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January 26, 2010

So Many Ways to Spin…

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 1:15 pm

Just a side note since Pitt tumbled to #17 in the rankings for what ever it was worth. It wasn’t that much of a slide as it could have been after losing 2 straight. A 6 and 8 spot drop really didn’t seem that bad. It probably didn’t hurt that there weren’t that many teams behind them that made a case to move higher. Not to mention Pitt’s loss to Seton Hall came while overlapping the NFL Championship playoffs — further minimizing who was actually paying attention.

Lots of different theories that bounce around after 2-straight losses. Many factors that come into play. Not claiming all are valid, just trying to consider all factors.

Seton Hall not having Jeremy Hazell for most of the game actually benefited the Pirates. Foul problems for the high-volume shot-taker meant  more ball movement, as Hazell wasn’t just jacking up shots and dribbling with the ball until ready to shoot. Additionally, not having Hazell tossed out most of Pitt’s game plan which was presumably built around containing Hazell. A case could be made that Pitt struggled to readjust on defense especially in the first half.

— Intangibles all favored Seton Hall. The Pirates haven’t made the NCAA Tournament under Gonzalez and they need to have big wins in the Big East to do it. They haven’t beaten Pitt under Gonzalez — no matter how tough they played Pitt — so it had to happen sometime. They also had not beaten a top-ten team under Gonzalez. The last time they did it — versus Pitt in 2006. The Seton Hall AD losing power struggle with Gonzalez, providing more of a boost to the coach and players.

After such a lousy non-con and close losses to start the conference — OT to WVU, tough, tight losses to UConn and Syracuse — they were due.

After coming up short against top-ranked teams earlier in the season, the Pirates (12-6, 3-4 Big East) finally had their breakthrough victory — and a send-off to three consecutive road games (South Florida, Villanova, Pittsburgh).

“The Syracuse and West Virginia games helped us win this game,” said Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez. “It was huge for us. It shows we’re becoming a good team and a team that can win several ways.”

— Herb Pope playing his most complete game in a game he really wanted.

— The backcourt struggled horribly against Seton Hall’s more aggressive guard defense. Not a press, but lots of hands in the face and slapping at the ball. Things not seen since their struggle against Indiana. Just not handling the pressure well. Turning the ball over and rushing things.

The Pirates forced the Panthers (15-4, 5-2) into 20 turnovers, into a 35 percent shooting performance and, ultimately, into a state of disbelief.

“We had 20 turnovers, 14 in the first half,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “That usually will lead to a loss. Most amazingly, [the turnovers] all came in the half-court, which is hard to comprehend. We’re making bad decisions and not executing well enough offensively and defensively.”

— Pitt is just in a funk at the moment. Whether it is because they are having some of the typical struggles of a young team and it just looks worse because they have been looking so good and winning. It’s losing focus and gaps in concentration. Even when they know what to do, not doing it.

Pope’s baseline dunk typified the Panthers’ defensive letdowns. Moments earlier, during a timeout, assistant coach Brandin Knight alerted his players on how to defend the inbounds play.

“Coach Knight told us they were going to run that play, and that’s exactly what they did,” Jermaine Dixon said. “A handoff to a ball screen right there, and he (Pope) was going to slip. That’s what they were looking for. We were supposed to be there. … That’s happened a lot, a lot of defensive lapses. It happened in the Georgetown game. It happened today.”

— As Ashton Gibbs goes, so goes the Panthers. Teams are locking down on Gibbs. Making him the focal point of their defense. That means when Pitt tries to run a play for Gibbs, the teams are not letting him get free. This has led to a lot more contested shots, having to pass on the attempt and keep looking for another scorer, and a frustrated Gibbs rushing shots. Against Seton Hall, the aggressive defense sent Gibbs to the freethrow line tons, but Gibbs couldn’t get shots to go from anywhere else.

— The pride in defense has been merely lip-service without actively doing it. The defensive intensity has dropped.

[Jermaine] Dixon said the Panthers have to get back to playing well on defense in order to turn things around.

“Ever since we got ranked higher our defense has been worse,” he said. “We just have to pick it up on defense. I’m going to make sure I’m going to let everyone know what we’re doing wrong. It’s one thing to hear it from a coach. If you hear it from a player then people take things different. I’m going to start being more vocal. I’m going to say a lot more when we’re on the court practicing.”

