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February 23, 2012

Not Enough Cogs, No Stars (Yet)

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 12:00 pm

We are all frustrated with how badly Pitt basketball has been this season.

Whether it is the struggles with the defense. The inability to generate offense. Leadership. A chemistry issue. Talent. Development. Injuries. Other. All of the above.

Everyone has a pet theory or explanation. A grand unified theory that explains it all.

I’m not sure if there is one. Still, I guess I’ll take a stab at something.

 

Gone from this team are Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee. Solid players for Pitt. Guys who got at least a little better every year. They weren’t true stars, but they were big cogs on the team.

Cogs would be the best way to describe all of last year’s team. No stars really. Just cogs in the system. Robinson and Gibbs were the other cogs. Then it was a mix of bench and role players like Woodall, Taylor and Patterson who all played at least 10 minutes a game.

This has been the story with Pitt in the past few years. Plenty of cogs and the occasional stars — Blair, Young, Gray.

Coming into the season there were two sure cogs in Robinson and Gibbs. Woodall, Taylor and Patterson were expected to be cogs — and really Taylor was expected to be a potential breakout player. Players like Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, Cameron Wright and Khem Birch were expected to be anywhere from role/bench players to cogs/developing stars (cog+).  Throw in John Johnson as another potential role player for this season, and the mix of depth and potential made it look like Pitt would keep on truckin’.

It hasn’t even come close to working that way. Woodall — before the injury — and Patterson both stepped up to be definite cogs. Solid guys in the system. Khem Birch was showing potential. At a minimum, a cog and more definitely could have been coming. Gibbs and Robinson were what was expected. Already at their ceiling.

Birch transferred abruptly and that significantly impacted Pitt’s frontcourt. I really don’t think there was anything Pitt could have done about this. Birch gave no warning. He was starting. He was getting minutes. People were in his ear. The same people that see him as their future meal ticket.

Woodall took a huge leap that really wasn’t expected. I think most of us expected him to be serviceable as the point. A placeholder for this season. Maybe a slight improvement in his shooting. Instead, he was the most important player out there. Possibly most importantly, with leadership. The other players definitely looked to him to do the talking, the communicating and get the team going.

Patterson proved to be a very solid player. He has really embraced the Brad Wanamaker-like role of a distributing guard/forward. He can score and goes after rebounds. What he does lack at this point is the ability to penetrate and knife to the basket. He gets cut-off too easily. That meant while Woodall was out, Pitt lacked players who consistently would attack the basket. Even with Woodall’s return, teams were only concerned with Woodall slashing from the perimeter.

Johnson was a pleasant surprise, early. Quickly becoming a vital bench player for the guards — though that has tailed off painfully the further into the Big East season the team went. Wright was a little below expectations, but at least had a role as a defensive player.

Zanna still seems too raw. Too up and down, to be counted on to be much more than a bench player this year. Something not unexpected considering he was a project player. Yet there he was starting and playing 15-20 minutes a game — whether productive or not. In part because of Birch leaving, but also because Dante Taylor never took the expected step forward.

Taylor and Moore have been guys to fall way short of expectations this year. Moore endured an absolutely miserable slump for most of the Big East conference season. Shooting poorly, and failing to attack the basket (over half of his shots have been 3s). Couple that with less than steady defense, and he gave little reason for significant playing time on his own.  His game against USF was beautiful, but had the unfortunate tinge of “where the hell was that all season?”

Moore is so tantalizing. He has the body and skills to be a great player. You can see the raw athleticism. The talent is obvious. The will and desire to do everything needed to realize that on a nightly, consistent basis, however, is not  — yet. No one in their right mind would or should consider giving up on Moore, or declare him a bust. For this season, though, he was needed/expected to take much more of a step forward. That simply didn’t happen.

Gilbert Brown was wildly inconsistent on offense during his final two seasons. What Brown did, was consistently play defense even when he was having his every other game poor shooting. On at least one side of the ball, Moore has to show consistency to stay out there. Coach Dixon still hasn’t figured out how to get Moore to understand that. There have been games where he has been yanked immediately when he didn’t play defense, and others where Moore has been allowed to keep playing. So far, neither approach made much of a difference over the course of the season.

