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February 23, 2009

Find the Idiot Coach

Filed under: Basketball,Media,Polls — Chas @ 2:41 pm

Polls don’t phase me too much. Pitt is the #1 team. A few absurd votes shouldn’t bother me. Unanimous vote seems nice, but I fully expect/expected at least one coach or writer to vote for Memphis or Michigan State. And while I would totally disagree, it would at least have some flawed logic behind it. I can even get that Oklahoma might get a couple #1 votes with the rationalizing about not having Griffin (as some writers did).

Someone voting for UConn as #1, though? After Pitt beat UConn in Hartford? After UConn lost their second-leading scorer for the year?

One of these coaches is responsible:

Mike Adras, Northern Arizona;
Dana Altman, Creighton;
Tommy Amaker, Harvard;
Tevester Anderson, Jackson State;
Ronnie Arrow, South Alabama;
Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s;
Eddie Biedenbach, North Carolina-Asheville;
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse;
Rick Byrd, Belmont;
Charles Coles, Miami (Ohio);
Steve Fisher, San Diego State;
Tim Floyd, Southern California;
Greg Graham, Boise State;
Tom Green, Fairleigh Dickinson;
Rob Jeter, Wisconsin-Milwaukee;
Jeff Jones, American;
Billy Kennedy, Murray State;
Dan Leibovitz, Hartford;
Fran McCaffery, Siena;
Mike McConathy, Northwestern State;
Bob McKillop, Davidson;
Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph’s;
Ron “Fang” Mitchell, Coppin State;
Matt Painter, Purdue;
Tom Pecora, Hofstra;
John Pelphrey, Arkansas;
Doc Sadler, Nebraska;
Scott Sutton, Oral Roberts;
Bob Williams, UC-Santa Barbara;
Gary Williams, Maryland;
Doug Wojcik, Tulsa.

None of them jump out as me as being the stupid coach. Off the top of my head, I don’t see any of these coaches with direct coaching ties to UConn or Calhoun. Of course, since they don’t have to reveal their votes we may never know.

As for the writers, the stupid ones are known. George Geise voted for UConn. He’s from Montana. Apparently they don’t have ESPN on weekdays.

With Oklahoma at #1 I’m stunned at one of the voters. Seth Davis at picked Oklahoma. His vote had some oddities. Syracuse at #16? Arizona at #18?

Ron Morris at The State (South Carolina) also went with Oklahoma. I won’t even pretend to make sense of his, other than this guy likes to group his votes by conference/region.

Embracing Expectations

Filed under: Basketball,Honors,Players — Chas @ 11:44 am

Coach Dixon has continually told this team that they could be the best Pitt team ever. That doesn’t mean that he will not declare what they want to accomplish — win it all.

It realizes it has to get to the Final Four not only to have a chance to be champions, but to make this marvelous season unforgettable.

“Everybody on the team knows it’s going to come down to March for us,” point guard extraordinaire Levance Fields said.

“I love those expectations. I love that pressure. That’s why we came to the University of Pittsburgh. We want to put Pitt where it belongs.”

Everything is in place for it to happen. It’s not just that No. 1 ranking, though that helps. Because Pitt beat then-No. 1 Connecticut in Hartford last week and because No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 North Carolina lost Saturday, Pitt will get a precious No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament as long as it takes care of business in the next two weeks. If it wins the games it is supposed to win — at Providence tomorrow night, at Seton Hall Saturday night and home against Marquette March 4 before the home rematch with Connecticut March 7 — it probably won’t have to win the Big East Conference tournament to get a top seed. Its body of work for the season will be that strong.

“We’ve definitely put ourselves in a great position,” Fields said. “But we know we can still get better. That’s exciting.”

DeJuan Blair’s national emergence (and knocking off UCOnn) has made Pitt a more trendy pick to win it all. Blair, undoubtably will be the Big East player of the week this afternoon. CollegeHoopsNet already made him their national player of the week. Reporters, love writing about him as he is a great quote.

In the first half, Blair had six more rebounds (16) than the entire DePaul team (10). Blair, the top offensive rebounder in the nation, had nine offensive rebounds in the first half alone. He scored 16 points in 14 minutes despite not having plays run for him. Most of the production came off the offensive glass.

“I’ll do everything for my team to win,” Blair said. “Going after the ball. Going and getting the money. That’s what I call the ball. Money. Go get that money and we’re going to win.”

The thing that helps Pitt, is not just a player like Blair, but solid depth. Tyrell Biggs had a good outing against DePaul (who didn’t) as he scored 13 when he got a plenty of time in place of Blair.

“In practice we were talking, and I knew this was going to be his breakout game,” sophomore center DeJuan Blair said. “This is the Biggs I know. I didn’t know the Biggs the last couple of games.

“I knew it was coming. He let the game come to him. In the second half his shots went down, and he started rebounding a little bit. He started playing. He’s going to come around. I wasn’t worried about the way he was playing. He found his game. He came in before practice. He stayed and shot after practice. I wasn’t worried about him.”

Coach Dixon was happy that Biggs was going inside a lot more.

But the starting power forward’s perimeter game is only important to the Panthers when center DeJuan Blair is on the floor. Consider that on Saturday, Biggs had a pair of put backs and a mini-hook underneath. He also kept DePaul defenders off the glass with three offensive rebounds (five total).

While Blair was on the bench — he only played 23 minutes in the rout — Biggs rarely left the lane.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon wants Biggs to improve, but he also wants Biggs’ focus locked in on the interior. In last year’s Big East Tournament semifinals, Biggs was forced into 31 minutes of work, cold off the bench because he wasn’t a starter. He scored six points, had eight rebounds and blocked a shot as Blair sat quietly on the bench in foul trouble.

He didn’t just help the Panthers get to the Big East championship game, he willed them there.

And, in case Blair gets into similar problems with whistles, Dixon wants Biggs to be prepared for that possibility again, and to save the outside shots for the guards.

“What I liked (about Saturday) was when he finished around the basket,” Dixon said, as if Biggs was in the room and heeding his words. “That’s where he’s got to get his points. The threes will come, but we need to get him finishes around the basket.

“He’s making open shots, but that has to be his secondary option.”

That’s always been an issue with Biggs. He has a power forward’s body, but thinks of himself like a shooting guard. Drifting to the perimeter and putting up jumpers more than playing around or powering to the basket.

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