Do you know what today is? It’s Big East Basketball Media Day in NYC. As is Coach Jamie Dixon’s MO, he’s bringing the seniors (PDF). So DeJuan Blair, but Tyrell Biggs along with Sam Young and Levance Fields.
The Big East is going all out with content.
In the days following menâ€™s and womenâ€™s media day, fans will be able to watch a narrated behind-the-scenes look from each event, which will consist of â€œoff-the-cuffâ€ interviews with prominent media members, coaches and players.
Soooo… It’s scripted event, they are trying to make look spontaneous?
As Midnight Madness took place for some, SI.com’s Seth Davis asked questions about each top team.
With DeJuan Blair, Tyrell Biggs and Sam Young, the Panthers are as good up front as any other team in the country. In Levance Fields, they have as tough a point guard as you’ll find anywhere. But they lost three very good outside shooters off of last year’s team in Keith Benjamin, Ronald Ramon and Mike Cook, who together sank 56 percent of the team’s three-pointers. (And keep in mind Cook only played 11 games before blowing out his knee.)
Pitt’s dearth of long-range shooters could be an especially glaring deficiency with the new three-point line. Right now, Jamie Dixon will be looking to three possibilities to fill that role: Brad Wanamaker, a 6-4 sophomore who averaged 2.2 points as a freshman; Ashton Gibbs, a 6-2 freshman from New Jersey; and Jermaine Dixon, a 6-3 transfer from Tallahassee Junior College. Dixon, it should be noted, is the younger brother of my all-time favorite college player, the former Maryland guard Juan Dixon, but until one of those three proves he can make shots, this will remain a open question, dialed in from long-distance.
Not sure why he excluded Travon Woodall except that he might have him in as the back-up PG and so not as the guy to take Ramon’s spot.
While the new 3-point line’s likely impact has been minimized by many coaches — including Coach Dixon — there are some who aren’t so dismissive.
But the only data we have suggests the change could be radical. Those numbers come from U.S. participation in international play, which uses a 20-foot, 6-inch line for the 3-point shot. That’s closer to the goal than the 20-feet, 9-inches that’ll be the new rule for college, yet some of the best young American players have struggled terribly when adjusting to the international distance.
In the past three competitions for college-age players — the 2007 Pan-American Games, the 2007 Under-19 World Championships and the 2008 Under-18 FIBA Americas Championships, the U.S. shot a combined 119-of-393 (30.3 percent) from 3-point range. Now, that figure is deflated by the fact the international game uses a shorter shot clock, but it ought to have been inflated by the presence of elite players on those teams: Davidson’s Stephen Curry, Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel and Washington State’s Derrick Low.
The game could change more than coaches would have you believe.
If so, that’s a big advantage for Pitt, since the reliance on the perimeter shot by Pitt will not be as high as others.
Now ESPN.com has the team breakdowns from Blue Ribbon Yearbook (Insider subs.). Here’s the “Final Analysis” on PItt.
Dixon did an incredible job last year, guiding the Panthers to 27 wins and a 10-8 Big East mark despite the injuries to Fields and Cook. The program’s strength was evident as players like Benjamin, Ramon and Brown stepped into larger roles and filled them.
This year, Pitt will rely on its three all-conference candidates — Fields, Young and Blair — to lead what will otherwise be a very young team.
Pitt owes its recent string of success to the defensive-approach preached by Dixon. Now entering his sixth year as head coach, Dixon thinks this might be his best defensive team yet.
“I like this team,” Dixon said. “I’ve liked all our teams, but I like this team. I think we can be very deep, very tough physically. We’ve got some guys that can make shots and create shots on their own.
“The question to me is how good we can become defensively. I think this can be a good defensive team; as good defensively as any team we’ve had.”
If he’s right about that, Dixon might just take Pitt to its first Final Four.
Homecoming weekend doesn’t end Saturday night, by the way. In lieu of Midnight Madness for the students, there’s the FanFest Sunday afternoon at the Pete.
The University of Pittsburgh will host its fifth annual Basketball Fan Fest and Intrasquad Scrimmages on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Petersen Events Center. The event will highlight the Pitt men’s and women’s basketball teams and feature autograph sessions, team scrimmages and various fan-oriented events. Admission is free to this family-oriented event. Free parking is available in the OC Lot. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
So, there’s that.