Taylor’s play has been little more than that of a bench player this season, but he is getting more minutes than that of a bench player. Taylor is averaging 6.0 pts, 5.5 rebounds and nearly 19 minutes a game, but it is more than offset by his very weak defense. What’s more, while he has been frustratingly inconsistent in the course of the season, it has been a remarkably disappointing consistency with the slight uptick in points in rebounds as his minutes increased from his freshman to junior year. The shooting percentage, though has been a major drop considering how close to the basket he generally is.

Freshman — 13.9 min  — 3.7 rbs — 4.1 pts –.584 shooting

Sophomore – 15.1 min — 4.5 rbs — 5.1 pts — .616 shooting

Junior —— 18.8 min — 5.5 rbs — 5.9 pts — .534 shooting

At this point, Taylor is a below average defensive player with some occasional flashes of offense and rebounding. A bench player who can supply minutes and fouls. I’ve often compared him to Tyrell Biggs. To be fair, Taylor is actually a little better than Biggs offensively even at this point.

Biggs (2007-08) — 20 min — 4.1 rbs — 5.4 pts — .473 shooting

Biggs was a 4-star recruit that never really panned out. He had dreams of being a power forward but was not that good. Lacking a consistent shooting touch and ball handling ability, he found himself playing center. The saving grace was that Aaron Gray and then DeJuan Blair were there to start and dominate in front of Biggs. Seems familiar with Taylor, except that Taylor didn’t have someone that is clearly that much better than him in front this season.

Taylor is frustrating because his effort is so obviously inconsistent. Taylor had played with some urgency, aggression and energy after Birch had become the starter. He realized he was losing minutes and that he might even end up behind Zanna. As soon as Birch quit the team, Taylor’s energy dropped. [Stat that may drive home how much more passively Taylor started playing. In the 4 games before Birch quit, Taylor had 12 FT attempts. It took the next 11 games for Taylor to reach 12 FT attempts.] It is hard not to make the connection.

I don’t consider Taylor a bust, but then I set the bar rather high. A bust is someone like Mookie Jones. A guy who couldn’t even get mop-up time. In that vein, Isiah Epps is reasonably considered a bust. Renardo Sidney is a bust based on performance, sense of entitlement and his disruptions to Mississippi St. Taylor has been disappointing. No where near expectations. But he does contribute, and does not disrupt the team.

Hindsight makes a lot of things clear. Robinson was a solid cog — even if undersized at the 4. He is not, however, able to be the anchor and defensive force inside. The presence of Gary McGhee was a much larger impact defensively on Pitt’s frontcourt than anyone seemed to realize. No one on Pitt’s roster came close to filling that. Putting a lot more on Robinson — and exposing more of his weaknesses.

Gibbs is not and will never be a penetrator. He is/was at his best coming off the screens and being a shooter. His efforts to be more of a point or combo guard were painful. They definitely affected his attitude and the chemistry on the team.

Pitt has been short on cogs. Only Woodall, Gibbs, Robinson and Patterson. Then it is bench and role players: Taylor, Zanna, Moore, Johnson and Wright. The lack of inside presence has been painfully obvious in this latest losing streak.

Teams aren’t worried about having to stop the front court. They can be aggressive on Pitt’s backcourt — making it harder to set screens for Gibbs. Play tight on the backcourt, because of minimal fear of anyone on the perimeter attacking the basket.

That said, there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic about 2012-13. Not simply because Steve Adams and James Robinson will be on the team.

Woodall will finally have time to get healthy, and will have some relief at the point guard spot. Patterson has room to improve and has shown that he will keep working.

Malcolm Gilbert has already shown he can impact the defense at center, and with an offseason to get stronger, should be welcome strength inside (hopefully behind Adams).

Taylor and Zanna will have less pressure on them, and more size next to them. Taylor does appear to respond better to threats to his playing time. Really, though, they may be the biggest question mark.

Or it could be J.J. Moore. He will be a junior. You don’t want to read too much into the USF game anymore than you should his game against Rutgers (2-10, 10 pts, 1 rebound, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 24 minutes). If he takes the step forward we hoped would happen this year — and consistently attacks the basket. Well that would give Pitt at least two players capable of taking (and willing to take) their man off the dribble and drive to the hoop on the court. But Moore still has to show some consistency.

Durand Johnson is going to be a redshirt freshman, and expected to help fill the role of perimeter shooter. John Johnson will be back there as well. At worst, Cam Wright will be the defensive stopper/role player.

 





I think it is very obvious that Taylor is even close to being strong enought to play the 5 in the BE … especially in Jamie’s slow down and grind offense.

