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December 28, 2011

Playing Opposite of History

Filed under: Basketball,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 12:38 pm

There has been a prevailing media myth about Pitt basketball the last few years. It has been repeated ad nauseum about how Pitt is a great defensive team, but is offensively challenged. In truth, Pitt has been anywhere from a good to mediocre defensive team with a highly efficient offense.

What has been true about the defense, regardless of the media storyline, has been that Pitt players have taken pride in playing defense. That a strong defensive series tends to energize them and has often fueled their offense. That has not at all been the case this season.

Forget, if you can for the moment, the poor defensive performances this season. What we haven’t seen on the defensive side is enthusiasm to play defense, unless the offense is flowng. When the offense is going, the team’s energy is higher. While there hasn’t been great showings this season, we at least knew the effort on defense was there.

Now, compare that effort over the last couple of games — specifically the second half.

In the first half of Wagner and ND, Pitt shot sub-35% against teams with very different defenses — with one noticeable similarity. Wagner brought pressure. Trying and succeeding in forcing a ton of turnovers. ND stayed in a regular defense, occasionally showing a 2-3 look.

The one thing both did, gave very little space on the perimeter for the guards to operate — especially on Ashton Gibbs. An uncontested jumper was a rare sight. Gibbs was never given room to take a shot, and it has gotten into his head. Where he used to fire up with such a quick release, Gibbs is now hesitating. We saw early in the season that Pitt was much more of a jump-shooting team. Working the perimeter and finding shots.

Teams have made an adjustment. Taking away the perimeter and fighting through Pitt’s attempts to set screens. Willing to take chances on leaving the paint open for the frontcourt because they don’t fear them doing much more than lay-ups and putbacks.

Rather than keep the effort going on the defensive end and trust that they could find the shots in the second half, Pitt got impatient on the offense. And worse, stopped putting effort into the defense. It wasn’t as obvious against a smaller, weaker team like Wagner, but Notre Dame absolutely shredded Pitt.

Notre Dame shot 32.1% in the first half (9-28) and then went for 72% (18-25) in the second half. There’s no way to attribute that to simply the shooters getting hot. Especially when you see that Pitt held a +9 rebounding advantage in the first half and ended the game with the same +9 advantage. Despite ND only missing 7 shots — the Irish still grabbed 4 offensive rebounds. How does Pitt let that happen? Jack Cooley averaged 7.667 RPG coming into the game and pulled down 14.

The ND loss was a team effort. There isn’t one player on the Pitt team who played that can get a pass —  maybe Woodall simply because it was his first game back from the injury. Name a player and the performance was subpar at a minimum. I wish it was just a couple players. Then the fix would be more obvious. Or it could be attributed to an off night.

Right now this team is behaving like a much younger team. They are letting frustrations at the  offensive end impact their effort at the other.





Or vice versa

Comment by steve 12.28.11 @ 1:24 pm

Early on it looked like Pitt had the upper hand and could easily handle ND. ND hung in there, momentum changed, they made all their shots, we made none.

I agree with those that are saying we need to go up tempo. ND could not run with us and shots will be more open.

This is a big change for Jamie, but I don’t see this team becoming a traditional Pitt half court team.

Comment by gc 12.28.11 @ 1:38 pm

I think we may have to face reality and admit that this team is not very good and has a very low ceiling. I’m beginning to wonder how much they can improve by March to get another NCAA bid. The next three games, against Big East bottom-feeders, will be very telling.

Comment by Scott 78 12.28.11 @ 1:49 pm

This team will struggle to make the NCAA’s without massive improvement or a wholesale strategy shift from the Coach. I don’t see either happenning, so expect the bubble.

Comment by omar 12.28.11 @ 1:55 pm

Losing Wannamaker was too much.

Comment by omar 12.28.11 @ 1:55 pm

Wannamaker was the glue and the toughness. But we also have no muscle undernesth. I think Taylor and Zanna would fair better up tempo as would Moore, Woodall and Johnson.

Comment by gc 12.28.11 @ 2:26 pm

The season is still early. Hope to play our best ball in March.

