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February 21, 2007

…and we’ll play two very tough games and one moderately tough game to finish out the Big East regular season.

Here’s what we’re looking at before the Big East Tournament:

Date — Opponent
2/24 — Georgetown
2/27 — West Virginia
3/3 — at Marquette

So let’s take a look at what’s on the schedule. The beginning of the end starts with a Georgetown team that is streaking and knocked Pitt off from the top of the B.E. Power Poll for the first time all year. The winner of Saturday’s game will not only be atop the power poll but will also likely be the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament.

To be honest, I don’t want Pitt to be the top seed because it means a noon tipoff up in NYC. In order for that to happen, we’d need to lose another game though; not a big fan of that option. A lose-lose situation — damn.

Back to this game though. A loss to Georgetown would make a ton of people uneasy. Actually, a sloppy game that we win will still make people a bit shifty. We need a solid game from every single player soon enough so that we can all calm down a bit. I’m not freaking out, just a little uneasy.

Then we host the Mountaineers and will avoid seeing this guy. Losing to them would be a big downer for a few reasons. First off, it’s WVU. West F#%&in Virginia. I hate losing to them and I’m sure you feel the same way. Losing to a team with an RPI below 50 doesn’t look too great and right now they sit at 53 according to ESPN but that could/will certainly change by next Tuesday. By the way, they aren’t a great team at home and the Zoo should have some fun with them.

Oh yeah, did I mention we really don’t want to lose just because they’re WVU?

To close out the regular season are the Marquette Dominic James’. They live and die by his shot which means depending on how the 2 1/2 weeks leading up to the game work out will determine this game’s importance. By that time we might have already wrapped up the reg. season title…or we could be fighting for the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th spot. Either way, both teams will want to go into the conference tournament on a good note.

It should be a fun stretch before the greatest time of the year (gotta love filling out your brackets, don’t ya?). If I had to predict, I’d say we beat WVU and split with Georgetown/Marquette. After watching this Pitt team though it would be no surprise to see us run the table or go 1-2 (because we’re not losing to West Virginia).

Hey there, lots going on today. Spam commenting exploded for whatever reason today. Seems like I spent half the morning dealing with that. Cinci football may still be building itself to BCS level, but good news, they can be accused of sex, recruiting and possible videotape scandals like the big boys.

Pitt is unbeaten in conference road games so far this year. I’m torn about how good that should feel. Part of me was ready to denigrate it because it included Cinci, Seton Hall and DePaul. But when you consider that DePaul has knocked off ND, Marquette and Kansas at home, that win looks pretty good. Even in a down year, beating Syracuse on the road is pretty good. Villanova was a nice win, and doing the Hoopies at the concrete toadstool always is a strong statement.

In a season where no one seems to win on the road very much, no matter what conference, this is impressive. Or as fellow fanhouse bloogger MJD (who is also the weekend editor at Deadspin) put it, “I don’t care who you are, in what conference … that is manly. It speaks to Pitt’s veteran leadership, and their ability to play a number of different styles.”

Of course, all that positive feelings about how Pitt did on the road can go right out the window if Pitt doesn’t at least get a  split in the final 2 road games.

Georgetown has a road game tonight at Cinci, so there isn’t much hype yet for the Saturday, 2pm CBS game. One thing is certain, Pitt will see more of DaJuan Summers then they did back in January.

Georgetown has been on a roll since Summers picked up on some of the Princeton-influenced nuances in the half-court offense and bought in to the urging of coach John Thompson III that he could be a defensive stopper.

Summers played a total of 44 minutes in Georgetown’s first three games. In Saturday’s win at Villanova, he was on the floor for 35. Nearly a 40 percent shooter from three-point range until he missed all four of his long-distance attempts in Philadelphia, Summers was nonetheless clutch at the free-throw line, where he made seven of eight, and he blocked a career-high four shots.

In Big East games, Summers is averaging 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and nearly 30 minutes. He defends bigs and smalls – see the clamps he put on Towson’s Gary Neal in December, and the possessions during which he checked 6-2 Scottie Reynolds at Villanova.

Summers may not have the numbers to crack the Big East All-Rookie team in this season of the freshman, but if Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Brandan Wright and Chase Budinger all take the money and run, he would be among the best sophomores in the nation next season.

In the G-town-Pitt game last month (PDF), Summers only played 21 minutes and scored only 4 points (1-5) and had 1 rebound.

I realize Pitt has played plenty of easy teams in the non-con in recent years. And that getting 20+ wins is no longer as hard as it used to be. Still, congratulations are in order for Coach Dixon in getting 100 wins and only 26 losses in just 4 seasons.

I know there is still a good amount of mixed feelings about Dixon, but there is a reason that he is considered one of the best young coaches out there right now. The only recruits left on this team that could be considered “Howland recruits” are Gray and Kendall, but they never played for him.

I agree Dixon is still learning some things — particularly with late game situations and putting a team away, but I also don’t see anyone doing a better job with this team over the past 4 years.

Dixon has been building this program as he keeps improving the recruiting. He has worked to improve the profile of the program in the community. The work he has been doing to develop and grow local basketball through the summer league and things like that. I don’t think that can be underestimated. It is the sort of thing that will pay dividends for years later for Pitt.  It’s a longview approach to helping Pitt improve the local basketball and recruiting base.

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