I fully believe that this year’s team was much better suited to play an uptempo game although I don’t think they would have excelled at this also.

Comment by wbb 02.23.12 @ 12:08 pm

Looking back to the last two years, Jamie Dixon did an amazing job. When Lavance fields and Sam Young graduated and DeJuan Blair left early for the NBA, he cobbled a team together of role players that exceeded all expectations. Last year the team with Brad Wannamaker, Gilbert Brown, Garry McGee, Ashton Gibbs and Nassir Robinson in the starting roles was a No. 1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament. Things caught up with Pitt this year. This is also a team of role players but all the pieces don’t fit as well together.

Comment by Justinian 02.23.12 @ 12:14 pm

Chas good write up.
I’m a little higher on Moore than most. I do think the past 5 games or so he actually has been consistent on D. His main problem is really that his outside shot was broken and wouldnt drive to supplement this. I think he’ll have more license from the coaching staff and a more spread out floor to do this next year.

Question. You say if Moore can drive that’ll be two guys that can penetrate. Who’s the second guy? Not sure i see any sure things in this department. Maybe Patterson or Woodall, but neither have the physical attributes that are ideal for slashers. I could be (and often am) wrong though.

Comment by PantherP 02.23.12 @ 12:30 pm

PantherP,

Woodall was capable and did attack the basket. It’s part of why he was getting to the FT line so much.

Comment by Chas 02.23.12 @ 12:44 pm

Trav IS HURT everybody needs to remember rhat.

Comment by 63 Team 02.23.12 @ 12:54 pm

Chas, true.

His success and trips to the line seems to have waned after his first 4 games back though. I guess I’m just a little concerned with his ability to drive with any consisten success.

That said i do think the floor will be spread out a little better and I’m a believer in Woodall’s craftiness. Having an option like Adams (presuming he’s a better finisher than Taylor/Zanna) to dump off to is gonna make everyone on the team a better penetrator, especially Woodall.

Brings me to why I’m optimistic. Seemingly minor differences can have a compounding effect and result in significant improvement of the team. This is where my hope lies — better presense at Center to spread the floor + slight improvement from Moore to add dynamism + consistently healthy Woodall to provide a consistent rhythm = potentially exponential improvement. Time will tell.

Comment by PantherP 02.23.12 @ 1:14 pm

Good theory.

Woodall was a pleasant surprise. He improved his shooting, he improved his defense, he did go hard to the hoop and he did take care of the ball, for the most part. The problem was he wasn’t consistent and available. Pitt won the games when he played well. Unfortunately, they lost when he didn’t. If he can stay healthy and bring the good every night, Pitt will be much better.

But even when he’s good, he’s not a natural facilitator. He’s not great at creating for others. He had assists, but they were largely a result of the offense, not a result of his innate ability to create. That’s where, I think, Robinson could fit in next year. He is all about distributing the ball and getting others good shots. They could be a good combination.

Moore is a wingnut. He brings EFFORT everynight. His attitude doesn’t appear to be a problem (unlike some others). I just don’t think he gets it. He takes quick shots, gets lost on defense and doesn’t always seem to know where he’s supposed to be. He doesn’t sulk or whine. He tries. Dixon didn’t do him any favors by putting him on such a short leash, either. It made him tentative. He could surprise us next year if the light bulb goes on.

I do think leadership is a huge issue. Losing Wanamaker hurt a lot. He was the alpha dog. He was tough, vocal, positive and a good player. The team reflected his personaility and looked to him when things got rough. Gibbs and Robinson have not exhibited any positive leadership attributes, at least that I can see. Their personalities just aren’t suited for that role. Woodall will be a leader next year, but he’s not an alpha dog.

Brown, Brad and Gary were big, physically strong, and tough. They were the best defenders on the team. No one stepped up and filled those roles.

Gilbert and Adams will provide a good start at re-establishing that size, strength and toughness. Moore, Patterson, Zanna, and Taylor will benefit from the trickle down effect. But they need to get stronger and tougher, too.

Comment by boubacar aw 02.23.12 @ 1:49 pm

Great read, thank you

Comment by Yup 02.23.12 @ 1:58 pm

Yep, great write up. I have this nagging suspicion that Jamie is too quick to yank feeding fear of failure.

That said Moore should get many more minutes.

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 2:11 pm

I don’t know that Moore should have gotten that many more minutes overall. He has averaged 16 minutes a game. I think there should have been more consistency of minutes from game-to-game.

