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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.”





Well, someone mustn’t be working with them b/c a lot of the players have the same technical flaws in their strokes as when they were freshman. I mean, Aaron Gray does about three things wrong that any good shooting coach would fix yet no one ever corrects him. We’re assuming Pitt has someone on their staff who knows how to correctly shoot a ball and teach others how to do it.

Comment by J-Maile 03.01.07 @ 10:18 pm

“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.”

Its simple – he has no logic. His column is obviously a joke – he discussions fashion, sideline reporters, anything but what happens on the court. Look at the VaTech crap – everything you need to know is there – he has them as the #11 team, and talks about YouTube. He is a douche. I don’t think his rambling merrits even a mention while i’m pooping, much less in an online blog.

The other person i hate in life is that nerd Gottlieb. He says the dumbest sh!t he can come up with at all times, in hopes that one of his 50 dumbest predictions come true so that he can spout off what a genius he is – ignoring of course the 49 other stupid, insane ramblings he was 200% wrong with. Someone PLEASE stick a fork in him. Or put his @ss back on the high school circuit.

Comment by Stuart 03.02.07 @ 4:59 am

And while i’m up….

How funny is it Vagina is 1 win (against the football school) away in the all criminal conference from preventing the almighty UNC from winning their own conference? Shouldn’t that rightfully bump them to a 2 or 3 seed?

Comment by Stuart 03.02.07 @ 5:18 am

I was standing in the lobby of the Pete before the game, and my dad turned to me and said “Hey, that’s Charles Smith, is that Charles Smith?”

Comment by wa 03.02.07 @ 7:07 am

Been teaching free throw shooting for years and have attended clinics by the “Shot Doctor” et al.
Aaron Gray does at least 6 things wrong at the line. It is a miracle when it actually goes in…
Ditto’s Kendell, Cook, and sometimes even Graves.

Comment by Dan 72 03.02.07 @ 9:12 am

every “writer” on cnn.com is just trying to be different when it comes to college hoops..that goes for winn, wahl, and everyone else….they just want to be “different” then everyone else, even though they end up looking like assholes….

Comment by schoe 03.02.07 @ 9:46 am

Remember, Luke Winn had Wichita State at #2 for a while early in the season. He is flavor of the moment person. He also now has SIU at #5. He is just a complete moron and just cannot be taken seriously. Still, I read him weekly to see what stupid things come out of his mouth.

Comment by Noel 03.02.07 @ 9:55 am

Every writer on CNN/SI is trying to be a poor man’s Bill Simmons.

Look, we’ve already got one of him, and it’s almost too much as it is. (But at least Simmons brings SOMETHING to the table in terms of basketball acumen, unlike these CNN writers.)

Comment by Aaron 03.02.07 @ 10:27 am

The most frustrating thing about Gray at the FT line is that, to me at least, his actual shooting stroke looks good. When he shoots a little baseline jumper, it usually is very smooth. Why it’s so hard to replicate from the FT line is beyond me.

Comment by Carmen 03.02.07 @ 11:35 am

I would like to hear what the recommended approach to free throw shooting is from J-Maile and Dan 72. Not trying to be confrontational, just interested in hearing the methods they prescribe.
My initial reaction to their comments was that if you have to worry about “six things” when shooting free throws — or even “three things” — you’re @#%!ed. Just step up and bang ’em home.
Maybe I wrong, though, as I suck at shooting free throws 😉
As for the media. About the only one I respect any more is ESPN’s Bilas. Although, he’s still banging the UNC drum pretty hard. I agree with Stuart above. If you don’t win your conference you don’t deserve a #1 seed.
Kansas, Ohio State, UCLA and Memphis would top my bracket at the moment. Yes, C-USA sucks. But Calipari has his team playing very well right now and they’re beating the teams they are supposed to beat.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 03.02.07 @ 2:32 pm

BTW – Interesting analysis of shooting percentage vs. height by Ken Pomeroy here:

link to kenpom.com

Excerpt:

But if you watch enough games on TV next season, I’m sure you’ll hear an analyst bemoan the current state of free throw shooting. And why is that? I think a part of it is the belief that with enough practice, anyone can be a great free throw shooter. But free throw shooting is a skill like any other. Some have natural talent for it and some don’t, and most are somewhere in between. And yes, practice can produce some improvement. But Joey Dorsey will not become Steve Novak, no matter how hard he tries.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 03.02.07 @ 2:37 pm

Who is the former NBA hack from the 80’s, name escapes me, now pushing a DVD in radio commercials on jump shooting? “Jump shooting is a disappearing art.” or such. If that sells, then maybe Sean Miller should market one on free throw shooting.

