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February 16, 2009

This will never get old.


LiveBlog: Pitt-UConn

Filed under: Basketball,liveblog,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 6:55 pm

Here’s the setup. Comments are generally moderated, unless you are a trusted commenter. Keep the language somewhat in check.

Find the liveblog here.

Let’s get a big win.

One of those odd things of being a FanHouse editor/writer is that to most people I am now some sort of journalist/member of the mainstream media. The main complaint I have been getting is that FanHouse has an East Coast bias to the Big East and ACC. That’s not true, we have a bias to the teams at the top of the standings that people want more. The top-10 has 4 Big East and 3 ACC teams there is only one team from the Big 12 and one from the Big 10 in the standings. What that means, is that the “big” games are all in the Big East and ACC since they are the most likely conferences to have top teams facing each other. Last week it was UNC-Duke, this week it is Pitt-UConn. All the media folk are going from all the major sites (CBS, FoxSports, Sporting News, SI and of course ESPN) for the latest big game, so expect a lot of recaps tomorrow.

Let’s do the quick and dirty media previews.

Fran Fraschilla has a nice breakdown on the game. He also admits that he doesn’t know who will win the game. Big East Basketball predicts a Pitt win. College Hoops Net goes with UConn.

One thing Pitt has never done is beat a team when they are ranked #1. O-13 in that span, including the game that sealed Ralph Willard’s fate at Pitt (IMO — and not just because I was at that game),

Pitt also lost to the top-ranked Huskies in December 1998 and January ’99. The ’98 game at Fitzgerald Field House is one of the most memorable in the Pitt-Connecticut series.

Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin jumped on the scorer’s table after making the winning shot to beat the Panthers, 70-69. The Huskies went on to win their first national championship that season.

The Huskies are without Dyson. Yes, he was their second leading scorer, but I think it will be more of a factor in the second game as Kemba Walker hits the freshman wall. The Seton Hall game showed that UConn Coach Calhoun does not have trust in his other guards — Donnell Beverly and Scottie Haralson. That means the Huskies will go maybe 7 deep (possibly 8 if center Mandelove gets some action).

Pitt continues the theme of  being ready.

“We will be ready to go,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said after the Panthers shot a school record-tying 67.4 percent from the field in an 85-69 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday.

This is only Pitt’s second game against a top-ranked team in the past 10 years — the other being an 80-76 loss at UConn three years ago — and only the second time in school history the Panthers will play in a game pitting two top-5 teams — against UConn in 2004.

“We feel good,” Pitt senior guard Levance Fields said. “We’re mentally ready.”

Calhoun lavishes praise on DeJuan Blair.

“I love Blair — don’t like him, love him,” Calhoun said. “I think he’s one of the best basketball players in America. Love watching him play — I won’t Monday night necessarily.”

And he added praise to Pitt.

”They’re the best team in the league,” coach Jim Calhoun said, “and then there’s us. We don’t have to play us. They’re the most complete team. Everybody has a certain flaw… but there aren’t many things that they don’t do well.

”They defend. They run offense. They’ve got a tough mindset. … They can win a national championship.”

And more.

“I consider (Pitt) the best team in the league,” the Huskies’ head coach said. “Then there’s us, but we don’t have to play us. I think they’re the most complete team. Everybody has a certain flaw. I’m trying to think of what Pittsburgh doesn’t do well. They defend, they run offense, they have a tough mind-set, a great point guard.”

“They’re probably the best team we’re going to play this year,” guard A.J. Price said. “We know what type of style and game they play. It’s going to be knock-down, drag out. It’s a huge game for us. Luckily, we have them at home first. We’ll try to take care of business and go from there.”

Taking care of that business requires a slightly different approach. As much as Price denied it Saturday, there is an adjustment period to playing without Dyson. UConn’s first attempt at that in Saturday’s victory at Seton Hall, while successful, wasn’t exactly inspiring.

The issue without Dyson, players getting in the lane and driving to the basket.

