of a notes article listed under women’s basketball.

Eagles are pitted against a tough foe: Skinner is wary of seventh-ranked Panthers

The Boston Herald isn’t any better.

Skinner wary of Panthers

Apparently the word of the day is “wary.” How about the word of yesterday?

BC wary of a Pitt fall: Eagles face revitalized opponent

Oh. Well, wary on then.

Over to the Pittsburgh papers. Two columns on Pitt. One repeats the meme: Dixon was the right choice. Look, I’m not trying to hate on Dixon. The guy is doing more than you could hope in his first season. The team is obviously playing hard and well under him. I’m just saying that there needs to be a little perspective before you just declare that this was the right choice. What if the team flames out in a first round upset in the NCAA Tournament (I can’t believe I get to type that — the presumption, the arrogance)? Or what happens if they don’t make it past the first or second round of the Big East Tournament? It really will take a year or two to get to the point where you can better evaluate this.

The other is from radio guy Madden. Madden talking Pitt hoops? Madden talking hoops at all? I guess that is what happens when the NFL draft is still 2 1/2 months away, the Penguins are trying to hang on until the lock out/strike and the Pirates just suck. Well it’s a piece about how this team is better than last year’s team. I think a compelling case could be made, but his reasoning isn’t particular compelling.

Cook has a lazy columnist crutch — the one liner grab bag with a few things to say about Pitt. And one cheap shot for all the Penn State haters

What has it been? A month since a Penn State football player has been arrested? I’m not sure, but I think that’s a record.

A couple nice articles on Jaron Brown and his realistic expectations for life after Pitt (hint, not the NBA).

Both beat reporters for the Pittsburgh papers lead with the story of Craig Smith of BC and the fact that he came from California because USC and UCLA weren’t interested. I think everyone is just about sick of the winter weather.

Coaches or Writers Polls

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 12:01 am

This may be nitpicking, but I’d say 2004 has been a bad start for the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. There was, of course, the BCS mess. Now, I’m looking at the Coaches and AP Writers polls for this week.

Last week Pitt moved up significantly in both polls. Six spots in the coaches from #15 to #9; and five spots in the writers — #13 to #8. I thought that was a little high. In the past week Pitt played 2 big road games on national TV. A close loss to UConn, and a blowout win against Syracuse.

I figured Pitt would likely rise 1 maybe 2 spots in the ranks. The writers moved Pitt up a spot to #7, with UConn falling to #6. The Coaches, though, moved Pitt up 3 spots to #6.

I don’t quite get it. Pitt went 1-1 this past week. I’m all for Pitt getting props and the attention, but it’s hard to understand how going .500 for the week justifies the big bump.

What it points out, in my view, is how little attention the coaches actually pay to other teams unless they are on TV. The first 6 weeks or so of the schedule, Pitt had a hard time moving in the coaches poll. Pitt gets on TV, and in 2 weeks they suddenly jump 9 spots. By some coincidence, Pitt has 3 of its 4 games on ESPN and ESPN2.

Sad that I find the writers more accurate than the coaches.

January 27, 2004

For those of you who couldn’t imagine the Pennsylvania State University’s football program doing something that would somehow make it even more evil in your eyes, brace yourself. Chas, you in particular are gonna love this…

According to Neil Rudel‘s column in this morning’s edition of the Altoona Mirror, Joe Paterno is very seriously considering hiring former University of Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel for an undisclosed position on his staff.

“The worst-kept secret in State College centers around former Colorado and Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel spending time with Joe Paterno and possibly being in line for some kind of position.”

Rudel offers a quick justification for ignoring all of the NCAA violations in Neuheisel’s past.

“He did leave a checkered wake at Colorado and Washington… But given these desperate times, what with the Lions unable to recruit the quarterback they want — though Penn Hills’ Anthony Morelli visited over the weekend — Neuheisel’s presence could be a drawing card. Stay tuned.”

Stay tuned indeed. You know, in a perverse sort of way, I hope that Penn State does hire Rick Neuheisel. Wouldn’t it great to see Joe Paterno wrap up his career with a few solid NCAA recruiting violations?

Hail to Nittany Lion desperation. And hands off Morelli already.

Despite national signing day being only eight days off (February 4), Pitt football recruiting has been relatively quiet. Since my last update, there has been some movement in the Official College Sports Network (by ESPN.com’s Bill Hodge) 2004 recruiting class rankings. However, Pitt’s recruiting class has remained stuck at #22.

