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January 23, 2012

Another Disappointment

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 1:18 pm

Travel day yesterday kept me away from the computer — and it was probably a good thing.

I don’t know what to say at this point. It seems as much in the players’ heads at this point as it is to the issues of talent. You don’t go on a slide like this. Losing the way Pitt has for the past month. I mean after watching Pitt football for the past couple of years, we should all be able to recognize a team that just doesn’t seem to have it all together when the other team doesn’t roll over.

Woodall was rusty — which should not have been unexpected. The initial spark he provided the team simply by his presence was quickly extinguished by foul troubles.

There are a lot of fingers pointed at guys like Robinson and Gibbs. And I’ll agree on the defensive side, they did not do a good job. Offensively, they were okay. Yes, Gibbs was only 5-13, but he was 4-10 on 3s. That’s much better than what he has been. Good production from Lamar Patterson (14 points. 6-9 shooting). Even Talib Zanna (3-6, 7 pts) and Dante Taylor (4-5, 8 pts) generated offense inside. The problem, offensively, is as it has been for the last month. No real production from anywhere else on the court.

J.J. Moore makes me crazy, the same way Dante Taylor seems to do to everyone else. Moore only wants to shoot jumpers and refuses to attack the basket if there is even a chance someone might get in his way. Coupled with his lackadaisical effort on defense. It is mind-blowing how he plays with such a sense of entitlement, considering how little he has accomplished. In this eight game slide, he is 11-40 with over half his attempts (23) being 3-balls — and only connecting 3 times. Couple that with 20 rebounds, 0 assists and 12 turnovers to boot in the same stretch and the question isn’t: why is he only playing 13+ minutes/game, but why does he get that many minutes?

Speaking of Dante Taylor driving people mad

Dante Taylor looked like he wanted to be anywhere else for almost the entire game, save for a quick burst of a couple of quick dunks followed by his normal routine of shenanigans that follow any positive play he makes.

The one question that came to mind watching Taylor last night was should he even be playing anything but spot minutes at this point? On one play he was out filling the lane on a rare transition opportunity when, inexplicably, he decided it was a better idea to try and screen a defender and let his guard try to score rather then make himself big and available for a dunk. Malcolm Gilbert is a freshman 7-footer on the bench. I understand Malcolm Gilbert is not the answer right now, but neither is Dante Taylor, and since Malcolm Gilbert’s red shirt was burned right after the departure of Montreal’s Gift — and here I always thought Montreal’s Gift to the world was Guy La Fleur — why not try to put him in a position to be the answer in the future by playing him some?

I’m starting to come around to the point of view that Gilbert should get more of Taylor’s minutes. Regardless of the problems. I know I’m late compared to a lot of others, but I have kept hoping that Taylor would finally find whatever spark he has occasionally shown. Zanna is inconsistent as all get out, but there is a sense of effort and that he is figuring things out. Taylor hasn’t even shown that since Khem Birch’s departure.

There’s no real production from Cam Wright or Isiah Epps — to the point where defenses essentially ignore them when Pitt has the ball. John Johnson no longer has the benefit of being lost by opposing defenses pre-Woodall injury.

Still those problems on offense pale compared to the defense. The perimeter defense remains a defense in name only. Regardless of whether Pitt is in man or zone. Opponents keep being able to penetrate easily. Putting the frontcourt into the position of leaving their man to help — and thus be out of position for a rebound. Or see a pass go for the easy score to the player they left, because no one rotated over. And god help Pitt if the guards sag off the perimeter to try and prevent the penetration. Kyle Kuric benefited from that on Saturday night.

And on Saturday night, no one in the frontcourt could handle Chane Beneham. It didn’t matter if it was Robinson, Taylor or Zanna. He made all three look silly as he moved around them with ease.

This team needs a win in the worst way.





Nas is a human turnover machine. Every time he touches the ball it gets interesting. Most of these players are panicking when they touch the ball. It is like they just don’t see the defender at all.

I have to strongly disagree with you and anyone else who thinks Gilbert should be getting run. Anytime I have see him in the game he is as raw as raw gets and I just don’t see him adding anything. We have a major problem in the front court but I would switch back to Taylor starting and getting some minutes together with he and Zana on the court at the same time. Zana is so out of position at C it is killing us on the defensive end.

Patterson needs to step up and be the next Wannamaker on this team. He shows flashes but then acts like he is holding the ball too much and gets passive. He probably sees the court better than anyone on this team. Get him in the middle of the zone and the press and let him work. I don’t know if it will matter b/c this team is so bad with the ball in their hands that any pressure causes problems. And most of their turnovers are in bad spots that create easy layups at the other end. This team is just not very smart. Constantly passing the ball where you definitely don’t want to on a press. At least lately they have been looking over the top. I just don’t see much getting better the rest of this season and I am nervous for next as what is coming back as a shooter and ball handler?

Comment by bdubb 01.23.12 @ 1:34 pm

Agree with Chas on the lack of D being Pitt’s biggest problem. Teams score almost at will against us underneath on drives and put backs. Especially hard to watch SAT night with Louisville. Agree with bdubb on Nas. Actually think he should sub at this pt, and I love his spirit but he is too short for the bigs in the BE and his TO’s and foul shooting really hurts the team.

Agree with Chas on JJ Moore. Bad situation. screws up and gets yanked. And continues to screw up with inconsistent long range shooting and failure to drive to the hoop. Actually, would like to see Tra, Gibbs, Lamar, Zanna and Gilbert start. Lamar will hit that 10-12′ teams are giving Nas.

Disagree with bdubb on Gilbert. Yeah, he’s a raw, true frosh, but its tough to watch his 6’11” 245 frame on the pine while Dante and Talib get banged around, boxed out and blocked consistently. He was a highly rated defensive center and adds sorely needed presence underneath.He is a shot blocker and will get better with playing time. What’s the risk, you might lose? We haven’t won a game since our only other shot blocker Birch left. His redshirt is shot. Play him.

Comment by bossdaws 01.23.12 @ 1:57 pm

Nasir really is a black hole. He turns it over a ton, makes poor decisions, can’t guard anyone, is horrible at free throws and he misses easy shots. He also made one of the worst fouls in the history of basketball and caused Birch to leave because Birch didn’t get to play over him at the 4.