Comment by alcofan 12.28.11 @ 2:26 pm

The best analysis of a game (season) that I’ve read in a long time. Great piece Chas. On par (better actually) than anything I’ll read in the print media.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 12.28.11 @ 2:33 pm

While I love Coach Dixon, for how he and Howland transformed PITT basketball, the sad truth is Jamie appears to only know one way (or style) to coach. Same thing with Howland, as UCLA is struggling at 7-5 after a lucklaster season last year. Many on UCLA blogs are calling for Ben’s head.

Neither of them play any other defenses other than for a few brief possessions, neither of their teams can press when behind. And neither of their teams play uptempo, even though Howland gets much better recruits than Dixon. While they have both racked up plenty of wins and Howland has even gotten UCLA to the Final Four twice, earlier in his tenure(I believe with players he inherited), this lack of being able to adjust defenses, change defenses to disrupt an opponent’s offense or just to confuse them for a possession or two to create a key turnover here and there, possibly contributes greatly to their teams not being able to get over the proverbial hump. Especially when the other team produces the same or more energy than their teams.

Feature front page story on Pitt’s troubles on
Yahoo’s NCAA page:

link to rivals.yahoo.com

Comment by EMel 12.28.11 @ 2:50 pm

if this pitt team is going to be any good, the “light” needs to come on for taylor and moore. unless/until those 2 become consistent impact guys on both ends of the floor, pitt’s 2012 ceiling might be simply making the ncaa tourney.

Comment by scott 12.28.11 @ 2:57 pm

Losing Wannamaker, Brown and McGhee all at once was very detrimental to the team.

Those guys have been the template for success over the past 6 yrs…Levance, Ramon, Blair, etc….

All of that is gone…its a complete rebuild year.

I feel bad for Gibbs.

Comment by Yup 12.28.11 @ 3:18 pm

Chas, good commentary. Having been in attendence during the Wagner game and watching most of the Notre Dame debacle, I actually turned off the TV with two minutes left. Yes I actually prefered watching a HALLMARK MOVIE rather than continuing to watch the Pitt Panthers getting their asses kicked.

Comment by Justinian 12.28.11 @ 3:19 pm

I don’t feel bad for Gibbs at all. His horrible play has been a huge reason for the down season. He just isn’t playing team basketball and his defense sucks. He doesn’t even try on that end.

Comment by omar 12.28.11 @ 3:23 pm

Basketball defense is all about heart and passion. Even if you do not have as much talent as the guy you are guarding, hard work and passion can overcome other deficiencies most of the time. Jamie’s kids are playing soft and without passion, period. This will be an incredible coaching year for Jamie if he can get his kids to commit to the defensive side of the ball. You can’t fake hard work, passion and heart and those show up when it is time to work the defensive craft. What the kids don’t understand is that playing passionate defense leads to highlight ESPN videos on the offensive side. Pitt does not have a leader to step up and show by example, how to defend. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are great defensive techinicians because they understand that offense flows from defense and they love to score. They also understand that if you don’t get the ball from the other team, you can’t score as much!

The problem with the team is that they do not have a leader. Although I am glad Ashton Gibbs returned for another year, he didn’t work hard enough on his game in the off-season, which is disappointing because he had the opportunity to do it. Many indicated he wouldn’t get drafted because he coldn’t create space to get off his shot. My response is that if he couldn’t get quicker, he could have elevated his offensive game by becoming a stronger defender, thus leading to offensive opportunities. This situation isn’t about hoops or football, but rather, athletics. No heart, no passion will equate to losses. Jamie is a nice coach but will need to find a leader fast to salvage the season.

Any word on whether Khem reached out to Jamie about returning? I haven’t seen him play but if he had any defensive prowess, Pitt could use him. It may cause a rift in the clubhouse, but if he shows heart and passion defensively every time down the court, I would not hesitate to bring him back and put him in the lineup. Maybe the others need to see that defense gets you in the game. Actually, doesn’t matter if it is Khem or anyone else. Whoever plays the best defense gets to see the court. I would put the 5 hardest working defenders on the curt to start the next game in order to send a maeesage…

Comment by dhuffdaddy 12.28.11 @ 3:23 pm

Was looking over the NCAA team stat page to see just how horrid our defense is this year.

