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March 14, 2011

Pitt’s Path to Houston

Filed under: Basketball,Media,NCAA Tourney — Chas @ 1:25 pm

My sister lives in Houston, so I have a place to stay. I’m still working on the wife accepting the idea of me running away for the first weekend in April — without returning to find the locks changed.

Here is the entire schedule for NCAA Tournament basketball games. Pitt is set for Thursday, 3:10 pm on truTV (Ch. 246 if you have DirecTV). Calling the game will be Tim Brando and Mike Giminski.

The log5 analysis puts Pitt’s chances of winning the whole thing at 7.5%. Lowest of all the #1 seeds.

Let’s look at the Southeast bracket snap judgments:

The consensus seems to be that Pitt has the easiest potential path to the Final Four. Also stated here as well. Encapsulated with this not at all creepy description, and insult all in one.

And then there is the Southeast, otherwise known as the Jamie Dixon Backrub Regional. I don’t see a single major national-title threat in that 16-team grouping, which means terminal underachiever Pittsburgh might finally reach its first Final Four since World War II.

Honestly, that seems to be the bluntest of the theme. That Pitt has a history of underachieving in the Tournament relative to seed, but this sure looks like the team and the bracket to break through.

1. Is this finally the year for Pitt?: Few teams have had more regular-season success the past five years than Pittsburgh. But Panthers fans still are waiting for that first Final Four appearance. Even though the 2009 Pittsburgh team came within one Scotty Reynolds drive of hitting the goal, none of Jamie Dixon’s teams has been better situated to make a deep run than this group. Pitt finally has veteran offensive weapons to go along with their trademark defensive intensity, giving them a perfect tournament makeup. Throw in the good fortune of the easiest bracket in the field, and Pittsburgh seems on the verge of finally making the tournament’s third weekend.

John Feinstein gets Pitt in his own back yard. Of course, Feinstein loves to back mid-majors. Toss a really good one in his own backyard and, well, you can see where this is going.

Pitt’s most dangerous game may be its second, against Old Dominion or Butler.

Putting ODU and Butler up against each other on the 8-9 line is pretty close to criminal. ODU is the best rebounding team in the country and won the most underrated conference in the country. Forget that Butler was two inches from being the defending champion in this event; the Bulldogs have won nine straight, and their conference was the toughest it has ever been.

Both teams deserved higher seeds, and they certainly didn’t deserve to have to play one another in the first round.

The Butler-ODU winner will be a tough out for Pittsburgh, especially ODU because they are one of the few teams in the country that can mix it up inside with the Panthers.

I think there is no doubt that ODU-Butler could be one of the best games on Thursday. Andy Katz at sees that game being good for Pitt for this reason.

1. Butler and Old Dominion are the perfect teams to pair together in the Southeast. This is a classic 8-9 matchup. There could and should be blood in this game, as both of these teams like to defend and grind out a game. The winner may not have much left in the tank to face No. 1 seed Pitt.

I’m not buying that part, though. The teams get a day off beforehand. And unless the game suddenly denigrates to a late-70s NBA brawl game, the winner will be fine — perhaps even more ready to go (think Northern Iowa over #1 seed Kansas last year).

I admit that when I saw the draws, I thought that Pitt-ODU could be a terrifying game. Considering ODU has beaten Georgetown before and knocked off Notre Dame in last year’s NCAA. Throw in watching them in the CAA Tournament last week — and they impressed me and others. Luke Winn at, however, does a better job at setting my mind at ease if it really is ODU in the second round.

Conversely, a meeting of mirror-image teams could happen in Washington on Saturday, if No. 9 Old Dominion and No. 1 Pitt clear the first round. The Monarchs and Panthers are 1-2 in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, both relying on workhorse big men (Frank Hassell for ODU, Gary McGhee for Pitt) to control the boards. What the Monarchs don’t have, though, is an Ashton Gibbs-type who can rain down jumpers; they rank 243rd in three-point percentage and 187th in effective field-goal percentage. People love to say, erroneously, that Pitt struggles to score, but ODU actually does struggle to score — and that’s what’ll keep it from reaching the Sweet 16.