No. 1 Southern California (Top JCs)
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Oklahoma
No. 5 Ohio State
No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Georgia
No. 8 Florida State
No. 9 Miami-Florida
No. 10 Maryland
No. 11 Texas A&M
No. 12 Florida
No. 13 Oregon
No. 14 Alabama
No. 15 Tennessee
No. 16 Penn State
No. 17 Washington
No. 18 Kansas State (Top JCs)
No. 19 Missouri
No. 20 Michigan State
No. 21 UCLA (Top JCs)
No. 22 Pittsburgh
No. 23 Texas Tech (Top JCs)
No. 24 Purdue
No. 25 Arizona State

I find it interesting that although neither Ohio State, Penn State, nor Pitt has signed anybody since my last update, Ohio State has climbed up a spot to #5 (jumping Texas), Penn State has dropped four spots (eight spots since January 16… the Nittany Lions are in the recruiting doldrums, apparently) to #16, and Pitt has remained stuck at #22. Anti-PSU bias in the media, of course.

Incidentally, Pitt remains the only loyal Big East Conference member in OCSN’s top 25.

Over on Superprep.com (powered by TheInsiders.com Recruiting Network), Pitt’s recruiting class remains unranked. Superprep’s top four are identical to OCSN’s. However, Miami and Georgia stand ahead of Ohio State at #7. Penn State is at #9, and Virginia Tech (unranked by OCSN) is at #25.

I haven’t heard anything new on the Anthony Morelli front, so I assume he’s still headed to Pitt… not that some Penn State fans aren’t a little anxious

Sean (Philadelphia): Please give me your opinion as to whether or not PSU can get Anthony Morelli. It would be great for Penn State and their fans!

Tom Lemming: It looks like Morelli might be shopping around. Penn State and Ohio State are two schools he is serious about. However, he still remains committed to Pitt.

…or even a little bitter…

Ray (MI): Tom, Why do you try to be negative on Penn State chances. I have been observing you for a long time and even on the prospects they have a legitimate chnace you mention that they do not have a prayer? Hope you answer my question..thanks

Tom Lemming: I said earlier that the Nittany Lions have a shot at getting Morelli from Pitt. I’m just trying to be honest here. Penn State started out fast and have hit the skids over the past few months and are trying to rebound.

Hail to Nittany Lion paranoia.

January 26, 2004

Misc. Media

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:38 am

Just a couple articles to point out. Another recap of the game in the Tribune-Review. One of those inside the numbers type pieces. It’s pretty good. Some interesting points regarding the power forward play of Troutman and McCarroll.

Up in Syracuse, they are still feeling the after effects of losing two straight — and taking a physical beating in the process.

But they have not responded to the strength, toughness and aggression of the recent Big East Conference opponents, said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

“I just think mentally we weren’t tough out there tonight,” he said after watching his team score 45 points, the fewest in his 28 seasons and 895 games. “Craig Forth is 7-foot, 260 pounds and he got pushed all around the court. Billy (Edelin) is 210 pounds.

“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the weight room (strength). I think our guys are strong enough. Missouri’s as physical as anybody. We just didn’t play physical today. We didn’t accept the physical challenge and that was it. Bottom line.”

Pittsburgh, a team known for its physical play, out-muscled Syracuse 50-36 on the boards. The Panthers outscored Syracuse 40-18 in the paint. They limited SU to a season-worst

27.3-percent shooting (15-for-55) from the field.

“We didn’t go out there and hit anybody,” said forward Hakim Warrick. “We let them come hit us and they just took it to us from the start.”

Syracuse gets a week off — well, a week of practices with those losses lingering in the background — then they get perennial bottom feeder Virginia Tech to take out a lot of aggression. Take Syracuse and give the points no matter how ridiculous the spread. Syracuse should be downright surly.

Pitt’s next opponent is Boston College, January 28. The Boston Herald‘s college basketball writer noticed.

As if things weren’t dreary enough for Boston College after it lost to a very beatable West Virginia team Saturday in Morgantown, W. Va., the Eagles’ coaches had to sit in front of the television and watch their next opponent, No. 8 Pittsburgh, dismantle No. 13 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome that same night.