Now mind you these stats were against a very weak non-con schedule. You’ll see how weak as I expand.

Pitt is #211 in FG % defense allowing teams (in this case bad teams) to shoot 44.1 % against them.

Now earlier in the season we thought the Panthers were a pretty good shooting team. Might have been more due to this. 8 of the 13 teams we played HAVE A WORSE FG % defense than us.

Looking further, we’re better at 3 point FG % defense as were up to #180 allowing 34.4% of 3’s.
Or that might be better because it’s so easy to score on PITT underneath at 44.1%, teams are taking more layups, which is evident.

Again at one time PITT was #1(still #3) among BigEast teams in 3 point shooting % on offense. But then again looking closer, 8 of the teams we’ve played are ranked substantially lower than PITT at #180 in 3 point shooting % defense.

Clearly this team can’t play man defense, even against the extremely weak teams we’ve faced so far. They better learn how to play zone or whatever, since two of three bigs are lost in man defense. And the perimeter man defense isn’t really any better.

You can hide a lot of player deficiencies in a well played zone defense. At the very least it can take away all these easy layups that the 44.1 FG % defense suggests. That is only going to get worse when the competition vastly improves if we stay with the man defense.

Comment by EMel 12.28.11 @ 3:36 pm

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Thank you EMel for sharing the photo above from Yahoo. I would label the players shown as follow: Woodall-incredulous;Moore-unbelieving;Taylor-uninterested;and Wright-incredulous. I wou;d agree that an uptempo game should be employed The prognosis now appears bleak. Roll the dice, Jamie, your fans are with you and the status quo is not working. Rev George from Columbus

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 12.28.11 @ 3:52 pm

The big 6’11” center we have, who they burned his redshirt on, after Birch left, Marcus Gilbert.
Yeah, that guy.

He is supposed to be a very good defensive player.
Which is something Taylor and Zanna are not.

But since Zanna gives you a lot more energy than Sleepy, and he was PITT’s best player last night with a Double/Double, you wouldn’t want to replace him.

Contrasting that, you’re not getting any offense to speak of from Sleepy or of course much energy and his defense is pretty much non-existent. If you want to try to shore up this defense, go to a zone and plug the big 6’11” Gilbert in the middle.
Don’t have him running all around the court, arms flailing, trying to defend off of screens, 30 ft away from the hoop.

Do I expect this to happen, absolutely not.
Should it, at least be tried, absolutely.

Comment by EMel 12.28.11 @ 3:55 pm

All I ever hear about is Gibbs practice habits…that is not the reason for his struggles. He just has physical limitations. The team doesn’t have the floor general they’ve had in the past and it’s coming back to bite them in the ass.

The good news is that next year we have that guy coming into the program…Robinson. He along with Adams and Gilbert should also help the defense.

This season is the season we expected two years ago except Wanamaker stepped up and didn’t let his team be the one to tarnish Dixon’s legacy. The talent is there but the bar wasn’t set by the upper clansmen.

Dixon hasn’t forgotten to coach. The reason he always goes with experience over talent is because the experienced players are better leaders. This team has let Dixon down in this regard.

You can tell he is banking on Patterson and Wright being in that mold and he is already preparing for the future. People are complaining about Gilbert not playing but remember he was going to redshirt for a medical reason and missed a lot of practice. he’s probably not conditioned yet and I’m sure we’ll see more and more of him as the season progresses.

This may be a lost year but the future is still bright.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 12.28.11 @ 3:57 pm

I agree with EMel on Gilbert. Why when things were obviously going south and ND was playing volleyball on their missed shots was he not inserted. Zanna and Taylor where getting pushed around and while they should have been quicker to the ball than ND they were not. Why was he not inserted. The red shirt is history and if he is worse than those two let’s find out now.
This team has some talent and Jamie will get them playing better, but the system needs to be changed. The current situation looks like Tino trying to play “High Octane”, it just does not work.

