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January 5, 2007

Last night up in the Air Conditioning dome looked like we were going down do the wire for a long time and yet we pulled away in the final few minutes. The first half almost got ugly for us at points but the way we finished the half, combined with the quick start at the beginning of the second half, got us back on track quickly.

Most of this was thanks to Levance Fields carrying us through. 24 points, 3-7 on three pointers, and a handful of assists to go along with those. So far he’s filled the Krauser role well and leading us to a win over Syracuse up at their place, no matter how good or bad they are, is a breakout type of win.

Two worst stats of the game?

Free throw shooting was 9 of 17. As a ton of commenters asked, “Do we even practice foul shots?” Big Aaron Gray missing one or two in a double overtime is different since he can barely pick up his feet, let alone concentrate and shoot a good foul shot. Missing them in the first and second half (not just Gray, all players) is inexcusable. Thankfully, Fields and Ramon did a good job making most of them when they were intentionally fouling us in the last minute but missing on that many free points that they’re handing to us is not going to take us to the Final Four. Maybe not even the Sweet Sixteen.

Aaron Gray scored 9 points. The main focus of your offense needs to get the ball more than he did last night. Terrence Roberts sat out for a while and we still couldn’t feed it into him. If Levance wasn’t hitting shots like that (which I guarantee won’t happen every night) and teams keep the ball from getting inside then we might as well not expect a win. Forget the fact that they were changing defenses and packing the middle. We had plenty of time to prepare and still they held him in single digits.

Complaining after a win is hard because, after all, we won. A tournament game played like this is going to send us home though and we’ll know exactly why.

I could be premature or simply unfair, but one of my (many) concerns after this past year with Pitt football is how Pitt handles the decisionmaking on the best way to use the players and athletes.

With the successful recruiting of Maurice Williams out of Erie, PA; and thinking back to Wannstedt talking about recruiting and evaluating players earlier this week on the Sugar Bowl pregame. Now what? Williams was recruited to be a WR, but he hasn’t played the position since he was a sophomore, and he has been playing DB as well as QB.

Whiel Rivals.com and Scout.com both put him as a WR, ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc. argued that his potential lie in being a Safety (Insider subs.):

This kid is a special athlete. We are projecting him as a cover safety who can play corner and has the size to match up in press, but he is also electrifying with the ball in his hands on offense and would make a scary wide receiver. He possesses the size, strength, agility and foot speed to play any position in the secondary effectively. He is a playmaker in coverage and has the big play ability on interceptions. He is a smooth and fluid moving athlete.

A fairly glowing review, that ends with this.

In our opinion, Williams is a supreme athlete who you take regardless of what position he ends up playing because you can’t coach some of his natural tools; he could become an impact player at more than one position.

And that’s what scares the crap out of me with Pitt. Do they have a plan on where to play him? Or are they going to make a late change and potentially waste him while trying to figure out what to do with him.

Credit has to go to my favorite target Paul Rhoads who was the lead in recruiting Williams. That also means there is potential for the defense to want to get him. Especially when you consider how crowded the WR position is looking these days (and anyone want to hazard a guess as to where Dorin Dickerson will be playing in 2007?).

I go back to Wannstedt’s point on TV about the importance and challenge of making good evaluations of kids. That also goes to evaluating the right players who fit what you (want to) do. Wannstedt wants speed everywhere. Great, but he has to know where to put players like Williams and Dickerson. They are talented players, but they aren’t strictly/necessarily a single-position player in any traditional sense coming out of high school. That puts it on the coaches to figure out quickly what to do with them.

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