February 14, 2007

Hollywood, PA

Filed under: Alumni,Basketball,Players,The 'Burgh — Dennis @ 11:26 am

A nasty paper cut is going to make typing this take twice as long as it should, but the news of celebrity sightings at the Pete have to be mentioned. Monday’s game saw Dallas Mavericks owner and possible Pens/Pirates owner (we all know this’ll never happen) sitting court side. Word has it he might actually be interested in purchasing Pitt and maybe even moving the school to Dallas.

New Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was also there Monday, following Bill Cowher’s steps in attending. Other notable people who have been to the Pete in the last 5 years: Jeff Reed, Jerome Bettis (to support ND mostly), Franco Harris, Mel Blount, Mark Malone, Kordell Stewart, Joey Porter, Hines Ward, Marc Bulger, Dave Littlefield, the late Mayor Bob O’Connor, current Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Gov. Ed Rendell, gubernatorial candidate and ex-Steeler Lynn Swann, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy and Alex Trebek.

Then we get this quote from Jeff Long.

As Pitt athletic director Jeff Long said of his facility, “It has become the place to be in the cold, winter months in Pittsburgh.”

Pitt basketball might be the place for the stars but for most regular people it’s hard to get a ticket. The hottest ticket in town might be a Pitt game if you like to make a donation on top of your season ticket expenses (or if you’re a celebrity) but to be honest, most people would rather go to a Penguins game than try to find a way into the Pete. With the student rush tickets for Pens games (generally a very good ticket for only $20), more people would say the Igloo is the place to be.

That’s not a big deal though. It’s the fact that Pitt is willing to screw “real” fans who actually care about weather they win or lose in order to bring in big names who don’t really care about the game.

Looking at the actual product on the court though…

I think this is where we miss Krauser. Not his skill set (Fields has filled in much better than most would have ever guessed) but the actual kind of person he was. Monday night, Louisville was able to get pumped up for that game. You can go ahead and say the Cards needed it but it’s not like Pitt has already clinched the Big East regular season title and can afford to lose the rest of their games. Krauser would have been able to bring some life to a team last night that was dead.

Perhaps it’s that Levance feels too young to step up and be vocal. Maybe he’s just naturally not a loud guy. The fact is we really don’t have anyone who can get the emotions going before and during the game.

It’s almost unfair to pick on the articles in both papers about how Pitt’s flaws were exposed by the Louisville loss. How teams will study the tape and use it as a blueprint from here on out against Pitt. I mean, my first thought was, “Duh.”

Of course teams are going to look at the tapes and see stuff on there. Once again, though, few teams can do it like that. Generally speaking, the press is very effective at creating turnovers against a lot of teams. It’s not used by a lot of teams because it is also very difficult to execute well and consistently. Not to mention personnel issues. Not every team can play as deep as Louisville did — and space out the fouling.

It’s like asking Pitt to try and create more turnovers on defense faster. Pressing and going for the steals. It isn’t to the players’ and team’s strength. I was always a fan of the Richardson-Arkansas “40 minutes of hell” style of defense, but that was not nearly so effective when the wrong players were trying to play in it.

I’m not dismissing the articles out of hand. There is stuff in there that makes good points.

The Huskies will pay extra attention to the Louisville tape. They will notice how Louisville switched from a zone defense to a man-to-man whenever Pitt got the ball inside the foul line. The objective was to prevent Gray from passing to a perimeter shooter for a 3-point attempt.

It effectively neutralized Gray’s ability to find the open shooter, one of his strengths.

The strategy worked. Pitt, the Big East’s top 3-point shooting team, was a season-worst 3 of 21.

“When the ball goes inside, they are very smart finding their shooters,” Pitino said. “So, once it went inside, we weren’t going to let it go outside to a shooter.”

But the counter-point is that Pitt will be working on solving that issues. Starting with the next opponent, Washington, you are also talking about a team with players that size and style-wise aren’t anything like the Cardinals.

Still, there were some amusing things.

Pitt has proven in the past that it is more than capable of coming back from seven or nine points down. Once the deficit reaches double digits, however, the Panthers have a hard time getting back into games.

Louisville jumped on Pitt early and led, 13-2, before the game was five minutes old. The Cardinals led by as many as 19 in the first half and 20 in the second half, forcing Pitt into a catch-up mode, something with which the Panthers are neither familiar nor comfortable.

Does the term truism mean anything? It generally doesn’t happen that a team comes back from double-digits. They make a run, they can get close, but it  generally doesn’t happen. That’s why teams don’t like to go down by double-digits. They can comeback, but it ain’t easy.

Other Struggles

Filed under: Basketball,Numbers,Players — Chas @ 7:38 am

Has anyone noticed that Ronald Ramon has been in a shooting slump? No. Really. Here are his shooting numbers in total and then on 3-pointers.

Louisville: 1-6 — 1-6

Providence: 0-4 — 0-3

West Virginia: 2-2 — 2-2

Villanova: 0-3 — 0-3

St. John’s: 2-5 — 1-4

Total: 5-20 — 4-18

Obviously no one was complaining or really noticing since Pitt had won the prior 4 games. Besides, he hasn’t been the lightning rod for criticism the way Levon Kendall (as much a reaction to constant media puffery) or Mike Cook (in a slump starting from the ‘Nova game) have become.

I think part of the reason for the slump is that Ramon is now struggling to get open as teams are much more aware of what he can do — and can’t do — so they are playing a lot tighter on him and making it harder for him to get a good look. As we all know, he is not the kind of guard that can create his own space. The other part, of course, is he is just missing shots. Even when he is coming off the screens, lately, the shots just aren’t going. Hopefully that will change — soon.

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