Comment by Jimbo 12.28.11 @ 4:07 pm

For the last several seasons we have played a soft perimeter defense, but the closer a team came to the hoop the more physical our defense became. It’s this tough, physical inside defense that is gone from this team. So basically this team is a very talented, but soft team. Maybe that is good for the ACC, but it makes for a long year in the Big East.

Comment by HbgFrank 12.28.11 @ 4:08 pm

Jamie may not have forgotten how to coach but Brey has mastered Jamie’s defense.

Comment by alcofan 12.28.11 @ 4:18 pm

Excellent comparison Jimbo. On this system with these players and Tino & High Octane.

Equates to a .500 middling team.

Comment by EMel 12.28.11 @ 4:34 pm

I never expected this team to be a Sweet 16 team even with the lofty Top 10 pre-season ranking and until the LBSU game. Too many question marks on the front line other than Nas. The Top 10 ranking was pure fantasy and put undue expectations on this team, that lost their 3 best overall players last year, especially on defense.

Our big hope was Sleepy being transformed as Aaron Gray had and Gary McGee had in their junior years. And then Birch maybe being a Mac All-American who could actually live up to the hype in his freshmen year. Negative on both above points.

At this point and I know it’s only 1 game into the conference schedule, I would be more than happy if we just get into the NCAA’s. So that we perserve our NCAA streak. That’s going to take a upset or two over highly ranked teams to beef up our RPI. Let’s keep the streak going !

Comment by EMel 12.28.11 @ 4:53 pm

The most glaring problem is, as Emel on Gilbert realizes, is for the first time in a decade we lack a big strong guy on the inside. Both Taylor and Zanna are finesses guys who are not capable of being effective inside players (either offensively or defensively) when challenged by a muscular defender.

The second problem is that our only point guard (Woodall) is injured.

Every other problem is simply the domino effect that flows from the first two, IMO.

The one (post) and the five (point) are the two most important positions on a basketball team. All really really good teams have good players at both spots. Decent teams have a good player at at least one of the two spots and an adequate player at the other. A team lacking both, no matter how good the rest of the cast is, can never be more than mediocre at best.

So, unless Gilbert’s back is really a problem (as Dixon mentioned a week or so ago) or he is truly awful in practice, he needs to get 20+ minutes per game at the expense of Taylor (mostly) and Zanna, IMHO, or this team will be NIT bound in March.

Comment by pitt1972 12.28.11 @ 4:55 pm

GET TOUGH ON DEFENSE

Comment by 63 Team 12.28.11 @ 4:59 pm

Omar, agreed. Gibbs’ playing took a step back this year. I think its a combinations of things:
(i) he didnt work as hard in the off season as other years because (a) he spent a lot of time testing the NBA waters and working on things teh NBA may want instead of things that’d improve his role at Pitt and (b) he’s gotten so many accolades his drive has depreciated.
(ii) He’s not figured out his role neither on the floor between PG vs SG & primary play-maker vs spot-up shooter; nor as a lead on the team.

Its throwing off the whole team or at least the back court. The front court is a different story…

Comment by PantherP 12.28.11 @ 5:04 pm

Oh, and Chas, only nit to pick is that Zanna played an above average (historically for him) night.

Zanna was in at the 5 for a stretch last night, which is a bad sign. I know Taylor had a little foul trouble but I’m not sure why Gilbert didn’t see the floor. Zanna’s a solid guy at the 4 (at least asa back up) if he has a good center to play with.

Taylor’s uninspired play is flat out killing us.

Taylor and Gibbs should be our best players this year adn I don’t think there’s been more than one or two games where either of them were the best player on the floor (Gibbs did have some high scoring nights, but has not been giving us complete games except maybe twice).

There’s still plenty of hope to turn this around. We don’t havea Kemba Walker to carry us like UConn did last year after a similar (actually worse) stretch. But we have pieces as long as they get their heads out of their *****.