In regards to J.J. Moore, if you look at his plus/minus during the last 8 games he’s a plus in 5 games. So he must be doing something right. I thought he played hard the other night. Only other player with better plus minus is Johnson with 7 out of 8 plus. Compare this to Gibbs who is minus in ever game but one including a minus 28 against Rutgers. Zanna is also 7 out 8 minus. Lamar and Nasir are a minus in all of the last 8 games. Dante Taylor is a minus in 4 out of 8.

Comment by Wardapalooza 01.23.12 @ 2:02 pm

I like your point about Patterson bdubb. He’s had some very good games distributing, although he’s also had some bad turnover games. However in the middle of a 2-3 zone I can see him being able to connect on an interior pass or be willing to take (and hopefully make) the 12-15 shot unlike Nasir Robinson. That makes him a complete threat in the middle of a zone. I think Talib Zanna can consistently make a 12-15 foot shot but I’ve not seen any real passing ability from him.

On the other hand I’ve been an advocate of Malcolm Gilbert getting more time for at least few games now. If he and Zanna get some run this year they could be very good players next year.

JJ Moore’s affinity for the 3 is maddening. I think he’s shown glimpses of an ability to create shots, which this team desperately needs when the clock is running down. He just doesn’t it do it very often. His defensive lapses keep him off the court.

Comment by Barvo 01.23.12 @ 2:03 pm

I forgot to add this… at this point the season is essentially shot unless some miraculous run. So why not start giving Gibbs and Nasir less minutes and play the young guys more. It does no good for the future to yank J.J. Moore or Epps after they make one mistake. And it certainly does no good to have Gilbert sit on the bench. Gotta let players make mistakes and grow.

Comment by Wardapalooza 01.23.12 @ 2:05 pm

OK, so after a few games where the play sucked a litle less than it was for a while there, I feel like I can point to the real problems.

1. Awful man defense. This will be a shock to no one. Pitt sucks at this this year. I don’t know that there’s an answer other than “play zone.” These guys just aren’t skilled defensively and show no commitment to learning it.

2. Tentative inside play. Every move is either lazy or fearful. How many plays have they done everything right and then just miserably failed to finish? A lot. When they make moves with authority, they’re not that bad. But it’s like a disease. And since they caught it, and started losing, that losing is making them more tentative.

3. Can’t pass without Woodall healthy. Another one that we all know, but it is a huge one. Gibbs and Johnson are excellent shooters but they can’t really mke their own plays.

4. No leadership. Notto put it on the seniors entirely – anyone could step up for this. But no one has. When things aren’t going well (read all the time) they look around confused instead of looking to a leader on the court.

Comment by pittbaster 01.23.12 @ 2:16 pm

JJ Moore’s problem is not that he is missing shots, it’s that he heaves them up off-balanced. He’s obviously been given to the green light to chuck, but makes poor decisions on when and how to do so. He’s got nice form and I’m all for letting him air it out and find a groove. Just not doing so by falling backwards or wheeling around in a tight corner or at the expense of making a good pass. This is why he gets pulled from games. I think both his defense and his rebounding have improved. He is not an indifferent guy who doesn’t give a shit. He’s working hard, but not necessarily playing smart.

If we are going to play an undersized player at power forward, it might as well be Patterson, who has similar moves, size, and skills in the low post as Robinson, but can hit a shot ranging out to 23′, not to mention can hit FTs, AND he has nice court vision in the high post. This opens up the 3 spot for either Moore to get his act together or Wright to play defense. Pairing a good high post passer like Patterson with Moore on the wing might open up JJ’s driving attempts as well.

I’d like to see Gilbert and Epps get a few minutes each mid-game and perhaps longer if they perform well. But this isn’t going to make us any better this year and really, there is not much a guy is going to take away from spot minutes as a freshman that he can build on for the future.

Dixon is trying. He’s switching the defenses around, playing with different lineups, but mostly, he’s putting his face in is palm. I don’t know. He’s done a lot of the things that have been suggested here. But he’s clearly made some recruiting mistakes or sagged on player development or has yet to find the magical combination of players to click.

On the rainbows and unicorns front, I am enjoying following the exploits of James Robinson in the news. Nearly all accounts make him sound like a such a great fit for us and he plays for a big time high school program. Him, Adams, and redshirt Durand Johnson all bring well-touted, complementary skill sets to the team next year. We still need to fill Birch’s spot with a big time talent though.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.23.12 @ 2:36 pm

I have nothing left to say about hoops.

Chas, hope you enjoyed the Volvo for the weekend.

Comment by Dan 01.23.12 @ 2:38 pm

“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” Wall Street 1987.

Hope this quote describes Pitt hoops.

Comment by SFPitt 01.23.12 @ 2:57 pm

Dicky V was right on the money, Pitt doesn’t have the talent of past Panther teams. Pitt won’t get any better because it can’t, just not good enough this year. Jamie can BS all he wants, no talent. I said before The Ville Pitt would go 8 and 4, I had a brain cramp, they’ll be lucky to win a game, not more than 4!

Comment by michael 01.23.12 @ 3:02 pm

I don’t know what I have been watching, but it is not Pitt basketball as I have known it over the past decade!!We used to pride ourselves on rebounding, man to man defense, and passing. Our ball control was in the top 10 consistently, as measured by assist to Turnover ratio. The only way this team looks anything like our other teams is the maddening inability to hit free throws. they absolutely PANIC with any ball pressure–haven’t these guys faced presses since 6th grade.? There were times on Saturday night that I seriously wondered if these guys had ever played together before. What are the alleged strengths of Epps and Cartwright? I hope that ball handling is one of them, because they sure don’t shoot the ball well, and mostly just look lost out there. is We The outside shooting is atrocious. I love Jamie, but he made a serious mistake in trying to force Gibbs into a PG–that has seemed to screw every thing else up. Woodall sure does not look like he is ready to play basketball–I think we should just let Epps play the point, put Gibbs at shooting guard. I would play Zanna over Taylor–I have long ago lost any hope that “Sleepy” will be an impact player, but if he could just play competently, I would be happy. This year is hopeless–we would have to win the BE tournament to get into the NCAA tournament–does that seem remotely possible? I had a little hope after playing Marquette and SU tough on their home floors–but my hope for the year ended at midnight Saturday. As 3 Dog Nite said” I’ve seen so many things I ain’t never seen before. Trouble is, I don’t want to see no more!!

