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February 14, 2009

Open Thread: Cinci-Pitt ’09

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 3:51 pm

What? No trophy for the basketball version of the River City Rivalry? How disappointing.

Open it up, folks

Speculating on Mazzone

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 1:41 pm

Yes, I am aware of Paul Zeise’s post that Noel Mazzone is now the leading candidate for the offensive coordinator job.

It appears that former Jets wide receivers coach Noel Mazzone has moved to the front of the pack of candidates to replace Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. In fact all signs — and several sources as well — are pointing to Mazzone and he is looking like he could be the guy.

Mazzone was in town over the past two days meeting with Dave Wannstedt and he has the right mix of NFL and college coaching in his background that Wannstedt is looking for. He was an offensive coordinator for 11 seasons at Ole Miss, Auburn, N.C State and Oregon State and he’s also tutored a number of top flight quarterbacks, most notably Chargers standout Philip Rivers.

I’m not sure how I feel about Noel Mazzone.

Just doing a little cursory digging shows a guy who has not completely distinguished himself as an OC. He was OC at NC State for one year, and the most noticeable thing about that tenure were the production of these t-shirts.

Clearly that one season in Raleigh endeared him to the fans.

One thing is certain, Mazzone is used to being OC for a defense-first coach that is extremely conservative on the offesne. He had two stints with Tommy Tuberville at Ole Miss and Auburn.

In fact, he seems most comfortable being an OC for very conservative coaches.

There are rumors that Shannon also interviewed former K-State coach Ron Prince on Tuesday. I’ve heard that former Jets assistant Noel Mazzone has tried to make a run at the job as well. Mazzone is close to UM tight-ends coach Joe Pannunzio and also has the support of Federal Express founder Fred Smith, a potentially big Miami booster who is also the father of backup Canes QB Cannon Smith.

Instead, Miami went with Mark Whipple a Philadelphia Eagles assistant and was the Steelers QB coach from 2004-06.

He was also in the running to be the Houston Cougars’ OC last year.

Perhaps, Mazzone’s biggest credential to being hired by Coach Wannstedt, he has a deep rich ‘stache of his own.

Incoming Bearcats

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 12:53 pm

As I’ve said many times, playing Cinci is always interesting in the Rich household with the wife being a Bearcat alum.

Cinci comes in on a 3-game win streak. What’s the significance?

During three-plus seasons in the Big East Conference, the University of Cincinnati basketball team never has won four conference games in a row.

With a three-game winning streak to their credit, the Bearcats can reach that plateau today. All they have to do is knock off the No. 4-ranked team in the country at perhaps the most difficult road venue in the league when they take on Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center.

It’s a huge challenge for a still-young UC team that seems to be coming into its own. The Bearcats (17-8, 7-5 Big East) have gone 7-2 since their 0-3 start in league play, and their confidence is growing with each game.

“We’re going to go in there and do what we’ve got to do,” UC junior guard Deonta Vaughn said of playing the Panthers. “We’re going to be really digging in. It’s going to be tough playing against them, but if we beat them we can really see ourselves right there in the NCAA Tournament.”

Cinci is playing for a chance at the NCAA Tournament. In case you missed what ‘Nova did when they started to see their season start to slip or what WVU did last night with their back against the wall. Of course those teams did it at home, the road is a different beast.

The Bearcats have a shot, but they need at least one big win, win the games in conference they should and to play on the third day of the Big East Tournament. Right now their RPI hovers near 50. It needs to be higher.

The guy Pitt has really struggled to stop when playing Cinci has been Deonta Vaughn. That’s Jermaine Dixon’s primary job today.

Freshman Yancy Gates, a highly touted recruit, is coming off the bench to average 11.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in conference games. Gates has been named Big East Rookie of the Week twice in the past eight weeks.

The 6-9, 255-pound Gates scored a season-high 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting in Cincinnati’s 71-61 victory over St. John’s on Wednesday.

“(We got) him the ball in position where he can be effective, which has been a challenge for us at times,” Cronin said. “If we can continue to get him the ball in those types of positions, he’s a guy who’s going to be effective.”