Comment by PantherP 12.28.11 @ 5:10 pm

chickens come home to roast. Jamie Dixon is not the saintly basketball coach every thinks he is and his team this year sucks. Going to be a long season. How many top prospects will Dixon manage to run off?

Comment by Tonyinhouston 12.28.11 @ 5:24 pm

For those calling for gilbert, he’s not an answer. He’s obviously slow and at the moment, clueless. He is a project which is why he was and may still be redshirted. And Birch? The quitter who got one rebound in his last game against inferior talent and was routinely pushed around by other bigs? Forget him, he’s gone. And curse him for causing us to lose jaylen Bond, who seems to be more in the Pitt mold.

Comment by Velvil 12.28.11 @ 5:35 pm

This was just posted paul randolph will join AZ States staff as soon as pitts bowl game is over

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.28.11 @ 5:38 pm

Watching this team play really reminds all of us how good the teams have been in the last 6 years.
Great comment above about Howland. The natives are restless in LA and are all over BH for his single motion offense and man/man defense. Jamie can learn a lot from this and may actually have to step outside his comfort zone just to keep us competitive. Still think Woodall is a 2 and not a 1…no quickness at all. John Johnson is the only true PG on this team and I would start him now.

Comment by Dan 72 12.28.11 @ 5:51 pm

From panther digest pederson did not hire chryst
the adminstration did he is not pedersons hire
what do you all make of that statment.

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.28.11 @ 6:11 pm

I think that’s old news. I remember Dokish saying when it happened that Cristobal was Pederson’s choice but that the boosters staged a “coup” (his words), and pushed Chryst through.

Comment by Mike 12.28.11 @ 6:48 pm

Velvil: Gilbert slow and clueless? and Dante is what? I hear ya on Gilbert being young and inexperienced, but Dante sucks after 3 yrs and Gilbert is a true center. He will disrupt underneath and Dante doesn’t. Don’t think he can be redshirted now. Has exceeded 20% rule–and that’s with an injury.

He’s 6’11” 240lbs but I have seen him dive for loose balls and hustle and would love to see him get more playing time. Not a savior, just an upgrade on D at the 5. Won’t take much to upgrade our frontcourt defense.

Comment by Bossdaws 12.28.11 @ 8:02 pm

Think it’s 20 percent of all time but you may be right re: Gilbert redshirt. No doubt he hustles but more is needed from him and it’s not there yet and I’m thinking not even likely this year.

Comment by Velvil 12.28.11 @ 8:14 pm

I think it’s a little early to be giving up on Marcus Gilbert. He’s only logged like 10 minutes on the court the whole season. Don’t you? :-)

As far as him being slow, do you know any 6’11” guys that are 240 lbs that aren’t. Which is why you don’t have guys that size chasing people around on the perimeter in a man defense. You plant them in the middle of a Zone defense.

Did anyone ever see Patrick Ewing or Kareem or Bill Walton chasing anyone with arms flailing, on the perimeter, 30 feet from the hoop?

Comment by Emel 12.28.11 @ 10:40 pm

Coach really needs to bring someone in to teach Zone, if he can’t (and I’m guessing he can’t).
Cause if he could, he’d play it more and be comfortable playing it. Which he clearly isn’t.

With the 7 footer Adams coming in next year and Gilbert and Zanna. Do we really want these guys playing a man defense, that requires lots of switching on screens, calls for help defense and having these giants chasing around the perimeter.
Zone is a very simple defense to teach, for these big guys to play and it forces the other team to beat you with outside shooting. And it keeps your big men close to the hoop to rebound, block shots and intimidate.

Which is why it’s worked so well for Syracuse for 25 years. And why other teams hate to play them.
Teams also hated playing Temple under John Cheney and his matchup Zone.

And if you can go from man to zone, back to man again. Whatever the situation dictates, so much the better. Dunno maybe it’s not feasible with the players of today.

Comment by Emel 12.28.11 @ 10:55 pm

I think a reason for our offensive efficiency over the past decade is that we’ve had a inside game with players who weren’t afraid to muck, pull down offensive boards, and get the quick layup after the rebound. Furthermore, our frontcourts all had “hands” and could take and make passes when needed. This inside presence drew defenses inside, which greatly freed up our perimeter shooting.