Comment by pitt60 01.23.12 @ 3:07 pm

Most of this reads like poor coaching decisions that keep repeating.

Comment by Tonyinhouston 01.23.12 @ 3:44 pm

C’mon man…poor coaching decisions? You can line them up any way and in any order…this team will lose as they simply do not have the talent or any single strength.

On the defense, you have Zanna and Taylor who act like they have never defended a drop step, Gibbs and the guards who act like they have never seen a press, Patterson and Moore throwing them up from the cheap seats, and my God, the turnovers at the top of the key which just seem endless. Pure unadulterated slowness and sloppyness period! There is no coach on earth who could get more than a few more wins out of this team which simply lacks any talent inside or out.

Comment by Dan 72 01.23.12 @ 3:59 pm

The poor coaching decision was recruiting this talentless bunch in the first place.

Comment by TX Panther 01.23.12 @ 4:02 pm

I always liked that quote, SFPitt.

I think it’s just as applicable to Jamie Dixon, as it is to any of his players. Jamie’s staring hard at that abyss right now.

Comment by Lou 01.23.12 @ 4:06 pm

JD has won & deserves a lot of credit & its not kosher to be critial of JD =but= should we be thrilled w/the way he is coaching this team. The players are robotic & appear hesitant . The offensive flow is stagnet w/out an inside game. PITT needs size & a win now! JD’s reluctancy to play Gilbert is puzzling. Adams comes in next year and plays immediately==does Gilbert remain on the bench w/a 2nd year of development wasted? Lville was not concerned w/PITT inside. PITT needs to have some presence in the paint. What is the wrestling teams record & ranking? Did they beat psu

Comment by DC33 01.23.12 @ 4:09 pm

No. 9
16 straight wins

Comment by TX Panther 01.23.12 @ 4:17 pm

Comment by TX Panther 01.23.12 @ 4:22 pm

I agree with SilverPanther completely. Nas was great off the bench last year, I like what he brings. But he jsut cant be a pillar of the team.

Patterson’s play has been pretty much better than anyone else’s, so he’s the only starter whose minutes should remain as is or increase. All others it seems should decrease in the name of mixing it up, maximizing what we have and with an eye towards developing for the future.

I have to disagree with Chas about Moore playing with a sense of entitlement. The kid was diving for balls and hustling against Louisville and has been doing so for some time. He is maddening to watch, admittedly. His effort is a little inconsisten, but I don’t see it as a problem. And his defence can be really feisty if he’s into it, which in his defense I think he is more than people give him credit for.

That said, he’s maddening to watch. its hard to tell if he had gotten a green light to shoot which he frequently abuses, or what. Dixon seems to still have him on a very short leash. I trust Dixon to coach Moore up, but it often seems that Moore is tentative BECAUSE Dixon pulls him so quickly when he makes a mistake. Moore developing a dribble-drive game would add an offensive dynamic we desperately need. and though I don’t like to reward bad behavior (even if his behavior in my view isn’t as bad as Chas and other see it), if he feels like he’s getting consistent minutes and is an important part of the team, he may invest himself a little more on the defensive end (i know, i know amateur psychology, but all coaches are part-psychologists if they want to get the most out of their players).

All that said, the defensive is terrible up top and down low. We don’t seem to have any players, save perhaps Wright who doesnt excite me too too much, that have the hard-ass defensive gene in them like panthers past. The zone does seem to improving a lot though.

Rainbows and sunshine: Providence sucks. Reality: Our morale is devastated such that even at home against a bottom dweller, we may not bring it.

Here’s hoping Adams is the next Patrick Ewing.

Comment by PantherP 01.23.12 @ 5:42 pm

first paragraph above should be two separate ones, btw. not really closely related points…

Comment by PantherP 01.23.12 @ 5:47 pm

Pitt has a lot of players who could theoretically excel at being complementary players, but sadly I wouldn’t classify a single player on this roster as a plus defender. Past squads could get by with multiple complementary players because they could at a minimum defend, and there weren’t so many deficient man defenders on the floor at at given time. This squad is downright JV on defense. The front court D at any given moment reminds me of have two Ronald Ramons simultaneously on the court– no one who can step up on the perimeter, or even stay in front of their man off the dribble. There’s not much help underneath either.

I’m afraid this team simply can’t produce enough offense to overcome their defensive deficiencies, not that they’re producing much offense either.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 01.23.12 @ 5:53 pm

Providence sucks? Providence 90 Louisville 59. Probably without Kuric, but…

Comment by bossdaws 01.23.12 @ 6:25 pm

Recruiting must be re-evaluated, there are MAYBE 3 big east caliber players in the whole program. This season squarely falls on awful recruiting and botching the birch situation. Great way to circle the wagons after he left what are we like 1-10 since the infamous twitter bomb. Bottom line is Jamie needs a new recruiting coordinator period.

Comment by John 01.23.12 @ 7:29 pm

Pitt didn’t botch the birch situation. birch was an immature baby who never really wanted to go to Pitt in the first place. enough with the birch talk

Comment by pk 01.23.12 @ 7:33 pm

Not a fan of birch at all, but if you even had a slight hint that he did not want to go to Pitt then look for high caliber players that do. Bottom line is recruiting, apparently in football as well, is a big problem.

Comment by John 01.23.12 @ 7:51 pm

JJ Moore should have redshirted like Gil Brown did. Patterson is not as talented as Wanamaker was. I like Patterson a lot but the offense should never run through him. Zanna has been doing fine and will be better at the 4 next year because of his playing time at the 5 this year. I agree that Nas is in over his head as a starting 4 in the Big East…a bad knee certainly doesn’t make it any easier. For as much as I love Gibbs I can’t help but think the team will be better next year without him. I’d like to see more of Gilbert. I understand his offense is limited but I can’t imagine his layups being any worse than the starting 5’s is.