Comment by geeman2001 03.02.07 @ 7:39 pm

Dave: The first thing Gray does wrong is where he starts with the ball. He holds it in the middle of his body and this sets off a chain reaction of mistakes. It’s actually very similar to what Lebron does. From starting in the middle of his body with the ball, he then brings it straight over his head, which kicks his right elbow out. From that position, as I see it, he actually does have a reasonably fluid stroke but his elbow sticking out at that angle forces his hand sideways and ends up imparting sidespin on his shots.

He also could use a little more knee bend and a wider base.

But starting with the correct position, meaning more to the side of his body, and bringing the ball straight up to the side of his head instead of the middle of it would bring his elbow and hand into alignment and solve a lot of problems; a little work and those eliptical hand grenades he launches might start going in.

On a side note, can someone tell Tony Graces to quit twisting on his jumpers and tell Mike Cook not to jump 5 feet forward on his?

Comment by J-Maile 03.02.07 @ 11:14 pm

RE: Pomeroy

Here is where Pomeroy is off: big players can learn to shoot FTs very well if they’re taught the right fundamentals and practice them. Steve Novak, who he uses as an example, is 6-9 and has flawless technique. The 7 foot Nowitzki, also has great form as have a slew of other big men who aren’t particuarly coordinated but had great form from Bullard to Lohous, to Pittnogle. I do believe there is a talent componenet to it… I’m just happy the oafish Gray can make layups… and smaller, more coordinated players may be able to overcome technical flaws easier, but also, many of them have better technique as well.

But before we decide who “can” or “can’t” make FTs, lets get the guys shooting the right way first. It’s one of the easiest skills to learn and improve at and many, many, players have improved as their careers progressed simply by learning the right way to shoot and practicing the right way.

Or, to put it another way, off the top of my head I can’t think of any players with good technique that are bad foul shooters.

Comment by J-Maile 03.02.07 @ 11:29 pm

Maybe Cook considers that part of his “driving” and “slashing.” What scares me more is his desire to “take over games” and “bring back Krauser” to the team with his out of control driving, then either a wild shot, or a bounce pass *through* a defender… As long as he stays in the offense, i don’t have as many complaints. But right now he averages the most TO’s on the team. And in the last 5 games he has been especially terrible, way above his average.

Comment by Stuart 03.02.07 @ 11:37 pm

Thanks for the clarification J-Maile. I’ll look for that in tonight’s game.
I’m not one to discount the positive effects of hard work and practice, but I do think that mindset — if not inherent skill as Pomeroy suggests — plays a big role as well.
Once you get inside your own head, you’re pretty much doomed. Look at golfers and pitchers as prime examples.
Their trade is a repetitive task and they practice endlessly in an effort to make that task mindless. Once doubt creeps into their mind or they lose focus, however, they usually perform poorly.
I think that’s happening to Gray. He just isn’t confident at the stripe. I believe that if he started looking at free throws as a way to bury a team and make them pay for their “transgressions” he’d be much more affective.
His form may not be perfect, but focusing on form can be detrimental. Going back to golf… look at Jim Furyk. I’ve read one description of his swing as an attempt to sign his name with the club. Translation: not pretty. Yet he is the second-ranked golfer in the world behind Tiger.
Enough about golf, though 😉
Go Pitt! Beat Marquette!

Comment by Dave in Orlando 03.03.07 @ 12:19 am

I agree with you Dave that mindset is extremely important… Nick Anderson’s complete disintigration from the line after he missed a couple of FTs in the NBA finals has been well documented.

I would say this, however… while there are players who succeed in spite of bad form, most players who struggle have bad form.

Also, I think addressing the physical flaws is the easiest way of getting to fix the problem. I would rather tell Gray to move the ball further to the right side of his body than try to get in his head and hope that helps. Now, if he’s struggling from the line even with good form, then you have to really start looking into the mental side of it. Just my 2 cents.

Either way, I hope they all start making them and we smash Marquette!

Comment by J-Maile 03.03.07 @ 3:13 am

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