If I recall correctly, players like Gray, McGhee, and maybe even Blair, initially–didn’t have great touches as far as putting the rebound back in the basket, but they developed over time (Blair in much quicker fashion.)

And now, we don’t have many (any?) players who are willing to pull down boards, certainly not when they’re challenged. Those that can–Taylor, Zanna–don’t have the hands or the touch to put the ball back, nor are they adept at making passes.

In any case, when you’re highly efficient at grabbing offensive rebounds, and making easy baskets in the paint, your team can get back quickly on defense. Past Pitt teams were good enough at scoring on offense, that even if they couldn’t stop a team defensively, they could greatly slow them down. Hence, Pitt games were lower-scoring affairs, and the reputation for strong defense was established.

Comment by Lou 12.28.11 @ 11:44 pm

I’m pro Coach Dixon.

However, he is going to need to coach, and come out of his box. No offense, that has worked for years, and more power to him.

It is obvious from watching the past few weeks, he is going to have to change up on defense and offense.

He is also going to have to have some other people start, if not to light a fire, to find someone that has some fire.

Can’t just start people because it’s their turn.

I love coach Dixon, but he does seem to be stubburn sticking with his O and D, and playing players who are next in line.

If he does, the ship will keep sinking.

Kind of like playing a lousy quarterback every game, and expecting a different outcome.

Ain’t gonna happen. I don’t have any answers, but the course we are going is not good.

Again, big Jamie fan, but he needs to adjust to what he has, give some others some playing time, because if he’s waiting for this group to develop or something, I believe that ship has sailed.

They are what they are, the Big East season has allready started.

Suprise me coach, and change some things up!!!

I’m cheering for you!

Comment by Dan 12.29.11 @ 12:42 am

My opinion: This Pitt basketball team is a good team. However, watching other Big East front-runners and comparing Pitt’s performance thus far into the season, Pitt is, at best, an average Big East team.

Every time I watch Georgetown I see great improvement. They started the season un-ranked and just beat the #4 undefeated Louisville team in Louisville last night. Hopefully, Pitt will realize that they are a good team but must play as a team.

Jamie’s offensive and defensive strategies are fine, provided the players execute the plays and play defense. And I could go on about poor foul shooting percentage but we all already know this.

Somewhere down the schedule, Pitt will win a big game and turn its season around. Hopefully, it will not be too late into their season. HTP!

Comment by MariettaMike 12.29.11 @ 7:56 am

From panther digest pederson did not hire chryst
the adminstration did he is not pedersons hire
what do you all make of that statment.

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.28.11 @ 6:11 pm
—————-

FRANKCAN: It does not surprise me that Pederson didn’t want Chryst. Pederson is a poor judge in coaching talent. He got lucky in Jamie, only because Jamie was already on the Pitt coaching staff and the players lobbied for him.

I’m not impressed with Steve. He hires a coach who admitted that PA talent did not fit into his coaching scheme and he only knows how to coach “high octane, up tempo teams.” PA is one of the top ten high school football recruiting states in the country. What was Pederson thinking when he hired Graham. I think Graham had pictures…

If I had a vote, I’d vote to replace Steve and find someone who knows Pitt — someone with Pittsburgh personality. I love Pittsburgher’s. Do you think Mike Ditka would leave his TV gig? :) HTP!

Comment by MariettaMike 12.29.11 @ 8:12 am

As an aside, I read a post recently on this board mentioning that we might want to consider making a financial donation to the Pitt Blather to help defray costs of running this forum. How does one do this? Thanks!

Comment by MariettaMike 12.29.11 @ 8:22 am

I mean come on guys. I know Pitt fans are supposed to be negative, but this is out of control. Yes, this team has faults. But reading comments like Dixon is burnt out or his overall approach needs to change is a bit much. Dixon has the MOST wins of any coach after 8 seasons. I’d say that is a pretty good validation of his coaching style. There have been worse stretches under Dixon (think a couple years ago when Pitt was struggling in Big East play and there were rumors that a mutiny was occuring on the team against Dixon) and the team has responded and rebounded to play well. Let’s wait a bit longer to make judgments. Besides the last loss was to ND, which Pitt has sucked against lately.