Next year I’d like to see (yes, it’s time to start talking about next year or I won’t make it thru this year)…

PG Robinson (doubtful, but I think necessary)
SG Woodall (doubtful, but it makes since. He’s undersized but is our only penetrator and a good ball handler)
SF Patterson
PF Zanna
C Adams…no brainer. Gilbert off the bench.

The team will still be a little soft though.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 01.23.12 @ 8:25 pm

There’s not much more I can say about this team that I haven’t said before. They’ve stunk all year, it’s just the competition was so weak in the non-con it amounted to 11 wins and fooled most ppl.

Previous low grade talent Pitt teams actually won because they totally bought into the system and they outworked and out-hustled the competition.
Which is the only way they could win because they were generally poor shooting teams especially from 3 and never had guys who could bust a move, one on one. Enough said, it makes me ill.

Comment by Emel 01.23.12 @ 8:43 pm

During Cuse game Jay Bilas said “Pitts biggest problem is they don’t run an offense”. Not a huge Bilas fan but it is disorganized chaos. No sense of what they are trying to accomplish.

Comment by Matt_Miklasevich 01.23.12 @ 8:47 pm

Oh….one more thing, just to piss off a few folks. lol

There is more written concerning JJ Moore than is needed. What is this guy averaging… 6 ppg and shooting 35% FG after 3 ppg last year. And he’s a matador on defense, and averaging .4 apg, same as last year. That’s less than half of an assist per game. Yea he needs more minutes, right

**Recruiting miss (another one)

Comment by Emel 01.23.12 @ 9:03 pm

We can’t overlook the fact that we’ve lost some excellent assistant coaches the past 2-3 years. Assistant coaches who:
A) were great recruiters and talent evaluators – Inc AAU involvement

B) were great teachers in practice.

Is it possible that a drop off in assistant coach talent could be a big issue?

Comment by Dish 01.23.12 @ 9:08 pm

Emel, Moore has poor body language too. I agree wholeheartedly with you on that one.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 01.23.12 @ 10:05 pm

It is hard to believe that Dixon cannot see that he can get some offensive production with weither Moore or Patterson at the foul lane in the middle of a zone. He is either blind or feels unnecessaily obligated to Robinson because he is a senior.

The guards have to be thought in practice not to dribble to one side make a unspaced bounce pass to the man on the wing who is quickly tripled teamed by the sideline and two opponents. At least five such turnovers against Louisville.

They ought to be coached to get the ball out as soon as possible on an opponents basket and told they can run the baseline to make the inbounds pass. Fundamentals – they take their time let the press set up. Dixon is a terrible coach, and always has been in this area.

In reality Dixon has alot of weaknesses as a bench coach. He sticks to a rotation that is often exploited by the opposing coach. It is like chess and the other coach can anticipate every move Dixon will make.

Zanna and Taylor have to be on the court at the same time. One of them is going to move to the bench and the other to the 4. Adams is the real deal despite his nerves that first game. Next game 18 points 10 rebounds.

What I have seen on film of Robinson he is a better ball handler than anyone on our team. He is comfortable with his left or right hand and can switch over dribble with no hitch. He can even use his left hand when attacking the basket.
Woodall can not do any of these fundamental dribbling skills or penetration skills. Robinson appears completely confident about his game and does not do things that get himself in trouble. A definite quality of a majority of the Pitt basketball players.

Next year Robsinson at point, Johnson at 2, patterson and Moore 3, Taylor and Zanna 4 (rotating to give Adams a blow, and Adams at 5. This should be a solid team next year and a contneding team the following year.

Losses – Robinson(no loss) Gibbs (no major loss).

Comment by DRW 01.23.12 @ 10:16 pm

Again, Dan, coaching, coaching coaching. When will that improve?

Comment by Tonyinhouston 01.23.12 @ 10:47 pm

Lou… You are spot on with Jamie staring hard into the abyss. Can’t look forward to his morning shave can he? He probably feels like he is stuck in the Twilight Zone. Any more metaphors like that and I will have to hand in my Adam West Batman tee shirt.

Comment by SFPitt 01.24.12 @ 1:24 am

Recruiting and talent isn’t the problem. All the players are talented and were heavily recruited and were good gets. It is the developing of players that is the problem.

And it is still ridiculous to call a second year player like J.J. Moore a bust.

Someone who as a sophomore who averages 17 minutes per game, 7.2 points per game, .7 assists and 3 rebounds will never be good and is a bust right???

Oh wait, I got my pages mixed up, since the stats are so similar I thought I was talking about J.J. Moore but really those are the stats of the great bust Sam Young.

Comment by Wardapalooza 01.24.12 @ 8:34 am

How is it our freshman “with or without’ all american status can’t show up like they do at Kentucky or some other schools?

Comment by bob 01.24.12 @ 10:03 am

If Pitt were an average team defensively, then they would be .500 in the conference right now. The offense has been poor on occasion, but the defense has been poor throughout.

This is a poorly assembled group and that is on Jamie Dixon. His two most experienced players, and best offensive players, are also his two worst defensive players (Gibbs and Robinson). Surrounding them with Patterson, Woodall, and Taylor. Really Jamie! Are you kidding.

The defense is not going to get better unless Gibbs and Robinson sit. They aren’t going to sit. Pitt might win a few games. They won’t win more than that.

Comment by omar 01.24.12 @ 10:14 am

I still think it’s important to ask the questions, is it important to have a team leader right now, both in the locker room and on the floor? If so, who is this person currently, and who can be the leader next year?

Comment by Lou 01.24.12 @ 10:19 am

Gibbs and Robinson are horrible leaders. They don’t care about defense. They point fingers. They don’t help the younger guys on the court. Good riddance.

I always knew Brad Wannamaker was awesome. This year proves how incredible he was. He was Pitt the last two years. He was a warrior and a leader. These guys don’t have nearly the heart that kid had. It’s sad.

Comment by omar 01.24.12 @ 10:32 am

I think you’re being a little bit harsh. The younger players are out of position a lot on both defense and offense and it’s natural to bark at them. And they obviously do care about defense. But I agree that neither defensive ability nor leadership is their forte.