With poor defensive play comes giving opposing teams the time to set their own defenses against Pitt. While Pitt is not a transition team trying to get out and run, any team tends to execute an offense better when they can keep the other team on their heels defensively. Especially for Pitt to get the ball inside.

— The guard play has been a struggle. The guard rotation is now rather limited. It is Wanamaker, Gibbs and Dixon. All three are struggling at the same time. Unfortunately there is no one behind them to help.  The confidence in Travon Woodall and Chase Adams has gotten lower. Woodall and Adams have no confidence shooting the ball. Woodall compounds things by not taking care of the ball and bad passing.

— The frontcourt has gone passive. In the past two games the front court simply hasn’t had many opportunities on offense. Some of that is a function of turnovers and the guards not working the ball inside real well. In the Seton Hall game, McGhee, Robinson and Taylor only had 6 shot attempts and only 2 trips to the foul line. Yes, they had 6 turnovers, but they had limited attempts. The other part is they aren’t presenting themselves to get the ball. They have to work harder to get open.

The more troubling aspect is the lack of rebounding from the 5 spot. Taylor and McGhee combined for only 5 rebounds against Seton Hall, 7 vs. Georgetown and 8 against Louisville. Taylor, especially, has disappeared on the glass. Wanamaker has been the leading rebounder the past two games — even if you would combine Taylor and McGhee’s lines. That means they are getting beaten for defensive boards and missing opportunities for put-backs on offense.

Change afoot? From the end of the PG article linked to above:


The only reserve who has made a consistent impact has been Gilbert Brown. Jamie Dixon sounded as if some changes might be forthcoming when the Panthers play host Thursday to St. John’s at Petersen Events Center.

“We probably should have played guys more minutes,” he said. “That may have something to do with it as well. That’s my responsibility. We have to address a couple of different things.”


It does seem like time to finally put Gilbert Brown into the starting lineup — and he needs to respond with consistent scoring — and to make an effort to work the ball down low.

Comment by Carmen 01.26.10 @ 2:08 pm

AG is now a Hornet. Hopefully he gets some more minutes down here…

Comment by Greg in New Orleans 01.26.10 @ 2:17 pm

Despite all this, and yet: if Wanamaker had just calmed down instead of hastily dribbling into three Pirate defenders with 20 seconds left and Pitt down one, I really don’t think this entire post exists. We had the momentum after the huge three, and let it go to waste.

Bah, that play’s going to piss me off for the rest of the year. Just stupid.

Comment by Aaron 01.26.10 @ 2:58 pm

I remember that play that Aaron has pointed out but, on the other hand, Wannamker was the only Panther among many Pirates who was there to rebound Hazzell’s miss. Wanamaker has been the leading rebounder the past 2 games and, like it or not, has been the 2nd best player this season .. and if Gibbs doesn’t start playing better then Wannamker has been the best. As the announcers have often pointed out, he is much more valuable than his stats show … and unlike Gibbs, he doesn’t have to score a lot to be of great value.

Yes, he turns it over alot but maybe he is just trying to do too much … I see little difference between his turnovers and Gibbs’ forced shots, many of which have been blocked the past few games.

There hasn’t been one Pitt player who has played well throughout, not even close, and that includes Dixon and Brown.

Comment by wbb 01.26.10 @ 4:05 pm

Carmen, clearly Coach Dixon is referring to Richardson.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.26.10 @ 4:08 pm

Until Pitt can run some of it’s offense thru the post or 4 position, they will have trouble scoring and winning. I might think they could even put Gilbert into the 4 or 5 postition full time if McGhee and Taylor continue to struggle.

Comment by Dan 72 01.26.10 @ 4:58 pm

I heard something about Charles Smith being instrumental in getting Herb Pope to Seton Hall. And the announcers on FSN said something about Smith rooting for Seton Hall. Anyone know the story?

Comment by Auggiefromlatrobe 01.26.10 @ 10:17 pm

Yes, you’re probably right, Silver. But it does seem that it’s time to put the stronger player in the starting line-up. Nothing against Nasir Robinson, who plays hard and brings intangibles, but at this point it seems to me to be more important to have your strongest 5 on the court most of the time, while also trying to better balance overall minutes.

Comment by Carmen 01.27.10 @ 8:54 am

Brown should start. This is getting ridiculous. Nasir will be better coming off the bench.

Comment by Omar 01.27.10 @ 9:25 am

I was just joking about Richardson. Obviously, from his comments, Dixon is leaning toward more PT for Brown- in line with the majority of commentary on this board.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.27.10 @ 10:19 am

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