But Price, Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker, the guard trio of whom much will be asked post-Dyson, were a combined 6-for-25 Saturday — and that wasn’t even Calhoun’s greatest concern.

“Why did Hasheem block so many shots?” Calhoun said. “[Opponents] are getting to the rim. A.J., Kemba and Craig should do a much better job of stopping penetration. Because what’s going to happen is some of those guys on Pittsburgh are going to bang you, someone’s going to have two fouls and Blair’s going to be allowed to run free. … We need to really improve, and I’m disappointed in the penetration of [Seton Hall’s] guards.”

For both teams, it will be a concern as to how the game is officiated.

“What’s going to happen is, a couple of those guys on Pittsburgh are going to bang you, someone’s going to get two fouls, and now Blair’s going to be allowed to roam free,” Calhoun warned. “We have no one, besides Hasheem, who can play Blair, just like no one else has anybody who can play Hasheem. So, we really need to improve. I was really disappointed in the penetration of (Seton Hall’s) guards.”

I’ll be back just before the start of the game with the liveblog.

Tetchy Spam Blocker

Filed under: Admin — Chas @ 4:56 pm

Sorry about the comment problems. One of the comment spam catcher is giving me a little problem for the past 24 hours or so. Telling me it is hitting a bad URL or some other anti-bot file. I really don’t have a clue what the issue is, since I hadn’t done any tweaks to the site in that timeframe.

For now, it is dumping everything in the spam file so I have to go in and manually aprrove them.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just not feeling the gravity quite enough. I just have this mental picture of DeJuan Blair making this statement in a Spongebob voice.

“I’m going to say I’m ready, that’s all. I’m READY,” Blair said, emphasizing that last word.

Okay, he probably didn’t, but go ahead, get that out of your mind now. Obviously everyone is excited at the idea of the Blair-Thabeet match-up.

Thabeet has improved so much from last season that Connecticut didn’t even miss Dyson in its 62-54 win at Seton Hall yesterday. He had a mind-boggling day — career highs of 25 points and 20 rebounds to go along with 9 blocks — which prompted Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez to say afterward, “I don’t know who has a better player than him, who is a more dominant guy than him, in the country. He, to me, is the No. 1 player in America … If I was an NBA franchise, I would take him No. 1 in the draft.”

You should have seen Blair’s look harden when told of Gonzalez’s observation. “He hasn’t seen me play yet [this season],” he said, steely.

Blair also has improved from a year ago. He had a relatively quiet game against Cincinnati, yet still finished with 7 rebounds and 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He’s a monster as a rebounder, playing much taller than his 6-foot-7 height. The guess here is Thabeet won’t get 20 rebounds tomorrow night despite his 8-inch edge.

“His heart, his mind, his intensity, his length, his physical skills … Those are what make him the player that he is,” Dixon said of Blair.

Plus, he’s a fun quote.

DeJuan Blair had a funny answer when asked how Pitt was going to prepare for Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 Haseem Thabeet at practice.

“I’m going to try to have Levance stand on Gilbert’s shoulders.”

Getting things out of the way with Cinci was what everyone wanted.

“The stage,” Pitt point guard Levance Fields said, “is set.”

Now, the time to answer the questions that have been asked all week.

As Pitt finished off West Virginia Monday night, talk immediately turned to the impending game against No. 1 Connecticut. The Panthers were inundated with questions about the Huskies and the one-on-one battle between DeJuan Blair and Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet.

The only problem was that Connecticut wasn’t next on the schedule. Cincinnati was, and the Panthers made sure they didn’t overlook the Bearcats.

Pitt shot 67.4 percent from the field and had five players in double digits as they dropped Cincinnati 85-69 on Saturday at the Peterson Events Center.

“I think our guys handled this well,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. “Every question this week has been about Connecticut rather than Cincinnati. Our guys understand that the media’s job is different from our job. But we know what we have to focus on.”

And now everyone can be focused on the same thing. Beating UConn.

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