You were always a strong believer in Wanamaker, but there were people here who, after his sophomore year, said that he is not a Big East caliber player. And others who said that Mcghee should be given his walking papers. College basketball is the best big time sport to watch athletes improve and grow as players. Both of those 2011 grads were perfect examples of this.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.24.12 @ 10:42 am

I’m not being harsh. Gibbs and Robinson are pathetic. Worst senior leaders this program has had in a decade. They lived off Wannamaker and McGhee. Robinson I actually do like. I despise Asthon Gibbs. Please leave.

Comment by omar 01.24.12 @ 11:07 am

Count me among the skeptics of Wannamaker after his sophomore season, and McGhee was on nobody’s radar until BE play during his junior year.

I get the struggles, but I’m struggling with the lack of improvement over the course of the season. It’s one thing to lose at Marquette and Cuse, but they can’t defend against mediocre or lousy offenses either. Defensive is coachable, but the players have to want it too. I haven’t seen such a dysfunctional Pitt squad since the Willard days.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 01.24.12 @ 11:21 am

I agree about the poor senior leadership, but let’s be realistic: it’s more about ability than leadership. The team is losing because it can’t defend worth a lick, and now it’s even struggling more offensively. And the senior leaders have not handled it well, but who’s to say guys from years past would’ve handled it any better. The difference is that those past teams had guys who could defend, and therefore cover up others’ deficiencies. And it also made their leadership and character qualities more evident.

I’m worried about next year. Even with the talent of Adams and Robinson (who appear to possess the ability needed), who leftover has what it takes to contribute? Moore and Patterson still haven’t improved defensively (and only Moore seems to have the potential), I’m beyond done with Taylor, and the guard situation is a mess. There needs to be a 2-3 year infusion of talent.

Comment by JW 01.24.12 @ 11:23 am

Next year will be okay. Adams can fix a lot of the problems on the interior. Birch was immensely better than Taylor/Zanna defensively.

Johnson, Wright, Moore, and Patterson have shown some life. If they can play with players that allow them to showcase their ability, then they will be fine. This team is poorly constructed. A few pieces will help make the roster make a lot more sense.

Comment by omar 01.24.12 @ 12:11 pm

Patterson is a solid, versatile, though unspectacular defender. And Moore has improved and should get better. Durand Johnson was touted as one of the best defenders in his class, Gilbert is known for defense, as is Adams. Wright certainly has potential. Zanna and whoever they bring in to play the 4 will need to be strong. The rest of the backcourt, well again, will probably be an issue. Hopefully Robinson will turn out to be tough up top.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.24.12 @ 12:13 pm

Bossdaws, yes. Providence sucks. they’re 1-6 in the big east. and a huge loss doesn’t necessarily tell you everything about L’Ville. UNC had a similar loss this year afterall. Point was that even against a team like this we could lose (though honestly i think we’ll finally win).

Emel, JJ Moore’s main problems are reckless shooting and inconsistent defense. I know that’s like saying “other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln”.
My thinking is that he’s the only one with the potential to add an additional and desperately needed dynamic to offense and more importantly defense.
We have undersized and slow-ish guards all the way to Patterson (who’s not undersized, but not as quick as Moore) who have no chance of adequately guarding the longer, quicker guards of the Big East.
Our forwards couldn’t guard a 3pt shot to save their lives, let alone switch quickly enough down low to stop back-door passes and pick ‘n rolls. It’s a huge problem when playing man-to-man D in the Big East which requires you be able to do these types of things (ex. guard 3pt shots after picks, esp since many BE 3 and 4s can shoot 3s).
JJ Moore obviously is doing very little to fill these desperate gaps on D right now. But he shows (in my eyes anyway) that he’s at least capable of adding a lot to the defense once (if ever) he gets fully invested in the game and stays invested after his typical “start-with-burst-of-of-energy-than-slack-when-shot-not-falling” pattern.
It’s possible more minutes may mean more investment for Moore and take away the self-destructive incentive to shoot so frequently. Perhaps he won’t need to rush to get his shots up if he knows he has time on his side. And since defense is 80% mental, he may just need a reason to be invested and maybe more minutes does that.
I know its just a guess, and moreover I hate to reward bad behavior. But what do we have to lose? Moore’s the only one with the physical tools to add some of what we desperately need.
Anyway, he’s not a bust. He’s a sophomore. Players develop in this program. We need to find a way to get Moore going.
Where do we find minutes for him? Easy taking 5-7 of Nas’s minutes. Moore may take bad shots, but he doesn’t waste more possessions than Nas does so it’s a draw.
Lastly, its not too surprising but remarkable I thought. Gibbs has taken more than twice as many shots (295) as anyone else on the team but Nas (175). Gibbs+Nas take about 43% of our shots and touch the ball more than anyone else. Wayyy too much of our offense goes through them. Pitt’s never had this kind of imbalance on offense before. I know Gibb’s is easily our best offensive player, but I’m thinking we may let the other kids play their way into being scorers. Again, we have nothing to lose here.

Comment by PantherP 01.24.12 @ 12:50 pm

omar, I agree…Wanamaker made this team his last two years. One of my favorites over the last decade. I don’t dislike Gibbs as much as you do, but I can’t wait for him to move on. I think he really wanted to leave last year and never got over being told he wasn’t ready for the NBA – they probably told him he would never be ready based on his demeanor this season. Nas is tougher for me. I didn’t like him as much as others earlier in his career but he grew on me. He plays hard and leads by example but he’s a player who never should have been thrust into a leadership role because he should never have been a starter.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 01.24.12 @ 1:06 pm

McGhee made Robinson adequate last season but despite all the nay-sayers perhaps if Taylor got his chance last season at the 4 he may have been able to utilize the skills he came to Pitt with (winning the skills competition in the McDonalds all-star game).

Like Young Taylor had suffered through tendenitsis in his knees in his sophmore year. If he played the 4 last year which his size and skill set is better suited he may have gained his confidence and helped Pitt over get past Butler and go even further. If it is true it is too complicated to learn the 4 and 5 then Zanna should have been McGhee’s back up last year.

