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March 13, 2007

As Gray Goes…

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA Tourney,Players — Chas @ 9:18 pm

Look, we all know Pitt won’t go far if Aaron Gray isn’t playing well. To paraphrase another Big East Coach from last year, “we wouldn’t have won 10 [expletive deleted] games without Aaron.” I think that has fueled some of the harshness on Gray. Plain anxiety.
So, the piling on Gray seems a bit excessive. I freely admit the timing of him laying an egg in the Big East Tournament Championship leaves a lot to be desired. Gray admits he had a very bad game against Georgetown.

Gray barely looked All-Emmaus in the Big East finals. It was not what he was seeking when he returned for his senior season after flirting with entering last year’s NBA draft.

“It was a bad night,” said Gray, who averages 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. “I’m glad it happened in the Big East Tournament rather than the NCAA Tournament.”

Gray said he felt confident against Georgetown and wasn’t thrown off his game by the presence of 7-2 Hoya center Roy Hibbert.

“I didn’t take a shot, maybe one or two, that I didn’t think was going in,” Gray said. “Playing against big Roy, everyone was like, ‘Oh, were you a little timid going against him?’ My response is maybe I was a little too excited. My normal hook shots were going long. Shots are going off the back rim. Maybe I was moving a little big quicker.”

I do think he was too concerned with Hibbert getting a block, that he was taking too many hook shots and falling backwards, rather than trying to at or around Hibbert.

Still, you would think Gray has sucked for at least the last month the way he has been attacked by pundits and a lot of others. Joe Starkey wasn’t above overdoing it either.

What’s disturbing is the prolonged postseason shooting slump of senior center Aaron Gray. He made less than half of his shots in the first two games of the tournament and went 1 for 13 last night, including 0 for 9 in the first half. If he makes four of those, Pitt goes to the intermission down five instead of 13.

[Emphasis added.]

That’s cherry picking and massaging numbers to make the issue “prolonged.” Against Marquette, Gray was 7-16 and 10 rebounds (PDF). Yes, he was under 50%, but there was no one complaining that Gray was in a shooting slump for that game. He took a lot more shots than he usually takes — something everyone wanted. In the Louisville game, he was exactly 50% (2-4). So what Starkey was saying is that Gray shot 1 basket below 50% in the first game, but lumped the two games together. Lovely. Positively Smizik-esque.

Against Louisville, he couldn’t move without picking up a foul. Apparently that was all his fault.

All season, he has been at least equal to any big man he has faced straight-up (not one that steps out for 3s) until the BET Championship.

Pitt Women Earn NCAA Bid

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA Tourney — Dennis @ 7:57 pm

The Pitt women were rewarded for their good season last night during Selection Monday.

PITTSBURGH The Pitt women’s basketball team (23-8) has earned its first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament with a first round matchup against James Madison (27-5) on March 18 at 9:30 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.

“This is an historic day not only for this program but also for this University,” Athletics Director Jeff Long said. “When Agnus Berenato came here, she asked for a seven year contract because that’s how long she thought it would take to turn this program around. What a testament to her and her ability to coach that it only took her four.”

Congrats to Coach Berenato and her team on making Pitt history. It’s going to be interesting since they’ll be playing a home game in the first round (and second if they make it) since you can play at your home court in the women’s tourney if you’re hosting it.

I might go to see how they do and I really hope we advance because that would mean we play Tennessee, the women’s hoops powerhouse. If that matchup happens I’ll be there for sure.

Everyone can support their team here.

At this time, I’m not aware of any Wright State blog. The best news source on the Raiders comes from their section in the Dayton Daily News (annoying free registration).

Of course, there is their official website.

A message board.

Wright State car mats available on eBay. Because, personally, I think the best way to show love to my school is put wet and muddy shoes all over the logo.