Moving to local reactions to a good draw for Pitt.

Kevin Gorman could care less. Apparently Pitt is done.

Sunday was the day to dream, but this is today’s reality:

Pitt was built to win the Big East, not the Big Dance.

The Panthers were so successful this season largely because they followed a five-part formula that relies on a combination of them holding opponents to fewer than 70 points and 40 percent shooting from the field and winning the margins in rebounds and turnovers and making free throws.

“You’ve got to meet most of them,” Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight said. “You can’t lose rebounding and turnovers and shoot a poor percentage at the free-throw line and win the game. It doesn’t add up.”

The Panthers proved as much in their five losses this season…

Someone’s been reading from the Doug Gottlieb playbook, or is that hitting below the belt? So because in five losses where Pitt fell short in those spots, the team is doomed in the post season? I always see the arguments that Pitt wins/overachieves in the regular season; but come the post-season the talent is higher and teams are trying even harder, etc. This article didn’t even bother with that.

Ron Cook, on the other hand has decided to buy-in to Pitt making the Final Four — clearly someone wants to go to Houston.

Hey guys I know this is a little behind but I finished my research on the conference tournaments: link to

Guess who has the worst upset percentage of the last few years…yup, the Big East. Doesn’t mean it translates over to the tournament. Hopefully that’ll calm people down!!

Comment by merlin 03.14.11 @ 2:18 pm

Pat Forde can go to h***

Comment by Joe 03.14.11 @ 2:59 pm

We should dominate every game to the Final Four. Should..time to get it done. Hail to Pitt

Comment by Tony Cancilla 03.14.11 @ 4:00 pm

“Should dominate” Really? Setting things up so you can complain that the team isn’t doing enough in the wins or just hyperbole? Survive and advance. They just need to win. Style points are irrelevant.

Comment by Chas 03.14.11 @ 4:17 pm

Tony I disagree with that. I think Pitt is the best team in the region but they’re marginally better than Florida and Wisconsin so to say dominate is strong. In fact, whoever they get in the Sweet 16 is going to give them a game (even Belmont and Utah St. are very good). It’s time but s*it happens when college kids are involved.

Comment by Pabs 03.14.11 @ 4:15 pm

It’s the freaking tournament, no one “dominates.” Even if you win, you’re bound for some serious scraps along the way.

And Tony, dude, weren’t you the biggest sky-is-falling one around these parts on Thursday afternoon? Or was that your other personality? Keep calm and carry on, brother.

Comment by 85 03.14.11 @ 4:21 pm

Gminski’s a dude who proved you could go places without high ceiling “athletic” talent. Even I now have a better vertical than Gminski had in his pro prime. He should be sympathetic to Pitt, no?

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.14.11 @ 4:42 pm

We sure do ride the roller coaster around here. “Won’t be a #1 and won’t make the 2nd round” becomes “should dominate” until Final Four. I think this bracket suits Pitt better than many years, but I see a lot of potential upsets in our region and a lot of parity. I think Pitt can beat every team in our region 2 out 3 times, but unfortunately, we only play them each once.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 03.14.11 @ 4:45 pm

Tony, you should change your name to “Naysayer”

Comment by Joe 03.14.11 @ 4:45 pm

Lots of ODU talk- but as pointed out above… they’re a TERRIBLE shooting team. They’ll contend on the boards, but if we score 60 we should have no problem.

Butler is probably a little trickier. We should be good on the boards but I could see Mack or another savvy guard giving us fits.

Butler/ODU will definitely be one of the best match-ups of the day. Could see that one coming down to a final shot or overtime.

Comment by tacocat 03.14.11 @ 4:51 pm

Jamie on ESPNU at 5 p.m.

Comment by TampaT 03.14.11 @ 5:00 pm

…followed by big Hoopie Huggins. Katz had to love that. He goes from a guy who is excited and intense to a guy who sounds like he’s recovering from an all night bender.

