It’s been a while since a team with as high a national ranking as Pitt’s has traveled to Dayton.
UD hasn’t had a visit from a team ranked sixth or higher since a memorable 72-71 victory over No. 3 DePaul on Feb. 18, 1984.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for us,” UD Athletic Director Ted Kissell said. “With nonconference scheduling being what it is, you’re just not going to get many of these (games) anymore. I think it’s going to be a very, very special environment.”
Dayton has fans. They did rank 26th nationally in attendance last year, but this will be their first full house of the season (the Xavier game in February is also sold out).
For Dayton to have a chance against Pitt, their talented freshman forward, Chris Wright will probably need to have a good game. At the very least, they will need him to play. He’s been hobbled by an ankle sprain that he didn’t tell the coaching staff about, and has lingered. At this point, he hasn’t played or practiced in over a week and will be a game time decision. I’d assume he will play and be effective, but that will keep Dayton fans a bit nervous.
Pitt, of course, has it’s own issues with injuries. Mike Cook will be replaced in the starting line-up by Gilbert Brown.
“I have to be more aggressive and be ready from the start instead of just playing fill-in minutes and giving energy to the team. I have to be more consistent with what I do.”
Brown is one of three players who will see increased playing time due to Cook’s injury. Senior Keith Benjamin, the backup shooting guard, will play more minutes at small forward. And freshman Bradley Wanamaker, who has not played since the Duquesne game Dec. 4, will see more minutes at small forward and shooting guard.
“We lose about 25 minutes a game, so there are 25 minutes available for other guys now,” Dixon said. “Obviously, Keith, Gilbert and Bradley will get those minutes. We interchange those guys a lot. We put a lot of different packages out there. We have a lot of flexibility. I know those guys are looking forward to the opportunity.”
It’s something of a minor upset that Brown gets the starting nod over Senior Guard Keith Benjamin. Dixon’s loyalty to starting seniors has been very noticeable in the past (John DeGroat being the most glaring example). Still, it’s hard to ignore Brown’s higher potential and size. Not to mention sticking with a forward rather than starting a three guard line-up.
Bradley Wanamaker is also likely to return to the rotation and Benjamin is saying the right things.
The injury also lands Benjamin with his biggest role since arriving at Pitt four years ago. Benjamin hasn’t played more than 21 minutes in any game since his sophomore season. Cook’s injury leaves Benjamin and Ramon as the only seniors who play.
“My voice has to be heard a little bit more now,” Benjamin said. “I have to do more things better.”
Wanamaker, who hasn’t played since the Dec. 5 Duquesne game, will switch to shooting guard, where he can show some of the skills that made him a standout Philly high school player, and some small forward.
“It’s not going to be too much of an adjustment for him,” Dixon said.
Shame Darnell Dodson couldn’t qualify academically. He definitely would have gotten some of the freed-up minutes.
Interesting note from Fittipaldo’s Q&A today about Dixon and former AD Jeff Long.
… Let me say this: Dixon is very comfortable now that Steve Pederson is the athletic director again. Pederson and Dixon have a very good relationship. Dixon’s relationship with Jeff Long was strained to the point that they almost never spoke. When Dixon was entertaining offers from Arizona State and Missouri a few years ago, he phoned Pederson, who was the athletic director at Nebraska at the time, for advice. Pederson reminded Dixon that he was in a very good situation at Pitt, and Dixon opted to stay and a sign a long-term extension.
That doesn’t mean Pitt fans don’t have to worry about Dixon leaving now that Pederson is back. The more Pitt wins the more other programs looking for a coach will put the full-court press on for Dixon. It comes with the territory of having a perennial top 25 program.
Here are the Pitt Game Notes (PDF). Dayton hasn’t put theirs out at this time.