On Wednesday, BC will visit the Panthers, who have won 37 straight home games, the last 31 at their new Petersen Center. The streak is the best in the nation.

I’m guessing that the crowd might be a little juiced after Pitt’s play in the last week.

Finally, the new polls will come out this evening. I expect Pitt will either rise a notch or two or stay in the same position.

January 25, 2004

Pitt-Syracuse: Media Notes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:22 pm

A late Saturday night game means no opinion columns made the papers for Sunday. Just game recaps. Pittsubrhg Tribune-Review and Post-Gazette point to Pitt’s strength and complete dominance.

In the Syracuse papers, they too talk of Pitt’s muscle, and being too overpowering.

One of the themes is that Syracuse was held to its lowest point total ever in the Carrier Dome, and the lowest since 1968.

The best write-up came from Orangenation.net. I have to say that the guys running this site seem to be total class and are not just fanboys but honest in their assessments and breakdowns. They paid respect to Pitt, and this stood out to me.

That’s the toughest thing about this loss- we got beat up and mauled by a team that plays, (and I say this with admiration), like the school-yard bully. Boeheim said after the game “We have to get tougher.” If we don’t we will go down to Pittsburgh a month from now, (February 29th), wondering if they are going to steal our lunch money.

Imagine, Pitt as the bully against ‘Cuse. I feel warm inside, and not just because of the bourbon.

Surprise, surprise, surprise. Pitt is a tough team. Once again, game notes. Apologies for not posting this sooner, but I had a lot to do today around the house and with the family. Better late than never, game notes.

The Pitt game was set to tip at 8:08. 8 pm, plop into a chair, grab a beer, then the remote and flick to ESPN2. Howard Dean-esque scream/yell as the Tennessee-Duke women’s basketball game is still taking place. They give the programming note saying that they will be going to the Carrier Dome after the game. Unfortunately, despite being in the last couple minutes the country is subjected to the worst thing in basketball. The game is almost-but-not-quite out of reach resulting in excessive fouls, timeouts and stoppage of play, The end result is an excrutiating extension of a game.

This is not to rant on the WNBA or women’s basketball. I don’t care. I would have been bent if it had been a regular game with ‘Nova and St. John’s at the wire. I wanted to go to the game that I had been waiting all day to watch. The game I had been practically counting down the minutes until.

Finally the game ends, but they don’t immediately switch over. Instead, I am subjected to a meaningless postgame -on-the-flooor interviews before the switch. Under normal circumstances, my inner-Beevis and Butthead would have been happy to watch interviews of women’s coaches by Heather Cox. Especially, getting to Duke’s Tasha Butts; but not now.

Finally, they go to Syracuse, NY. Missed the first 4:24 (and roughly 10 minutes real time). Dave Strader and Len Elmore are calling the game. Good. Strader and Elmore aren’t that annoying, and are easily tuned out. What does it say, when every time you tune in a game that Dick Vitale isn’t attending is considered a good thing?

Gerry McNamara is playing (apparently started) for ‘Cuse. Looks good right now, but let’s see how that groin feels after a few TV timeouts.

The score is low. Pitt is 3-12 in shooting in the first 5-6 minutes. Thankfully, Syracuse is shooting almost as bad, so Pitt has the lead by one. Syracuse is running its 2-3 zone, but Pitt is blowing right through it. Problem is Pitt can’t buy a basket. An ugly game, though, favors Pitt.

Chris Taft is having a great first half. He’s getting rebounds and points, not to mention blocking or redirecting shots.

By Halftime, Pitt has a 29-23 lead.

There wasn’t much to say about the first half. It was plain ugly. Both sides struggled to make shots. Neither team made runs, so much as the other side missed and turned the ball over more than the other for stretches. Pitt was dominating on the boards. Especially offensive boards — major contribution factor, of course, being the number of missed shots provided many, many second chance opportunities. The refs were Big East refs. They let them bang a lot, which favored Pitt.

Pitt went 3-12 from 3-point land, after starting 3-5. Pitt needs to take the ball inside more. The 2-3 zone is not working with Pitt’s bigger and stronger interior guys who can pass inside and out.

I don’t think McNamara will be a big factor in the second half. He started out decently with a couple 3s, and played a lot more than I thought, but his shots aren’t falling and that groin is only going to get worse.