Robinson was the weakest link on the team last year he can not improve because of his physical limitations. If Dixon would of let Taylor work through his mistakes early in the season regardless of all the negatives Taylor has at the 5 he would have certainly provided things Robinson could not do because of his size. Taylor is a much better rebounder, especially on the offensive boards then Robinson. Playing the 4, with McGhee to provide him space he might have finished many of the offensive rebounds he has difficulty with now up against bigger and stronger opponenets andd become an offensive force as the season went along and he gained more confidence.

This season is over. Sit Robinson down, play Taylor at the 4 and Zanna at the 5. Split time time at shooting guard between Johnson and Gibbs.

Dixon’s fixation with the quick hook on young players when they make a mistake has in the past and especially this year is likely retarding the development of players such as Moore and Johnson. Both of these players will need to get more relaxed in game situations as we point to next year.

Sometimes Dixon breaks the spirit of the younger players by not allowing them to learn from their mistakes in game situations. It is so much different in practice than during the game (nerves, worrying about making a mistake). Learning in the game is the only way a player who is playing his first year removed from H.S. (even redshirts or sophmores with little court experience)is going to learn to relax. Dixon never lets a player get into the flow of the game and this hampers their development. This year he does not have the luxury he ought to be looking to next year for the best combination with Adams and Robinson.

Comment by DRW 01.24.12 @ 2:42 pm

I’m a big fan on letting the young guys play, make mistakes and learn. With confidence comes success. This season is lost so play the younger players and get them experienced for next year. The development comes in game time situations and not practices. Right on DRW.

Comment by TX Panther 01.24.12 @ 3:20 pm

I definitely think Taylor and/or Zanna should be playing more of the 4 this year.

Comment by wbb 01.24.12 @ 3:37 pm

What’s up with the Pitt jersey? link to unlvrebels.com

Comment by nevin 01.24.12 @ 9:39 pm

Taylor at the 4? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Taylor is a stiff that can’t hold Gary McGhee’s dirty uniform. Think about that. The 4? HAHAHAHAHAHA. This is hilarious. Learn the game.

Comment by omar 01.24.12 @ 10:29 pm

Even funnier is calling Nasir Robinson last year’s weak link after the team won 27 games, nearly outrebounded every team, and the biggest loses were at the hands of Scottie Hopson, Ben Hansborough, Kemba Walker, and Sheldon Mack- all guards.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.25.12 @ 7:59 am

I really do not think it is unrealistic to say Robinson was the weakest player on the team last year. His success was built largely on McGhee a space heater that boxed out opponents allowing Robinson to rebound. This is obvious this year without McGhee.

Robinson is a marginal athelete with marginal basketball skills (dribbling,paasing, certainly shooting, and rebounding against other SF forwards without Mcghee there).

Taylor even with his injuries and perceived deteration of his game (playing out of position) is a much more skilled player than Robinson. The same can be said for Zanna. They may not be as aggresive but they have greater skills and height to easily offset any hustle preception real or imagined.

I think there is a concensus (of course it means nothing since we have no influence on the coaching staff or are we as qualified) but it is time to for drastic measures. Play the young players now who could by March gain confidence and show why they were recruited (johson, Moore, Patterson, Zanna, and Taylor [play Zanna and Taylor at the 4 – or abandon the low post and go to 2 SF).

Gibbs and Robinson up to this point have done as much for the opponents, in turnovers and low percentage shooting, as they have contributed.

The real problem is even with very atheletic players it is like Bob Knight said “he cannot believe how fundamentally unsound todays basketball players coming out of high school are.”

Unlike football, basketball does not have numerous coaches and many coaches have never played. AAU is the biggest joke with the majority of the coaches being babysitters. Coaches in high school are concerned about there record not development of the players so they often let big men work on their Magic Johnson game rather than offend them.

Dixon has to let theses kids learn this year because he only has two seniors who do not have the skills to carry this team. He needs to see who can perform in the big show, not practice, when Adams and Robinson arrive.

If you want an indicatation of the quality of Adams offensive game query Steve Adams, addias games where he goes head to head with the number 1 center 7’0″. He outperforms him. However like all players before college his defense positioning is weak. Further he is not receiving any coaching at Notre Dame (Birch went there) plus I doubt they have him doing any weight training.

On defense when his oppoent gets the ball down low he does not body up on him but gives him space to dribble into the lane and then attempts to block the baby hook. Hopefully he will learn this quick at Pitt.

Offensively he is the most skilled 7’0″ center I have seen since Bill Walton.

Comment by DRW 01.25.12 @ 8:34 am

In the PG I ran across this quote by Naz Robinson that, not to point the finger only at him, but he certainly id describing his play more than any others.

Robinson said all the team needs is a shot of confidence that would come with a victory.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “We’ve been playing hard, playing better. It’s the little things that have been hurting us — not boxing out, the other team getting second chances and scoring, us making turnovers, foul shots. We’ve been concentrating heavy on those things in practice

Read more: link to post-gazette.com

Comment by DRW 01.25.12 @ 8:40 am

Omar, i don’t understand your point. Yeah, Taylor doesn’t play the 5 nearly as well as McGhee did his senior year. But, um, that’s sort of the point. And anyway, Taylor’s playing nearly as well during his junior year as Gary did during his. dont forget how bad Gary was until his final season. Yes, Taylor doesn’t play the 5 well, but what exactly does that have to do with the 4? What is it about the 4 that you find so complicated that Taylor could get? What do we have to lose by moving him over now and who else would play the 4 next year anyway? Its him and Zanna. I don’t see what’s outrageous about suggesting he play the 4 this year.

Silver, its not unreasonable to call Nas the weak link last year (even though I’m not sure i agree that he was). But while your right those guards beat us, those guards beat us on pick and rolls and screens resulting in layups. They drew McGhee out and beat Gibbs on the roll or streak to the basket. Half of the time, if you had a longer quicker 4, he could have stepped over to stop that play from killing us. Nas never did (though a big part of the problem was also Gibbs being too slow). Nas wasn’t necessarily the weak link, but his weaknesses were covered up a lot last year and he only played well in that context. Its not working this year cuz we don’t have the right players around him to compliment his strengths or hide his weaknesses.

Comment by PantherP 01.25.12 @ 9:34 am

I sure hope you’re right about Adams, DRW. To be honest, I’m a little gun-shy after the Birch debacle. I haven’t seen a lot of film on him, and I hope you’re right about his talent, but I’m not counting any chickens yet.