And of course Dixon ran Birch off of the team, it isn’t like Birch was starting or anything……..

Comment by Wardapalooza 12.29.11 @ 8:44 am

Perhaps Taylor which is obvious was never center material. Often Dixon tries to fit a squrae be into a round hole – the same mistake with Birch.

Who knows if Taylor had got the chance to play the entire year last year at SF he may have become the player he was suppose to be. If so McGee at center an a 6’9″ rather than a 6’5″ SF might have been the ticket. After all Taylor did win the skills competition in the McDonalds All-Star game. Perhaps he is a true strong forward trying to play center – this does not work.

Dixon also could have played Birch at SF, rotating with Taylor with Zana this year at center with Taylor and Birch rotating in as necessary.

This would set up next years team of Adams and/or Birch at SF. I pipe dream since we ran Birch off because it appears that each player will be treated the same. Any good manager knows that what motivates one employee can demoralize another.

Just an opinion but neither Taylor or Birch have played their natural position and will never knew what would have occured if they had.

I agree this team atheltes are more designed to run then past squads. To run you have to control the defesive boards and have qucikness at the center and SF position. Zana and Taylor(at SF) or if we could get Birch back (SF) would be a talland quick frontline. And setup a new system when Adams arrives of a dominat rebounding frontline.

What are your opinions. One trait I am afraid of with Jamie like Graham he has a system that he is wed to and when his personnel does not fit he does not adapt.

Comment by DRW 12.29.11 @ 9:59 am

What kind of a basketball player can you expect to be if playing “out of position” renders you completely useless. If Taylor was so skilled, he should be creating matchup nightmares for the other bigs he plays against. He lacks the speed and skill to play the 4 and the strength and determination to play the 5. The “5” is also the easiest spot to learn in this system, and Taylor has failed to do so effectively. Taylor was obviously misevaluated by many observers.

Comment by JW 12.29.11 @ 10:42 am

JW as a former player I have to disagree with one part of your statement about playing out of position and its consequence on your performance.

I was the 2guard in high school and switched to point because of my size in D2 basketball. It made alot of difference a difference I could not overcome.

Also the center position is certainly not the easiest position to play regardless of your size or lack of it. It requires completely different skills than the SF, different footwork, body position, defensive position, and completely different offensive skills.

You may be right about Taylor being overrated by the Pitt coaching staff and all the high school coaches he played against because you can not completely determine competive instincts but I think your wrong in your assesment of his basketball skills.

Further I know you are wrong about positional play in basketball, baseball, football or any other sport. I have been as dissapointed in Taylor as much as you have but I also know that often times a teams needs or a coaches preference can improperly use any athelete.

Comment by DRW 12.29.11 @ 1:35 pm

During recruiting, Taylors was expected to be a monster on the boards, and aggressive player and have good hands for finishing. He has good hands now, but aggressiveness and rebounding are not there. It seems all in his head.

Btw, Gilbert is perfectly fine for this stage in his development and definitely has something to bring to the table. He’s still not completely in sync with the off & def schemes, but he has what Taylor lacks (drive, discipline). He and presumably Adams would have been a great compliment to Birch.

Comment by PantherP 12.29.11 @ 1:44 pm

I would love to see Gilbert get some more minutes, especially against teams like ND with size inside — in his very limited appearances he hasn’t struck me as being overmatched at this level. Inexperienced, but not out of place.

DRW perhaps I was being harsh, and I agree with a bit of what you said, but I still think a lot of this 4/5 stuff is overrated. I also didn’t mean to imply the center position was easiest to play, just that — as Dixon has said himself — it’s the easiest to learn in his system. As far as positional play, there are many players with the physical and mental capabilities to handle playing out of their preferred “positions.” It’s not for everybody, and it’s obvious now that neither Taylor nor Birch have those capabilities.