Comment by TampaT 03.14.11 @ 5:14 pm

thinking about checking out the game on thurs. is it possible for someone who is watching the first game to come outside afterwards and sell their ticket for the second game? i know that one ticket covers both games. have never been to a tournament game, wasn’t sure how it works. thanks.

Comment by rick 03.14.11 @ 5:17 pm

Rick, there are always some tickets floating around for the second game, but your best bet is to pick up a ticket for both ahead of time. Even if it sets you back a few extra sheckles you won’t regret it. I made my first tourney trip in ’09 for the second round game against OK St. in Dayton, and watching Siena try like hell to upset Louisville is one of the most fun random games I’ve ever been to.

Comment by 85 03.14.11 @ 5:29 pm

thanks 85.

Comment by rick 03.14.11 @ 6:06 pm

Hey guys, I’ve been out of it for a while. Any news on Zanna?

Comment by Benzene 03.14.11 @ 6:27 pm


There are two “Sessions” on Thursday. Both have two games. We will play the second game of the afternoon or 1st session. Your ticket is also good for the first game of that session. You need a separate ticket for the evening session and its two games. You can’t attend the first game of a session and give your ticket to someonelse for the second game of that session. NO R-entry allowed. The third session will be on Saturday, again with two games. One ticket gets you into both games.

Comment by Tiger Paul 03.14.11 @ 6:33 pm

I’m frantically searching for truTV in HD (on FIOS), but not seeing anything…do I really have to watch this game in Standard Def? WTF?

Comment by Hank the Tank 03.14.11 @ 6:48 pm

Tampa T – “Sounds like” he’s recovering from an all-nighter? C’mon, this is Huggins we’re talking about, he’s DEFINITELY recovering from all-nighter.

Comment by maguro 03.14.11 @ 6:56 pm

Benzene–looks like Zanna should be available for the 2nd weekend, assuming we beat Butler/ODU. Getting him back for a game against Wisconsin or Belmont would be huge!

Comment by merlin 03.14.11 @ 6:57 pm

We’ve been thru this high expectation game before with these media a-holes. As recently as this past football season. All it does it set you up to be disappointed. I’d be happy to get to New Orleans, see who the opponent is and then everything after that is Gravy. HTP !
Comment by melvinbennett 03.14.11 @ 6:57 pm

Comment by melvinbennett 03.14.11 @ 7:01 pm

Hank the Tank: Try 683. That’s the HD truTV channel on my FIOS lineup. It’s usually +500 of the SD channel, and that’s 183 for me. It wasn’t listed when I searched either, so I just tried 683 and it was there.

Comment by TampaT 03.14.11 @ 7:02 pm

Is the Pitt game seriously on TruTV? Surely you jest? Is Jesse Ventura doing the pre-game analysis.

Comment by melvinbennett 03.14.11 @ 7:06 pm

3 p.m. – UNC Asheville / Arkansas Little Rock vs. Pittsburgh – truTV

True, melvinbennett, according to the schedule that Chas linked to at It will either be Jesse or Repo Man Ron. 🙂

Comment by TampaT 03.14.11 @ 7:22 pm

Everybody pray together now, “somebody please beat Kansas”!!!THATS our hurdle to get to the Final Four.

Comment by Dr. Tom 03.14.11 @ 8:05 pm

Comcast users:
TruTV HD = Ch. 841

Comment by Jason 03.14.11 @ 8:34 pm

If it is TruTV, that is very bad news for Pitt’s biggest fans. TruTV is not available in dorms.

Comment by Frank The Tank 03.14.11 @ 8:55 pm

The Ron Cook article is a terrible excuse for journalism. Not that I don’t agree with him, but you are writing for a big paper, not a high school newsletter. Mental exhaustion? People would pay for your job, to follow the team around. Give us fans something better. We deserve more.

