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March 1, 2007

Sorry for not posting for a little bit (thanks for picking up the slack Dennis). I’m trying to get as much done as possible in the 3-dimensional world before the weekend and all of next week. So many games to watch, so much to write. I’m really just trying to get as much done, and stockpile the essential supplies while I spend a lot of time watching basketball. Really, it starts tomorrow afternoon with the semis of the MVC Tournament.

The Tuesday telecast had Sanders and Wenzel mention that Charles Smith was in the Pete, but there wasn’t even a pan shot to him in the game. Seems that it was a spur of the moment thing.

A last-minute offer afforded Charles Smith a private plane to Pittsburgh and a courtside seat at Petersen Events Center for the Pitt-West Virginia game Tuesday.

It was fitting that the former Pitt All-American arrived just as Aaron Gray was standing at center court, where he was presented with a framed jersey on Senior Night.

After all, Smith advised the 7-foot center to return for his senior season, a decision Smith himself had to make 19 years ago and one that ultimately paid great dividends.

Now Northeast regional director for the NBA Players Association, Smith’s main assignment is running its rookie transition program. He counseled Gray during the NBA’s week-long, pre-draft camp in Orlando last year.

“When making one of my decisions to come back here for my senior year, I don’t regret it all,” said Gray, who is averaging 13.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game this season. “This is my family now and they are going to be my family forever. I’m just so glad that I could spend this whole year and this whole experience with them.”

I have to be honest, I have no problem rooting for UConn over G-town. I don’t see it happening, but why not? I’d rather Pitt be the #1 seed. Besides I have enough bad memories of the Hoyas against Pitt in the 80s and early 90s to carry me past any distaste.

I don’t know what to say about free throw shooting. It’s not like the team doesn’t work on it. Everyone says they do, but Pitt simply has half of their players — Gray, Graves, Biggs, Young and Benjamin — who shoot poorly. The coaches can only do so much in teaching them and helping them — I’m assuming Brandin Knight is not in charge of that. It comes down to just executing them in the game. You don’t think UConn and Jim Calhoun or Jim Boeheim and Syracuse don’t work on FTs with their players? It doesn’t change things that guys from Thabeet (freshman) to Roberts (senior) just don’t shoot free throws well.
Hopefully, this will be the last week for power polls. The ESPN.com power poll puts Pitt at #9.

If healthy, this team has Elite Eight-type possibilities with the right draw. I like the Panthers’ overall offensive balance better than Georgetown’s as far as Big East heavies go.

Individual votes are here. Almost all had Pitt either 9 or 10.

I really can’t follow the logic of Luke Winn at SI.com. I don’t think he has anything personal against Pitt. I just think he doubts the Panthers in the Tournament.

Georgetown at home beats Pitt that has a hobbled Aaron Gray and then gets blown out in Syracuse — by a bubble team. He moves them up from 9 to 8. Pitt rebounds from the loss to beat bubble team and a rivalry game with WVU. He moves Pitt down to 15 from 12. Well, it’s really too late in the season to get too fired up about the “disrespect.”

Tom Crean Says…

Filed under: Basketball,Opponent(s),Tactics — Dennis @ 3:58 pm

Marquette head coach Tom Crean had an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A few things were pertaining to Pitt and are of some interest.

Has the series with Pittsburgh become a rivalry? Absolutely. I think we’ve had more games turn into that in the Big East. You want that. You get two programs that respect each other and have really solid traditions in a great league that have had great games. There’s no great rivalry if there’s not great games, and we’ve had great games with them. Every game has been that way and I don’t anticipate anything less this time.

I’m undecided on this one. We’ve definitely had a great series thus far but I feel like it’s kind of hard to pull a “rivalry” out of our butts every time we have a good stretch of games between two teams.

Is shoring up the interior defense a focus especially important? Oh my goodness, yeah. That’s an understatement, it really is. We’ve got to get better, whether it’s our positioning inside or the way we get down and dig on the ball. We just gave up too much room. These games where we’ve struggled we’ve given up too much room.

Obviously as he says this, he’s picturing Aaron Gray in his mind scoring all kinds of points by dominating them down low if they have trouble in the post.

There’s a lot of talk about Aaron Gray but is Levance Fields the guy that makes Pittsburgh go? I think they’re too good to put it on one person. Gray is certainly a unique matchup because of what he does inside but no, Ronald Ramon is an outstanding guard, Antonio Graves, Levon Kendall. Sam Young since we’ve played them has had 21 against West Virginia a few weeks ago. Tyrell Biggs came off the bench (Tuesday) night and played really well. They’re really good. They’re really deep. They’ve got a lot of guys that could start on a lot of teams. Fields is outstanding; he runs the show. But he’s far from being the main wheel. They’ve got a lot of good players.

And that is exactly why we’re a good program. You can also argue the lack of that go-to guy is what keeps us from being an elite team.

Pitt got Ramon open a lot in the first game. Does that play into you guys having better pressure on the ball? We’ve got to do a better job of getting around screens and making sure we stay connected to him. It’s a physical game. There’s going to be moving screens. We’ve got to get around them. We may have to, every once in a while, run into them. But we’ve got to do a great job of staying connected to him. He’s so quick. He’s one of the quickest shooters in the game of college basketball.

There better be screens that they can’t get around because Ramon won’t be able to shake a guy off one-on-one to create a shot.

Oakland Idol

Filed under: Basketball,Players,The 'Burgh — Dennis @ 8:04 am

As soon as I saw this I figured I’d pass it along. I doubt there’s any better way to start your morning.

Thursday, March 1st – 10pm
Peter’s Pub (116 Oakland Ave.)
21+ over, $3 Cover***
LADIES NIGHT – $1 drinks All Night***
EVERYONE- $5 Bud Light Pitchers

With Performances by…The Sole Vibe
Da Button Pusha
Solid Ground Entertainment
Pitt Basketball Star, Keith “KB” Benjamin
…additional Music by WPTS 92.1fm DJ Karazmatik

That’s Keith Benjamin — oops, I mean “KB” — performing live tonight. Tonight!

Somebody definitely needs to file a report from tonight’s “show”.

(Hat tip: Mondesi’s House)

(Honestly, if you go, please send something to dennis.pittblather@gmail.com afterwards.)

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