The second half starts with Pitt scoring first on a fast break score. Krauser to Taft. Man that was ugly. Pitt just should avoid running the floor for purely aethestic reasons.

The second half continues with ‘Cuse still sticking to the 2-3 zone, and it’s costing them. McNamara is still in the game. I have to believe they are sticking with the zone to keep McNamara from having to chase any one too far.

Taft is getting a lot of props, and deservedly so for his game. He has an already strong defensive presence, but the accoclades are because of his skills on the offense with the soft passes and his touch off the glass. Chevy Troutman, though, is finally playing like he did last year, but without the attention. He is getting after the boards and doing all the dirty work inside on defense tonight. He isn’t getting drawn too far out on defense.

Mark McCarroll is getting a lot more minutes tonight. The problem is he is no match for Hakim Warrick. McCarroll is very soft on defense. He has some good moves on offense, but until he improves his D; his minutes will not be going up.

With 12:09 left, Pitt has now reached a 46-32 lead. Pitt has been slowly wearing down Syracuse since the last 5 minutes in the first half. It isn’t a big run at any time. It’s a slow, grinding, punishing, millstone approach. The kind of game that slowly saps the will of an opponent, because without that big burst to give hope to answering, you just want to finish and go ice yourself down.

Of course, the refs are starting to call a much tighter game in the second half. By 12:02, Syracuse is in the bonus against Pitt shooting one-and-one. UConn, Pitt and Syracuse — the entire elite of the Big East appears to be incapable of making free throws, so this is probably working against Syracuse.

With less than 11 minutes to go, and Pitt still extending the lead, Strader and Elmore talk about the job by Dixon in taking over from Howland. It’s kind of obligatory, I guess. Pitt now has a 50-32 lead.

With 10 minutes to go in the game, McNamara is sitting more, and Syracuse goes to man-to-man defense. Too little, too late.

Pitt is using more of its bench as Syracuse just looks whupped. Morris, Graves, (and even) Demetrius are getting some minutes with McCarroll in the second half.

With 4:37 left, Pitt takes a 60-40 lead. A couple minutes later it is 64-43 and a wide shot of the Carrier Dome shows a very empty place (understandably).

Final Score. Pitt 66-45.

Post game on ESPN News. Strader says that it was all Pitt. Especially on the Defense.

Len Elmore interviews Coach Dixon and Chris Taft. Dixon spouts pure cliched coachspeak. Nothing interesting.

Taft, who had 15 points (6-10) and 8 rebounds was happy and confident. He said he expected to play well and was just playing his game.

Box Score review.

Troutman had the kind of game that makes him my favorite. 12 points (5-8 shooting), 11 boards (with a whopping 7 on the offensive end), a blocked shot and 4 personal fouls. Doing all the hard work and banging inside.

This was a powerful statement game for Pitt. They completely rebounded from the tough loss to UConn, to just beat up on Syracuse. Syracuse is stuck wondering how they can beat Pitt.

January 24, 2004

Themes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:08 am

Okay, I’ll take credit for it. In one post, I seemed to have covered the local media themes for the week. Moral victory for Pitt against UConn. Check. No more moral victories for Pitt. Check. Praising Dixon as clearly the right hire. Check.

The game is on ESPN2 at 8 tonight. The teams are ready to have at it.

Depressing note of Pitt’s basketball history while looking over the game notes (warning big PDF). This season was only the 6th time Pitt was ranked in the preseason top-25 polls.

January 23, 2004

Classic

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:52 pm

I suppose for alumni of big schools like Michigan, Georgia, Ohio State, Texas, North Carolina and such it is no big deal when ESPN Classic airs a college football or basketball game their team played. As a Pitt fan, though, it is a special treat to come across it.

So this afternoon at 3pm, I was pleasantly surprised to catch Pitt vs. Syracuse from January 4, 1989. Syracuse was the #2 team in the country with Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. They were hosting the underachieving Pitt Panthers. This would have been in my freshman year. Prior to the last few years, this was the one of the final Pitt teams to be competitive and massively underachieve under coach Paul Evans. This group ran until about 1991. Names from the past that only a Pitt fan can recall:

Brian Shorter, Darrelle Porter, Jason Matthews, Bobby Martin, and Sean Miller.

(Though, Miller is now considered a hot young coaching prospect, presently as an assistant at Xavier.)