Comment by JW 12.29.11 @ 4:29 pm

So is slimy Steve going to be counting empty seats as people at the home Big East basketball games? So far there have been lots of empty seats at the revered Peterson Events Center. What are scalpers selling Pitt basketball tickets for these days? $5?

Comment by Tonyinhouston 12.29.11 @ 8:10 pm

Tonyinhouston is right. There is an expression about liars. It goes like this “liars lie”. Pederson lost credibility long ago when he told his first attendance lie and his reputation for lying is embedded in the minds of those who know him. Even people who like him admit this.
In my experience, leaders are not the people who are the most liked, they are the people who, in spite of your emotions, you trust.
Losing trustworthiness is akin to losing one’s virginity. No stretch of chastity will ever bring it back.

Comment by SFPitt 12.29.11 @ 8:21 pm

I missed the Mac All-American game when Taylor won the skills competition.

But it showed he can run the court, and shoot.
His better games have been when Pitt played uptempo.

After watching some of his HS youtubes, he seems to excel in them because he’s a lot bigger than most if not all the other team’s players.

So instead of wasting him, for another season and a half, playing Center, where he is playing guys his own size or bigger. Put him out at SF, where clearly he would be bigger than his defender. And as in his HS youtubes, he has some space to create. Playing center there is no space and he doesn’t have a decided edge in size.

It’s at least worth a try. Zanna or Gilbert at Center or both. Nas at PF and Taylor at SF with Patterson/Moore as backup there as well as at 2G.
And then the other guards.

Since they can’t play defense in the half court, push the ball on offense and try to outscore the opposition. This team can score in transition, they have a real tough time in the half court.
Woodall is excellent in a transition type offense.

Comment by Emel 12.29.11 @ 8:23 pm

This stuff of just because he’s 6’9″ he has to play Center is ridiculous. Magic Johnson was 6’8″ and played Point Guard. If he had come Pitt to play under Coach Dixon, he would have had him playing Center.

Taylor playing SF could create lots of matchup problems for opposing teams and that’s what basketball is about, exploiting matchups.

We don’t have many or any(usually) to exploit, this could be one. Opposing teams would have to use help defense to help cover Taylor at SF, and that opens up the floor for other players to be open.

Let’s get a little creative here. And if they’re going to lose, I’d rather see them lose in a transition type uptempo game, than this 20 turnover laden halfcourt, none of the players fit to offense, we’re running.

Coach, you’ve let these guys run on occasion, let’s do it full-time and stick with it.
That will also lead to us getting better recruits who want to play uptempo(don’t all of them) Lot of fun to watch.

And I got news for you, that’s the style in the ACC, ever watch a UNC or Duke game. We need to get prepared for that….. now!

Comment by Emel 12.29.11 @ 11:51 pm

EmelI agree with you. We know unfortunely Birch is gone so lets work Taylor at SF since we all anticipate Adams as the strating center next year.
Start Zanna at center and kept giving Gilbert more time because if Taylor becomes an offensive threat at SF (not many teams have that commodity so defensively any problems he has might be minimized).

For the last two years Pitt won without any offense at center. Have Taylor start practicinf full-time at SF and relieving NAZ. As if we hope because of his size he can and match up problems he can perhaps be the SF that at the end of the year can help us this year scoring and rebounding.

If so next year with Adams, Taylor might make us all forget about his first three years. It maybe that because of what Dixon viewed as necessity that Taylor is playing a position no matter how hard he works he does not have the strength or power moves developed by less skilled postional players have worked on since H.S. (Aron Gray, McGhee).

Also agree with Emel if Taylor worked out at SF we should do better off the defensive boards which is what you need to run and based on the physical nature of this team Moore, Zanna, Taylor, the guards this not a physical team.

I often time suspect Dixon has a bit to much Graham -esq stubborness

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[...] mentioned before that this year’s team is one that lets offensive frustration give way to defensive lapses. Or in this game, surrender on all fronts. The breakaways in the first half leading to comically [...]


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