Regardless of Pitt’s injuries, they are still a ranked team, and teams like USF dream of knocking off ranked teams.
“When you beat a ranked team at home, it goes on your resume for the NCAA Tournament committee,” Gransberry said. “It’s possible to get there with nine nonconference wins and I think 18 wins is possible to get a bid to the NIT or NCAA.”
Gransberry and point guard Chris Howard said the Bulls expect more.
“It’s going to take a win against a nationally ranked team to gain the respect from the analysts,” Howard said.
And Gransberry said the push for the postseason begins tonight.
“This is the starting point for the rest of the season,” Gransberry said. “Playing a ranked opponent and protecting the home court.”
The Bulls have played two Big East games. Beating woeful Rutgers and losing handily at Syracuse. There should be a good match-up inside between DeJuan Blair and Kantrell Gransberry.
Gransberry is a taller, more experienced version of Blair. One season after being the only player in the Big East to average a double-double, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Gransberry is averaging 15.1 points and 11.6 rebounds. The former LSU transfer is a projected late second-round NBA draft pick.
“He’s a big, physical guy,” Dixon said. “He’s an inside force for them. He’s a good rebounder. He has great hands. Anything he touches he seems to hold onto. He’s a presence.”
The guy who scares me, though, is one of the players who will be right there with Blair for Big East Newcomer of the Year — guard Dominique Jones.
The Bulls are a better team than last year. With some improved talent and a better coach. USF got extremely lucky when their coaching search completely floundered with targets like Gregg Marshall refusing USF in favor of Wichita State. It looked only retreads were willing to consider the job. That was until Akransas decided to toss Stan Heath over expecting to be able to land then Texas A&M and now Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie. Whoops.
USF was able to swoop in and get Heath, who after some early struggles and injuries has looked a lot better. Really, though, who is saying Pitt despises him?
South Florida coach Stan Heath laughed over the phone yesterday when he was told that he was still despised at the University of Pittsburgh six years after he handed Pitt a devastating defeat in the NCAA tournament.
“Let it go, Pittsburgh,” Heath said good-naturedly. “I’m at South Florida and the other coach [Ben Howland] is at UCLA.”
In March 2002, Heath was the coach at Kent State when he and forward Antonio Gates spoiled Pitt’s hopes of reaching the Final Four in an NCAA third-round game in Lexington, Ky.
The game is on ESPN2 at 7:30, here are Pitt’s game notes (PDF).