Comment by Lou 01.25.12 @ 10:11 am

PantherP:

I’m not trying to insult anyone, but please explain to me how Taylor has shown ANY ability to play the 4 position in college basketball? It is laughable to think he has the skill set to play the 4 at Pitt or anywhere. He can’t dribble, shoot, or pass the ball effectively. His lateral quickness barely allows him to keep up with players at the 5. His defense would go from bad to abysmal. He can barely make a free-throw, let alone a 16-footer.

I don’t know if Pitt fans did not play basketball or if they don’t watch enough of it. Dante Taylor is not a college power forward. The kid just isn’t a good player. It’s not because he is out of position. It’s because he sucks.

Thomas Robinson is a 4. Please watch him play and ask yourself if he reminds you of Dante Taylor. Then we can talk.

Comment by omar 01.25.12 @ 11:42 am

Most SF in college are not required to break the defense down by the dribble or outside shooting or eevn passing. Certainly Robinson has none of these skills. He has absolutely no conception of how to shoot except at the basket. He cannot dribble at all, and he has no quickness.

Most SF are compliments down low to the 5. Cleaning up the trash off the boards, scoring on put backs (Taylor would be usually matched against players smaller than him and shielded from rejections from the opposing center by his center).

SF are garbage men. One of the best SF’s was the SF who complimented Ewing when they won the national title. He had a small skill set but he was 6’9″, had a center to free him up for rebounds and put backs. Robinson is to small to be effective.

We really have no idea what Taylor can do facing the basket. He did win the skills comepetion (dribbling, shooting) in the high school McDonalds game. Dixon decided he could play the 5 and that decision has proved to be wrong.

Comment by DRW 01.25.12 @ 12:00 pm

post note -Birch is and will be a hell of a player. Like all kids out of high school, especially big men Kight hit the nail “it’s amazing the lack of fundamentals H.S. ball players have.”

As for Adams he is far from a head case. He is a soft spoken appreciative young man, not spoiled like many of the American players. Watch a video of him in the Addias games and tell me who the last 7’0″ you have seen with his athletic skills.
He needs some muscle, and some defensive positioning coaching but he is a force. He destroyed Twisack the 7’0″ number 1 or 2 center going to Arizona in the Addias games. Despite Adams dominance Twisack is a top notch college prospect.

Comment by DRW 01.25.12 @ 12:08 pm

Every time I see Thomas Robinson on TV I cringe, knowing how close Pitt was to landing him, but Taylor signed first. Talk about a program changer (or maintainer).

Comment by JW 01.25.12 @ 12:19 pm

DRW:

Contrary to your perception, the 4 is required to dribble and play face up. Nasir does this and is somewhat effective. Nasir gets into trouble when he tries to dribble too much, but he can put it on the floor. Furthermore most of the 4’s at Pitt have had this ability, e.g. Biggs, Young, Kendall, Jaron Brown, and Troutman.

More importantly, most teams play a hybrid player at the 4. Taylor would have to defend this player. Can you spell disaster?

Taylor ISN’T A 4. DIXON HAS NOT PLAYED HIM OUT OF POSITION. GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEADS. He just isn’t good.

Comment by omar 01.25.12 @ 1:13 pm

Omar,
the point I’m trying to make is less that he plays the standard PF role. It is more that
i) Nas is playing like garbage this year and doesn’t do any of the things you are saying a PF should do (Nas is NOT the template for a PF, if that is what you are saying) and
(ii) that Taylor is not playing the center well.
… so why not try something now that we have nothing to lose?

Why not try a front court that features more Zanna + Taylor for bigger teams or Zanna/Taylor+JJ Moore for quicker teams that have hybrid or quicker PFs?

We don’t have a true center this year until Gilbert is ready so there’s no sense in forcing any of the guys to play a position they aren’t built for.

We haven’t really seen Taylor anywhere but the C position. Of course he’s not shown much PF skill, because he’s not had any ANY opportunity to practice those things.

We know how players have historically developed on Dixon’s teams. We have nothing to lose by giving him some minutes there to see if he develops any PF skills.

And btw, he does have SOME skills of a PF. He can make cuts for back door passes. He can play PF fine in any zone defense scheme.

I don’t dispute that he doesn’t have the PF skills right now that would make him a very good PF (shooting, lateral quickness) or any thing more than just below adequate. But he does have a skill set that could perhaps be useful in the right context and could conceivably develop additional ones if ever in an environment where he was allowed to.

Maybe I just refuse to accept that Taylor has nothing to offer, despite that he doesn’t appear to have half the work ethic Gray, Young or McGhee had that led to their steep improvements. I’ll admit i’m probably grasping at straws, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

But again, who plays the 4 next year if not him? I’d even agree that Zanna should start there ahead of Taylor. But who backs him up? Moore? Maybe. Why not experiment this year?

The guys you mention – I’d love to have any of them on this team. But we don’t.

Also, as is usually the case about the guy i choose to rail against, Nas will probably have a great game tonight. So i’ll have the crow ready to eat before the game starts.

Comment by PantherP 01.25.12 @ 2:02 pm

The first problem PantherP, is the claim that Nas is “playing like garbage.” He’s averaging better than 7 boards a game plus 11 ppg in Big East play. He’s not a star, but he never was.

He’s being asked to do a lot more scoring inside rather than simple put backs on the rebounds, because of the lack of offensive production from anyone else inside. Moore won’t go inside. Zanna and Taylor are inconsistent at at best. Teams know that the guards struggle to penetrate, so they are playing tight D on the perimeter to make it harder to shoot an open 3 or any jumper.

I will agree that you are grasping at straws, because frankly the idea of Taylor at PF is laughable. Whether in zone or man, Taylor struggles to move and get any position on defense.

A Taylor-Zanna-Moore frontcourt would be a defensive nightmare — for Pitt. Moore doesn’t like to play defense which is part of his problem. Size is nice in theory, but kind of useless when they aren’t in any position.

