February 24, 2007

And in the meantime, I’m nervously watching Syr-Prov; Cinci-DePaul; Miami-VPI; OKSt-TTU. On top of that I’m trying to post. Wheee!!!

I do feel a sense of equilibrium returning. Bob Smizik is complaining that Pitt is in trouble.

Neither game, despite large doses of praise for all his players by coach Jamie Dixon, was what might be expected from a top-10 team. The team has to play better if it has any hope of advancing beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Playing better certainly is in the realm of possibility despite the level of upcoming competition. Much has been made about the unselfish nature of the Pitt players. Praised is heaped upon them for their pass-first mentality.

Maybe that’s a problem. Maybe Pitt is too unselfish.

That’s right, essentially his complaint is that the frontcourt of Gray, Kendall and Cook are not being aggressive enough shooting. Forget that Cook was in a bit of a slump shooting — killing his point totals. Kendall hasn’t shot well most of the season. They need to take more shots.

I feel better.

Gray’s status is still up in the air, but some good news.

Gray apparently does not have a high ankle sprain, which is a serious injury to the ligaments between the two major bones – the tibia and fibula – of the lower leg. The Pitt official said he believed that the sprain was lower, a common injury for basketball players.

The semi-official word is that it remains unlikely that Gray will play. He hasn’t practiced with the team this week. Instead working on drills — and yes, free throws — and mobility stuff.

Regardless of whether Gray plays or not, Levon Kendall is still expected to pick up some more of the scoring and rebounding slack.

Against Seton Hall, Dixon called on Kendall for chances that would normally go to Gray. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Kendall converted, shooting 6 of 8 from the floor and playing a team-high 33 minutes.

“We needed that,” Dixon said. “That was a learning experience for me.”

It was an offensive breakout for Kendall. Prior to Seton Hall, he had scored in double-figures once in the previous 20 games. In 96 career games at Pitt, Kendall has never scored more than 15 points in a game.

Kendall, who averages 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, rarely shoots. He is attempting fewer than five field goals per game.

“I think Coach Dixon has some confidence in me that I can get some touches and make some plays,” Kendall said. “I knew that opportunity was going to come. It’s nice to be able to do that in a game and show that we can run plays for me at (center) and still be successful.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly Seton Hall and a small front court he’s shooting against.

If you care about individual accolades, this game could be a statement for Georgetown Forward Jeff Green as Big East Player of the Year.

Both Pitt and Georgetown have their reputations this season on the front courts. The backcourts for both were question marks going into the season.

But a New York City rivalry is brewing in the backcourt.

Panthers guards Ronald Ramon and Vance Fields hail from the Bronx and Brooklyn, respectively, while Hoyas sophomore Jessie Sapp is a Harlem native.

“We’ve been friends for a long time and played together in AAU,” said Sapp. “So I know what they do, and they know what I do.”

Sapp also knows guard play was supposed to be the Hoyas’ weak link this season.

“We heard it, but we really didn’t pay any mind to it,” said Sapp, who combines with backcourt mate Jonathan Wallace to average more than 20 points per game. “We came in with the state of mind that we had to work as a team.”

Wallace (11.2 ppg) has been unflappable, shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range. He’s also a recognized team leader. Sapp (9.3 ppg) doesn’t carry the same stature, but has started 25 of 26 games and is a tireless worker who unafraid of big shots. He matched his career-high with 16 points against Villanova last Saturday, tied for a team-high 15 at Pittsburgh last month, and he’s averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the last two games.

Neither team expects a repeat of the last meeting when the teams were so good on offense.

“Both teams shot 60 percent from the field. That was unbelievable, especially for two very good defensive teams,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

“Offensively, both teams had to be happy with the way they played. I would think both coaches would look at their defense and think they could do a better job.”

That first game was an aberration. Georgetown has the No. 1 scoring defense in the Big East at 56.5 points per game. Only one team scored more points against Georgetown this season than Pitt — Old Dominion had 75 against the Hoyas in the third game of the season.

Less than an hour or so.

I don’t know how people are concluding that Jeff Green is even close to being the BE player of the year… he’s good but to me he’s not even the best player on his team and he doesn’t touch Gray or Herbert Hill.

Also, please Cook, Kendall, and any other player who can’t shoot well or isn’t shooting well: don’t shoot shots you can’t make and stay the hell out of the way. I remember people singing this ridiculous idea that struggling players just need to shoot more when Julius Page (along wiht Kraus) shot us out of the tournament his senior year after not being able to make a shot for 3 months. Had they just worked the ball to our best shooters
we’d have been fine.

This is when I get agitated with the press. Why would being agressive help Cook or Kendall? People have been saying this with Kendall since he scored 44 for the national team but if you look at his overall numbers, this season is right in line with what he “does”. Similarly Cook is not a great shooter (look at his East Carolina #s) and is ALREADY aggressive offensivly. People are crazy.

Comment by J-Maile 02.24.07 @ 2:12 pm

How quickly we forget the past:

C.Troutman 32 4 8
J.Brown 25 4 7
C.Taft 31 4 9
J.Page 38 2 11
C.Krauser 38 6 17

Comment by J-Maile 02.24.07 @ 2:26 pm

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