Comment by Todd Gack 03.14.11 @ 9:47 pm

Regarding Zanna – Coach Dixon was on the radio today and said that Zanna is scheduled to have the pins taken out of his hand/thumb on Monday, at which point they are hoping he can resume playing with a splint. He stressed that while they would really like to have him back, there are no guarantees, and they don’t know what his conditioning will be like.

Comment by Pantherman13 03.14.11 @ 10:13 pm

Dr. Tom: If everything goes right, Kansas will face L’ville and ND back-to-back in the Regionals. While I think Kansas is the best team in the tourney, I don’t know if they can beat those two BE teams in a row, especially if one or both are hitting their 3s.

Comment by TampaT 03.14.11 @ 10:46 pm

I certainly hope they’ve been practicing the pick & roll on defense.

Comment by MoE 03.14.11 @ 11:29 pm

Casual basketball fan, but living in Virginia I can tell you that ODU is tough and mean. The CAA is in an up year this year. If Gibbs lights up 3’s we win easy, if McGhee gets in foul trouble and doesn’t play much, Pitt will have a very hard game. That is if they beat Butler, who I have not seen play.

Comment by square44 03.15.11 @ 12:01 am

Comment by Pittastic 03.15.11 @ 6:05 am

I’ve watched a few late-season Butler games, as well as their run through their conference tourney. They’re playing team ball, similar to their run last year. I would bet that Butler will press us, at least for a little while. I wonder if one of the hyphenated teams will try in the first round?

Comment by Lou 03.15.11 @ 8:26 am

Tampa T — thanks for heads up. It’s not on my channel lineup either, but it’s there. Crisis averted!

Comment by Hank the Tank 03.15.11 @ 9:20 am

Gibbs is serious… I hope the team has that hunger and focus…..

link to

I love the comment from brad… get hungry like uconn… since that game they were out hustled and muscled.

Comment by Snala The Panther 03.15.11 @ 10:25 am

It’s good to see Gibbs step up in that way. He and Nas have to be thinking that this may be their best shot at a championship too, so expect to see both acting more like seniors in the tourney. Given their focus and intensity, that should be a good thing for Pitt.

Comment by TampaT 03.15.11 @ 10:48 am

Not to look ahead, but I like their chances next year too with Nas, Birch, Taylor, and Zahnna in the frontcourt.

Comment by Freebird 03.15.11 @ 11:33 am

Gibbs seems to be really fired up and focused in every interview.

I honestly don’t get all the concern over ODU. Yes, ODU rebounds well. But so does Pitt. And when Pitt was playing lesser competition (like ODU plays all the time) they were ahead of ODU. Plus, ODU shoots 3s poorly and defends 3s poorly. I’m worried most about K-State.

Comment by BlackMagic 03.15.11 @ 11:34 am

Are there any websites that have every game streamed?

Comment by MattyIce 03.15.11 @ 11:48 am

ODU would have to defend exceeding well to overcome its lack of offensive fire power. It’s also no given that they get by Butler.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.15.11 @ 12:26 pm streams the games live every year. They also have an app for iPhones/iPads which is free. Can’t beat that.

Comment by TampaT 03.15.11 @ 12:33 pm

I think will be streaming the games.

Comment by GDodson 03.15.11 @ 12:46 pm

I lucked out and have tickets for Thurs as I do not have TruTV. I hope they send Graham to DC and put him somewhere where the cameras can get to him. No better time to sell both sports to a National audience.

Comment by Yeti 03.15.11 @ 12:47 pm

The venue in Vegas, where I watch the opening rounds, streams all the games on very large-screen TVs! I highly recommend it for any basketball fans on this board!

Comment by Lou 03.15.11 @ 2:41 pm

Yeah, I don’t see ODU as such a threat — they’re at best a poor-man’s version of us. I’m fine if they want to play our game, we’re better at it. Butler worries me a little only because they are coached really well. But I get more worried in sweet-16 (god permitting we get there) against KSt or Wisco, both teams remind me of UTenn and ND, respectively.