Pitt upset ‘Cuse 81-76, in what was only the 6th time Pitt won at Syracuse (and the last time until 1997).

Very strange to hear Dick Vitale (with Tim Brando) seem almost muted. He was a relatively normal color guy then. It’s almost distracting.

Since my last update, there has been some movement in the latest 2004 recruiting class rankings of both the Official College Sports Network (by ESPN.com’s Bill Hodge) and Superprep.com (powered by TheInsiders.com Recruiting Network). However, the position of Pitt’s recruiting class hasn’t changed in either: #22 on Hodge’s list and unranked in Superprep’s.

OCSN/HODGE — SUPERPREP
No. 1 Southern California — 1. Southern California
No. 2 LSU — 2. LSU
No. 3 Michigan — 3. Michigan
No. 4 Oklahoma — 4. Oklahoma
No. 5 Texas — 5. Miami-Florida
No. 6 Ohio State — 6. Ohio State
No. 7 Miami-Florida — 7. Georgia
No. 8 Georgia — 8. Texas
No. 9 Maryland — 9. Penn State
No. 10 Florida — 10. Maryland
No. 11 Oregon — 11. UCLA
No. 12 Penn State — 12. Texas A&M
No. 13 Texas A&M — 13. Florida
No. 14 Alabama — 14. Tennessee
No. 15 Florida State — 15. Florida State
No. 16 UCLA — 16. North Carolina
No. 17 Kansas State — 17. Oregon
No. 18 Tennessee — 18. Wash. State
No. 19 Washington — 19. Washington
No. 20 Michigan State — 20. Alabama
No. 21 Missouri — 21. Texas Tech
No. 22 Pittsburgh — 22. Iowa
No. 23 Texas Tech — 23. Virginia Tech
No. 24 Purdue — 24. Virginia
No. 25 Arizona State — 25. Michigan State

…alright, you try to get columns to line up straight on Blogger — you know, Blogger can be a piece of $#!T at times…

Although Pitt didn’t move since Monday, Ohio State (now #6) got passed by Oklahoma and Texas while Penn State (now #12) got passed by Florida and Oregon on Hodge’s list.

National signing day is now only 12 days off (February 4). So watch out for the cr@p hitting the fan this weekend.

Although I’m a little surprised that enthusiastically shouting out a couple of state’s names is apparently enough to disqualify one from the Presidency, is anybody all that sorry to see Dean fall behind Kerry (and perhaps even Edwards)?

Hail to Pitt beating Syracuse.

Pitt-Syracuse

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 8:46 am

I get the feeling no one really knows what is going to happen on Saturday in the game. The Post-Gazette’s only Pitt article focuses on the fact that Coach Dixon has cut the minutes for the bench players in favor of playing the starters more, now that the Big East portion of the schedule has begun. Shocking. The competition gets better and Pitt opts to play the guys who are the best players more.

The Tribune-Review looks back at the thriller in the Carrier Dome from last year — especially the bizarre events in the last second of the game. Pitt lost that game 67-65, and many ‘Cuse faithful saw that game as the turning point in the season.

It seems Syracuse point guard, Gerry McNamara, who injured his groin earlier in the week is feeling better (via Orange Juice). Whether he plays, plays limited or sits is still unknown.

When McNamara struggles offensively, so has Syracuse. In SU’s seven losses since the start of last season, the 6-foot-2 guard is averaging 13 points on 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 30.2-percent shooting from the 3-point line.

In SU’s 43 wins, he’s scoring 14.7 points on 41.8 percent shooting from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Though McNamara has had no serious injuries in his first 50 games in Syracuse, he is a guard who is typically fighting through nagging injuries, many as a result from his hustle and dives to the floor.

I expect he will play.

Orangenation has an absolutely stellar analysis of the match-up. I’m not sure what I can add to this look at the 88th meeting between Pitt and Syracuse.

Judging by what I’m reading, though, if McNamara has a bad game, the fans don’t feel good about their chances. Given that McNamara, at best, will still be feeling a little tender Pitt should probably look to keep a body on him at all time, and maybe see about running him through a few screens at the other end. I’m feeling a little wishy-washy, though, and can’t help but think that Syracuse might have started preparing for the game with the assumption that McNamara wouldn’t play (or would be very limited). It’s not like he’s their only weapon. I have no clue how this game will turn out.

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