March 19, 2007

They come out with new Oakland Zoo tee shirts each year. The next marketing gimmick might be upon us: “postseason shirts”.

The men’s shirt says “Together!” and the women’s has “We Got This!” on it.

If you’re looking for a way to get rid of $20 then click here.

There’s no way the media can stay away from the Dixon-Howland storyline. It’s just too juicy and sits there waiting for them. Tempting them. We’ll be seeing this storyline all the way through Friday (yes, I know the game is on Thursday, but there is still post-game stuff).

UCLA Coach Ben Howland says he’s happy that Pitt and Dixon has advanced even if he never wants to coach against his friend.

“It’s business,” Howland said of the matchup against Dixon and Pitt. “And, really, in reality, I’m happy because that means that they won two and we won two. Obviously, I want to win the game. That’s first and foremost. (But) if I had to lose to anyone in the world it would be Jamie Dixon and the Pitt Panthers.

“But we’re not going in thinking like that. We expect to win.”

So the choice for most writers, get it out there now or wait until later in the week.

Howland and Dixon, who remain close friends and speak on a regular basis, said the only way they would play each other is in the NCAA tournament. Dixon downplayed the opportunity to play his mentor after Pitt beat Virginia Commonwealth, 84-79, in overtime Saturday night, but his players know he is looking forward to getting the chance to play Howland and the Bruins.

“I think coach Dixon is looking forward to it,” Pitt junior Mike Cook said. “He may seem like he’s cool about it, but he’s excited.”

In an interview a month ago with the Post-Gazette, Dixon revealed that one of the reasons Howland left Pitt was because he didn’t feel like he could sustain the success he had attained during his four seasons as coach. He felt like he had taken the program as far as it could go.

Dixon made it known that he thought there were greater heights for the program to achieve.

“To be honest, Ben didn’t think we could sustain it,” Dixon said during an interview in his office Feb. 21. “He took less money to go to another job, what most people would consider a better job. I’ve always seen more in [Pitt] than other people did. I have higher expectations than anybody for this job. I know no one thought we could do what we are doing.”

It was a candid moment for Dixon, who had just won his 100th game as Pitt’s coach a night earlier. It was a unique view into the world of Dixon. If that milestone victory did not get him out from under Howland’s shadow, the victory Saturday night surely did.

Gray said he and his teammates are aware that Howland did not believe Pitt could be a successful program in the long run, and said it will serve as some small motivation Thursday.

If you are looking for the original article where that appeared it was here. It isn’t highlighted or sensationalized in the original piece. I have to admit that was not a shock to me. By taking the job at UCLA, wasn’t that what Howland was saying? Simply compare the two programs in terms of natural recruiting areas, population and growth, and history and by comparison it is far easier to sustain a successful program at UCLA than Pitt. There’s also a lot more pressure and expectations — but give Pitt fans a little more time on the latter.

One of the reasons in the last year plus I’ve committed fully to the “Jamie Dixon is the best coach for Pitt” camp is the stuff he’s been doing beyond coaching and recruiting — both of which have improved each year. The stuff that is vital for the success now, but let’s be honest the infrastructure in the ‘Burgh is all football. Dixon has worked to help in the organization and formation of summer basketball leagues that have the local college players along with alumni participating — is one of the most tangible examples. It’s even close to Philly or NYC summer basketball leagues right now, but there was no excuse for Pittsburgh not to have one except the lack of support from Pitt coaches and organization. What he is doing outside of the coaching and recruiting is long-term planning and building that can help Pitt basketball more and more in the future.

Dixon, thankfully, has begun to develop some outward personality in public rather than simply speak in monotone and cliche when he first started. He has continually gone out in the community and done the things coaches today have to do. I am really optimistic for Pitt’s future and present with Dixon.
Mike DeCourcy puts Pitt 12th among the Sweet 16.

The one thing lacking in Pitt’s history and the more recent history is a 3d win in the NCAA Tournament. Like we weren’t all bitterly aware of that point.

Howland’s early plan is to not double Aaron Gray.

“We’re going to be left one-on-one with Aaron Gray a lot because he passes so well,” Howland said. “If you double him, he’s so big he passes out of it. That’s going to be the hardest part, trying to take Aaron Gary one-on-one. He’s an NBA player, first-round draft pick. He’s a big-time player.”

Aesthetics were nowhere to be found when the Bruins and Hoosiers played. Both are strong defensive teams, but participants from each team said they missed plenty of open shots.

The Bruins shot 36.2percent from the field, and Indiana checked in at 32.7 percent.

Given UCLA holds its opponents to 42.8 percent from the field, and Pittsburgh limits its opponents to 40.7percent…

According to Pomeroy, Pitt’s Adjusted Offense and Defense are ranked 13th and 26th. UCLA is 24th and 3d.

Choosing Sides

Filed under: Basketball,Fans,NCAA Tourney,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 2:25 pm

When I have some time — hopefully tomorrow — I’ll have my definitive Ben Howland-Pitt post up. It will be the usual mix of history and my own views on things. And yes, lots of links. The UCLA fans who are stopping by, will hopefully gain some context for the feelings towards Howland.

On the West Coast a UCLA student from Pittsburgh finally resolves his identity crisis.

Many would call it a futile attempt. How can I abandon a decade of Pitt fandom? Could I possibly lock myself in my room, here at UCLA, and root against the Bruins? Won’t I see some silver lining regardless of the outcome?

The doubters are wrong. After a moment of deliberation I came to an easy decision.

It’s UCLA: I am 100 percent behind the Bruins.

My memories of Pitt basketball are just that, memories. The love I have for the Bruins today easily overwhelms my history as a Panther supporter.

Now that I’ve committed, I’m desperate for a UCLA victory.

Good. UCLA is your school. They are your team. There should be no doubt. A little overwrought and angsty about it, but getting the angst out of the system is part of college.
I grew up in a Penn State house. Both parents. I was dressed in PSU gear as a child (any photographic evidence believed to be accidentally destroyed a couple years ago). Went to some games. Probably cheered for them, though I don’t recall. Doesn’t matter. The minute I chose to attend Pitt, I had my team and my school.

A friend of mine, Tim Z. (who sometimes comments here), submitted an interesting question to the Post-Gazette basketball Q&A and ended up getting it printed on page two of Sunday’s sports section.

Q: If the Penguins get a new arena here in Pittsburgh, assuming it reaches the seating requirement, would Pitt be able to play NCAA tournament games there? I believe Duquesne would have to be the host, but is it possible?

Tim Z., Pittsburgh

FITTIPALDO: Pitt played at Mellon Arena in 2002 when Duquesne was the host school, so I believe it could happen again that way. Of course, Pitt would have to finish as a high enough seed for the NCAA selection committee to award Pitt with two games so close to home.

I didn’t go when it was previously hosted here but I’d do everything in my power to get to it if they played here in the future (meaning 2010 and beyond).

Speaking of tourney games in the city, I went to three of the four women’s NCAA tourney games yesterday and had a good deal of fun with the exception of suffering North Carolina trample over Prairie View. Nice win for Pitt over James Madison late last night. I’ll be there tomorrow night when Pitt plays #1 seed Tennessee. Fans did a great job of supporting the team and I expect it to continue.

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