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March 23, 2004

Which Way the Wind(bag) Blows

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:15 am

Some of my friends dislike Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports columnist Bob Smizik because they perceive him to always be negative about Pitt. He isn’t, but Smizik is a very inconsistent, flip-flopping, tired, lazy sportswriter. He has been mailing it in for some time.

It isn’t like he even waits too long before ignoring his previous position. In the end of February, Smizik did a column about how irrelevant seeding was — while arguing Pitt might be better off in the NCAA as a #2 seed. A few days later his column argued that Pitt shouldn’t be concerned with the Big East Regular Season title. Just focus on the NCAA because

For a nationally elite team such as Pitt, the Big East regular season and tournament are relatively minor preludes to the NCAA tournament

I failed then and still fail to see how they were mutually exclusive. You get into the Tourney and get a good seeding position by winning. Winning the Big East Regular Season only helps the positioning in the Tourney (albeit not as much as we thought).

Two weeks ago, as the Big East Tournament (BET) was about to start. Smizik wrote about how Pitt shouldn’t be trying to win the BET, again because the NCAA is more important. He basically suggested Pitt should tank early to get a few extra days of rest. It was something that probably sounded good in the abstract, but to apply it means you are telling players not to try. Not to care for these games and then turn it on later. It doesn’t work that way.

They can’t just throttle back, to prevent injury. Smizik seems to be casting about for something “controversial” to say without being negative (yet). Let’s predict his storylines post NCAA if Pitt wins the BET or loses the BET.

Wins BET, Elite Eight or better — These columns never existed. Clearly a successful season after all the turmoil for Pitt basketball and the Big East in the last year.

Wins BET loses in Sweet Sixteen — Told you so. Maybe Pitt would have won if they had gotten a little more rest, for a game that took place in 2 weeks later.

Loses BET, Elite Eight or better — Told you so. The BET was irrelevant. All that mattered was the NCAA, and perhaps not having to play as much in the BET helped.

Loses BET, loses in Sweet Sixteen — Disappointing end to the season. Columns about seeding and how unimportant the BET was never happened.

Well, Pitt lost the BET Championship game, and last week Smizik said this about Pitt.

Can a seriously flawed team overcome its deficiencies and advance to the Final Four?

So, after losing by 3 to UConn in the BET Championship — in something Smizik didn’t want Pitt to try too hard — Pitt went from elite to seriously flawed. Flawed. Perhaps. It’s a fair argument in the parity of college basketball that every team has flaws, though. But “seriously flawed?”

Today, the Smizik column declares that Pitt just “knows how to win.”

The NCAA tournament has provided the rest of the country an opportunity to learn something we already knew: The Pitt basketball team is special. Basketball fans and media members are discovering that these Panthers are an uncommon group. They’re learning that Pitt is a throwback, a team that is fitting of all the cliches, a team where substance decisively triumphs over style.

Does anyone in the P-G sports department look at his columns from one week to the next? Smizik just seems to be trying to position himself so he can say “told you so” know matter what happens. Weak.

[…] For Pitt, though, it is overemphasized because they had nothing left for the NCAA Tournament. Really, if Smizik was going to recycle a column, I would have expected his 2006 complaint about Pitt not being a good shooting team. You know, because they were too focused on defense and rebounding. He couldn’t complain about it in 2005, because Pitt lost in the first round of the BET. Don’t worry, he doubled it up in 2004, with focus on the unimportance of the BET and the regular season title, but then complained about how flawed Pitt was after losing the BET. […]

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