In fact, I don’t exactly agree with the concensus that the South East is by far the easiest region. Yes, UF and BYU are wayyy over-seeded now, but Wisco and K St are legit (not to mention SJU). Pitt has its work cut out for ’em.

Comment by PantherP 03.15.11 @ 3:18 pm

Take us to the promised land Ashton.

Comment by Joe 03.15.11 @ 3:23 pm

I hate ND, but the Badgers aren’t in their league. UW can’t recruit well out of state and face challenges in-state where the average blood type is gouda.

ND is all juco/transfers/older players — ie non-NBA prospects . . . the kind of criticism people usually level at Pitt.

KSU is one to watch, only because they underachieved early and finished much stronger late.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.15.11 @ 3:49 pm

Was that really Ron Cook or a ghost writer. I’m flabbergasted that the aforementioned writer actually came out with such a positive boost for his home town Panthers. Ah, it is good when brothers dwell in unity. We in central Ohio are not ALL Buckeye fans. You may be surprised at how many are on board to follow Gibb’s lead and take the Steel City hoopsters to the national title. Go Pitt!!! Rev. George from Columbus

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 03.15.11 @ 4:37 pm

The Madness is about to begin. The Tip-Off Show is now showing on truTV prior to the start of the UNC-Ashville/Arkansas-Little Rock game at 6:30.

Comment by TampaT 03.15.11 @ 6:13 pm

I think UNC-Ashville might upset our panthers. They looked really good tonight. Great ball movement, boxed out, took smart shots, etc.

Comment by Tony Cancilla 03.15.11 @ 9:55 pm

UNC-Ashville on paper reads like a poor man’s Duquesne. They’re small, they’re terrible on the boards but they’re good at forcing turnovers. If Pitt can break their pressure they should win easily. If they cant and UNC-A gets hot then watch out.

Comment by Pabs 03.15.11 @ 10:06 pm

The only team capable of staying within 20 points of us lost. A little paranoid guys?

Comment by Krayz 03.15.11 @ 11:15 pm

I take that back, looking at the stats on KenPom UNC Asheville is actually a lot better. Didn’t seem that way 80% of the game. Stayed 11 points within UNC when they were having problems. Got blown out by OSU 96-49 though.

Comment by Krayz 03.15.11 @ 11:20 pm

Assuming Pitt wins the first game, does anyone know what time they would play on Saturday?

Comment by Coach Ditka 03.16.11 @ 6:55 am

Seth Davis is a douche. link to

Comment by Pittastic 03.16.11 @ 8:27 am

Starting to get a little freaked out by this TruTV talk. Is this the case only outside of the Pittsburgh market? Would it not be on CBS locally, regardless of cable provider (mine is the mom-and-popish Armstrong)?

Comment by Carmen 03.16.11 @ 8:54 am

Check that: TruTV is carried by Armstrong. This no HD stuff blows.

Comment by Carmen 03.16.11 @ 8:59 am

Tony C is back to his cynical self-he went from Pitt being able “dominate,” to Pitt bowing out to UNC Ashville…why do you come here, Tony?

Comment by Lou 03.16.11 @ 9:42 am

Davis will get his when Butler beats the fashionable underdog ODU — he’ll change his story to some justification like Butler would only beat Pitt 1 out of 20 times but this will be their time — afterall, they handled Pitt’s mini-me in ODU . . .

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.16.11 @ 10:26 am

The knock on the SE is that it’s weak in 2-4 seeds, not that there isn’t worthy talent in the region. I think the field is stronger 5-13 than most of the other brackets, which actuallyl makes it kind of interesting.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.16.11 @ 10:28 am

ODU Butler is great first round that I hope goes into double OT. Gary, Dante & Nas could damage Asheville in the paint. If the good Gilbert shows up he’s a matchup problem for them. We need 80 minutes of intense basketball in DC, like the 2nd half v WV.

Comment by Old School Panther 03.16.11 @ 11:35 am

japan is in a crisis right now

Comment by click here 03.16.11 @ 2:53 pm

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