Vaughn always gives Pitt fits.

He’s averaging 20.3 points in four career starts against the Panthers. In his last visit to Pittsburgh, Vaughn made six 3-pointers, including some from NBA range, in a 24-point effort. He scored 23 of his game-high 30 points in the second half in Pitt’s win over Cincinnati in the Big East Tournament opener last season.

While junior guard Jermaine Dixon will draw the primary assignment, coach Dixon says it will require a team effort to defend the 6-1 junior from Indianapolis.

“Our strength is that we can put a number of different guys on him,” the sixth-year coach said. “Jermaine will be guarding him. Bradley (Wanamaker) will be guarding him. (Vaughn) is in there for 40 minutes, so he’s going to have different guys on him.”

Regarding Yancy Gates, he’s also serving as their energy guy by coming off the bench.

“I never had the mindset that I had to start to be productive,” Gates said. “Coming off the bench and starting is the same. You get in the game and you’ve got to do your job. Coming off the bench allows you to see the flow.”

Cronin said he decided to start Toyloy ahead of Gates for the Jan. 17 game at DePaul because he wanted his best defensive lineup on the floor at the game’s outset. That move has also served to prevent Gates, who has started 15 games, from picking up quick fouls early in the game.

“He’s in there pretty quickly,” Cronin said of Gates. “It’s nice to have Steve Toyloy on our team, a guy that can really defend, rebound and accepts his role. In late-game defense, he’s excellent and when given the opportunity, he finished around the basket.

“It’s important to be two-deep at that position because of the foul trouble that arises in this conference with the physicality that goes on out there. As soon as one of them gets one foul, I’m taking him out right away. That one foul is like a magnet for two and then the other guy would have to play the rest of the half.”

Since Gates went to the bench, Cinci has been 5-2. Granted that included playing St. John’s twice, but it also included sweeping G-town and beating ND.

I mentioned after the WVU game, that I was feeling a little greedy so I wasn’t totally thrilled with Pitt going to scrubs at the end, since it cost Pitt in holding the ‘Eers to below 40% shooting. Turns out the team was a bit disappointed as well.

“We put a lot of emphasis on defense in practice,” guard Brad Wanamaker said.

“We played more like the old Pitt team,” Fields said. “Still, I guess we’ve got to work, because they still shot 40 percent.”

The Mountaineers shot 40.4 percent.

“It was close,” Dixon said. “I don’t know if it counts. Levance likes to debate. We’ll see.”

Whether Dixon gave the Panthers the benefit of the doubt over a few percentage points was apparently up for discussion.

I think he’s going to make them work to be better.

Personally, I’ve found it amusing that since the UNC-Duke game ended, ESPN has completely skipped their Saturday night primetime game of OSU-Wisconsn, in favor of hyping the Pitt-UConn game for Monday. The team, of course, swears that they aren’t looking past the Bearcats.

“We’re definitely not looking past Cincinnati,” Pitt guard Jermaine Dixon said. “They’ve been hot. They’ve been on a winning streak. But even if they weren’t, we never look past a team. We’re not thinking about UConn right now.”

Dixon won’t have any problem getting his players’ attention on Cincinnati. In the past month, Cincinnati has beaten Georgetown (twice) and Notre Dame to put itself in position to make the NCAA Tournament only two years after finishing dead last in the Big East.

Since an 0-3 start in the conference, Cincinnati is 7-2 and ran its winning streak to three games with a 71-61 victory against St. John’s on Wednesday night in which it shot a season-best 62.6 percent.

“It’s pretty easy to sell that they are a really good team,” Jamie Dixon said. “Sometimes, you have to stretch it. This time, there is no question this is a team that’s playing well and is an NCAA Tournament team.”

Said Blair, “They are at their peak.”

I have hated the “good [player name]/bad [player name]” ever since I heard a telecast where Trevor Matich beat it into the ground regarding Tyler Palko a few years ago. I know Louisville fans often do that with Edgar Sosa. I want to nip that in the bud with Sam Young.