Raider fans discount their whuppin’ by LSU (in the comments) as just one of those things from December when they were still learning the system.
Now, you might think that as I live in the Cleveland area and Cleveland St. is in the Horizon League with WSU, I might have some knowledge. No. Watching Horizon League action was never high on my “to watch” list for basketball. Bad basketball is hard enough to watch, but couple it with poor coverage quality and the only way to somewhat enjoy it is completely sauced. And at that point, I’m just not getting much insight into the teams. But I digress.

The break down from the YSU assistant coach is encouraging. While DeShaun Woods seems to be the kind of guard that can cause problems for Pitt, their game is the kind that is what Pitt wants.

Wright State plays a similar game as Pitt. The Raiders like a half-court tempo with aggressive man-to-man defense, which they play about 80 percent of the time.

“They don’t want to get up and down,” Thorne said. “It’s strange. It’s the same thing as Pitt. They grind it out. They both run set plays. Wright State prides themselves on defense, similar to Pitt. They are very good defensively. They are always where they should be.”

Todd Brown, a 6-5 guard, and Vaughn Duggins, a 6-3 guard, were both named to Horizon League All-Newcomer team.

Naturally with Wright State making the Tournament for the first time in 14 years, they are giddy over their coach. Even as the whiff on Dixon was noted.

Four years ago, WSU athletics director Mike Cusack narrowed his coaching search down to two guys — Paul Biancardi and Jamie Dixon — as the replacement for fired Raiders’ coach Ed Schilling.

He chose Biancardi and you know how that worked out thanks to an NCAA violations mess that eventually followed the former Ohio State assistant from his days in Columbus.

Had Cusack hired Dixon — who now will coach his No. 3 seeded Pitt Panthers against the 14th seeded Raiders in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Buffalo — there wouldn’t have been the headaches of the past couple of seasons. But then there almost certainly would be no Brad Brownell now either.

The present coach has been studying tape since the seedings were announced.

So instead of being happy with crumbs, he probably wanted a little more of the tournament cake — something better than a 14 seed.

Of course, some of that tightness behind the smile had to be because, as he put it, “We’re going to be here most of the night.”

Everyone at the paper seems to think it might be a good idea to definitely review the game tape of the Dayton-Pitt game.

Here are the game notes from Wright State (PDF). The entire history of the two teams are two meetings in 1998 and 1999. Pitt won both of them.

I looked around a Wright State message board that we got a few hits from (one of their fans found us and pointed it out) and here are some things being said.

My main concern is Gray — how do we stop somebody like that given our limited “big” men? get him into foul trouble? Deny him the ball? Control the tempo? Anyone with a better basketball sense than me can offer some insight here?

If the “What will Wright State do about Gray?” question isn’t the main storyline/focus for this game then I don’t know what is.

I personally like the match up with Pitt. Aaron Gray is prone to foul problems.

Gray in foul trouble aginst guards driving right at him will probably be their main plan. He sometimes fails to move his feet (and when he does it’s very slow) and instead he fouls to compensate.

Will Brad go small against Pitt? I think he should. Take the 7 footer out of the equation as much as possible. Let our shooters control the game and leave it in their hands. I think that is our best shot.

My response to this is, “Go ahead, let our seven-foot double-double machine have a 6′ 6” defender on him. Please, be my guest. No way Wright State shoots lights out enough to cancel out the 20+ points Gray would put up if WSU goes with a small lineup.

Man, I love ‘big’ schools. This is entertaining stuff. If you can’t go here and laugh, then life just isn’t fun.

I might as well be going to comedycentral.com. lol

If I were in this guy’s shoes I’d probably say the same thing. There’s always going to be some guy on a message board under some fake name like PittExpert12345 who says we’re tops in the nation when we play well and puts us out of the Top 25 after a loss.

There’s a thread that discusses the start time on Saturday, hoping that it’s not too early. Not one fan warning the others to not overlook us. Keep it up, Pitt.

Probably true enough.

With all of this NCAA tourney talk, let me take this time to remind you to sign up for the Pitt Blather Bracket Challenge.

(By the way, the title only took me about 2 hours to come up with.)

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