Comment by Chas 01.25.12 @ 2:18 pm

Chas,
admittedly, my saying Nas playing like garbage is an exaggeration. 7pts 11 rebs, sure. but he also has more minutes and touches the ball more per minute than anyone but Gibbs. His per minute scoring numbers are marginally better than Taylor and Zanna’s and his rebounding per minute is significantly lower than Taylor and Zanna’s. and He’s also averaging 4+ TO per game in Big East play (worst on the team).

No doubt he’s being asked to do a lot more this year. I just don’t think he’s really doing it. And I don’t think we lose to much by experimenting at the expense of his minutes.

Again, the suggestion isn’t exactly Taylor at PF. I’m not claiming he’s a PF. But the designation (PF vs C) isnt helpful. I’m talking front court combinations that shake up the current stagnation we’re seeing. Call Taylor your C and Zanna your PF if you want. But is a Taylor-Zanna-Moore frontcourt really gonna be much worse defensively than what we’re seeing now?
(You’d likely say “Yes!”, but I’m not so sure)

Maybe it IS laughable that Taylor plays PF in our defensive schemes. But you have to adapt to the guys you have. Taylor/Zanna at C and Nas at PF in our traditional man-to-man appears so far to be an exrcise in putting a square peg in a circle hole. If you can’t change the pegs, you have to change the holes.

So any modification to Taylor/Zanna/Nas’s roles would call for changes in minutes and the defensive scheme. To get anything out of this year, and with an eye towards the future, I still don’t see why Dixon wouldn’t try things with Taylor’s role at the expense of Nas’.

Lastly an open question: Is Moore’s reluctance to drive coached into him or is he’s electing to shoot rather than drive on his own? Seems like Gilbert Brown had almost the exact same mentality most of his junior/senior years, which makes me think its a coach driven thing, not a player driven thing.

Comment by PantherP 01.25.12 @ 3:11 pm

Taylor is not good. It doesn’t matter where you play him. He hasn’t put in the work to get better. His body has not improved at all since he walked on campus. He doesn’t take the strength program seriously and it shows. How many times has Taylor missed easy layups? It is because of a lack of strength. He gets bumped and it’s over. He has his shot blocked by smaller players all of the time. He hasn’t worked hard enough on his upper body strength. Many of these blocks and missed wouldn’t happen if he put in the work. He won’t. He just isn’t a player. It’s his own fault.

He was never going to be a star, but he could have been much better than he is with some hard work. I don’t care where you play him. He is going to struggle.

Comment by omar 01.25.12 @ 3:58 pm

Watched some of the Memphis-Portland NBA game last night. Poor Sam Young. He got stuck playing his minutes at the 4, matching up against a larger player on defense and running around the baseline on offense. And most of the time he seemed to be on court with O.J. Mayo whose explicit role is to chuck it up and be the focal point of the Memphis offense. I’m sure that’s not how Sam imagined his career to be at this point. He’s really a wing player- a 2 or 3- because of his ability to drive and shoot and matchup with guards. When he was at Pitt, he lacked some of this ability and because of some personnel issues, he played 4. There’s a big difference in Pitt’s system between playing the 3 and 4.

The differences between the 4 and the 5 are less so. But the most critical is the ability at the 4 to move well without the ball and have a strong understanding of what is going on around you from the high post. Nasir Robinson, his last two years, has been very solid in this role and a critical part of the team’s success. He was complemented by McGhee, not propped up by him. He is undersized by conventional terms, but moves well without the ball, has a nose for rebounds, is not afraid of anything, and can operate quicker than larger opponents. Sorry, Pitt lost games last year because they couldn’t close out shooters on the perimeter more often than not. It had very little to do with Nasir Robinson swinging over to cover on a screen. Defensively, Gibbs and Woodall were weaker links and while McGhee was an excellent one on one defender, was only a marginal quality help defender- especially on broken plays.

More on Nasir: Last year, he came out in great shape. He was trimmer and hoppier. He occasionally finished plays with dunks. Even after his injury, he still maintained good fitness and decent athleticism. His re-injury this year however has really seemed to set him back. He’s making bad decisions and turning the ball over and that’s his problem this year. But he’s also not physically as up for it as he was last year.

On Taylor, Omar has captured it all. I was courtside last year for the St. John’s game at MSG. That Johnny’s team, physically, was so impressive in terms of body condition. They looked as if they spent a lot of productive time in a weight room. Both Dante and Talib both look physically stronger than before, but they still don’t compare to our competition and the inability to finish and getting their shit stuffed back in their face is gametime proof of this.

Regarding the appeal to play our younger players, which is something that comes up here every year regardless of how well the team is doing, the answer is- THEY ARE PLAYING. What you see is what you get. This is the youngest Pitt team in years. They just aren’t going to bench seniors because they are struggling. Especially two who have been successful in the past. Except for Gilbert, all these guys are getting chances to show their stuff.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 01.25.12 @ 4:15 pm

I agree with PantherP and would take it further/ Taylor – scored 15 points (6-11 FG) and grabbed six rebounds for the East All-Stars in the 2009 McDonald’s All-America Game…Won the McDonald’s All-American Skills Competition, in which he completed a full-court dribbling and shooting course in 37 seconds…

This maybe inconsequential but we will never know. To me you can not ignore it as fact. And as a basketball player I know the difficulty of playing out of position. For long periods of time this can erode your skills that do not translate to the position the coach needed you.

Face it Dixon needed Taylor to back up McGhee since he had no one else. So that continued for his first two years.

It is the same as Gibbs being required to play point which he does not have the skills. If he had to play point from his freshman year it is without question that his shooting would have not developed as it has and he would of never been an All-Big East player.

Does any of us know what Taylor and Birch would have done at the 4. I think based on their offensive skills in high school that Taylor would have been better once he got into shape after arriving at Pitt.

Just because Dixon had needs does not necessarily mean he gave Taylor a fair opportunity at SF and he was a bust. If you remember Dixon answer for not giving Taylor a chance at the 4 was a evasive it is too hard to learn two positions, i.e., he needed him at the 5 and he was sold on Robinson (who was carried by McGhee, Wannamaker, and Brown).

Comment by DRW 01.25.12 @ 4:15 pm

DRW:

The 4 is techically the Power Forward position. The 3 is the small forward position. Do you think Taylor should play small forward? Really?

Comment by omar 01.25.12 @ 4:56 pm

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