The good Sam Young stays patient, moves the ball and waits for his shot. He drives to the basket, goes hard to the offensive glass for rebounds and gets out in the transition game.

The bad Sam Young attempts to take his defender one-on-one too much, gets his pocket picked by defenders and throws lazy passes. He displays negative body language and doesn’t appear to be on the same page as his teammates.

That’s not the observation of an outsider. It’s the observation of senior point guard Levance Fields, who said Pitt needs the good Sam Young to show up on a more consistent basis.

Stop it now. The point of the story is fine — stay within the gameplan, don’t freelance, etc. Just, please, please, please. No “good Sam, bad Sam.” Sam needs just eleven more points to pass Brian Shorter for 10th on Pitt’s all-time scoring list. If he gets back to his average and Pitt goes deep this year, he should finish his career at Pitt in 6th on the list (passing Ricardo Greer) and possibly 4th to pass Jason Matthews and Don Hennon (1840 and 1841).

Not much to say abou the latest power polls. Luke Winn at has Pitt at 5th.

At, Pitt is still in 4th.

Meanwhile, Dante Taylor is the centerpiece forNational Christian, in a West Virginia Tournament. They couldn’t beat Oak Hill, but Taylor was impressive.

The Eagles (17-5) found inside success early, thanks to an arsenal depending largely on 6-foot-9 senior Dante Taylor. National led 8-4 early with Taylor establishing himself around the basket. He scored six of those eight, the first two on a dunk.

Taylor was obviously the focal point of National’s offense. The Pitt signee finished with game-highs of 33 points and 11 rebounds.

“He’s probably one of the five best big men in the country,” National coach Trevor Brown said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s improved a lot over the last couple of years. From day one, over four years, it’s just been a steady improvement.

“What we’re trying to do with him is let people see that he is one of the best big men in the country.”

And apparently he will be a McDonald’s All-American. has listed some names that have reportedly leaked out: Kenny Boynton, Avery Bradley, Dominic Cheek, DeMarcus Cousins, Abdul Gaddy, Keith Gallon, Xavier Henry, John Henson, Wally Judge, Ryan Kelly, Tommy Mason-Griffin, Alex Oriakhi, Dexter Strickland Dante Taylor, Maalik Wayns and David & Travis Wear. In all, 22 players are expected to be invited to play in the game.

Really not unexpected, but it means I may actually watch the game this year.

Just Bad Stuff

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Uncategorized — Chas @ 4:41 am

Just a note in the bottom of an article on Pitt shooting 3s rather well, but damn.

Kareem Robinson, the younger brother of Pitt’s Nasir Robinson, was shot twice in the back Wednesday afternoon, but the injuries are not life-threatening. Nasir Robinson, who could not be reached for comment, was at practice yesterday and is expected to play tomorrow.

He got very lucky.

Kareem Robinson, a freshman point guard, suffered two gunshot wounds Wednesday to his lower back while walking in the William Penn Housing Development. Initially treated at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Robinson was airlifted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, from where he was discharged Thursday.

Chester coach Larry Yarbray said Robinson’s injuries were the result of a random act of violence. Yarbray said a bullet remains lodged a quarter-inch from Robinson’s spine. Though non-life-threatening, the gunshot wounds will keep the 5-7 reserve from playing the remainder of the season.

Just get well.

I’m just wondering. There’s the whole Deandre Kane affair, where Pitt probably doesn’t need him. Still, because he’s a local product they keep him hanging around. Which messes with Seton Hall that really wants him — and just needs some recruits.

Then there is this.

Pittsburgh associate head coach Tom Herrion is slated to come watch Jarrid Famous tonight against TCI at the Gauchos gym.

Herrion will be in New York checking out a few high school games during the day.

Famous is a 6-foot-11 center from Westchester Community College who is leading the NJCAA in rebounding at 14 per game and ranks No. 5 in scoring at 24 points per game.

Famous is really being pursued by Seton Hall. Not even sure why Pitt is interested in him, but hey it keeps the Pirates off-balance. That’s always amusing.

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