But at the same time if you look at his minutes from the game log, it is noticeable that for the “best” wins Pitt has had in and out of conference, Moore didn’t play above his average minutes.

link to espn.go.com

Tennessee, OK St., and the 4-game conference winning streak. Moore had minimal impact and played well under his season average of minutes.

Moore has to show more consistency for more minutes. His shooting has been horrid most of this season — 39% (28.6% on 3s) — and he is not shy about taking lots of shots. Regardless of the minutes he gets each game. That can’t be ignored, simply because he has potential.

Comment by Chas 02.23.12 @ 2:35 pm

Well,

I feel Moore is a big part of the future..therefore he ought to get mins now at the end of a lost season..Same for JohnJohn and Gilbert.

..but, as we’ve discussed recently, Jamie is too loyal to established players, not likely to happen.

Comment by Yup 02.23.12 @ 2:43 pm

Pitt will be a much better team next year. They will have a true center – arguably the best freshman center in the nation. A signficant upgrade in the back court with a tall fundamentally sound guard who will limit the turnovers, play better defense and be more of a scoring threat in all areas than Woodall.

Moore if his confidence has not been shattered can become the player on both ends of the court he has shown in flashes.

Taylor hopefully will finally get the chance to play the position he should of played when he came to Pitt. By dropping 20 lbs. he gained to play the 5 if his boby is not irrevicably damaged can regain the quickness that with his size made him a 5 star. Even if his skills are eroded by Dixon’s failure to recruit a true center of modest abilities, Taylor should be an 80% improvement over Robinson.

Dixon’s failure to recruit a true center, a big body, after McGhee until this year, forcing Taylor to gain 20 lbs and sacrifice his game and Zanna to play a position every game he was over matched sacrificed at possibly 8 victories this year. It is hard to believe that Pitt could not recruit a legitimate, 2 star center between McGhee freshman year and last year.

Comment by drw 02.23.12 @ 2:57 pm

I dont think they give a 100 percent for the whole game.
gibbs knows he is not good enough for pros so he seams down unintrested does not do the little things no spark some times.
and some timesyou just need to try harder and for what ever reason as a team they dont do it.

may be some of what KB said abought some of the players sulking is true they need a leader to grab them and shake them but i would say they dont have one and they are not aferied of the coachs they know if you have played and put in your time jammie wont sit you down they are missing some kind of spark they are not playing
with heart as a team.

Comment by FRANKCAN 02.23.12 @ 3:17 pm

Chas, it took Sam Young way too long to get out of Jamie’s doghouse. Until his SR year he was a shell of his future self.

I don’t think a future NBA’er morphs overnight. Mayube Jamie’s too tough on his young-ins. Just hypothesizing.

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 3:18 pm

@steve1, I don’t know that for sure, but, conventional wisdom says that he does do that.

I love Jamie, I’m a Jamie apologist, but, if, IF, the two guys coming in next year, are better than the guys at their position, put them in the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m all for loyalty, if you’re keeping a couple guys in for loyalty, and you win, well, no one cares, but if you’re keeping people in because of loyalty and you’re losing, well………..

Not criticizing really, Jamie has a lot of credit banked with me, but that is one thing that bugs me.

Again, they are frosh, I get that, but, if you watch college bball a lot, lots of freshman playing all over the country.

Comment by Dan 02.23.12 @ 3:34 pm

Steve,

My problem is the hindsight, approach. It’s not like this season started out as a rebuilding year. There were expectations and much of them were still intact even going into the new year.

I like Moore a lot. It’s part of why I get upset about him. He hasn’t put it together yet. Do you reward a player with more playing time, when he isn’t playing well and just hoisting shots — as Moore has still done this year? Simply because he has potential. We just spent the whole football season complaining about a QB who is believed to have a sense of entitlement.

I am not sure how many more minutes he should be averaging over 16. You can’t play him at the 4 or 5. He’s not a point guard. How much would you diminish Patterson’s playing time?

I know Gibbs has had a bad year, and he has soured a lot of people, but he is still an important piece out on the perimeter.

DRW,

the one thing we can count on is that you are convinced that recruiting sites are absolutely correct in their evaluations of players. And if they don’t play or don’t play well, it is the coach’s fault. Hopefully Taylor and Myers can form a support group.

Comment by Chas 02.23.12 @ 3:42 pm

drw…I don’t think Moore’s confidence has been shattered; look at the recent USF game for proof.
But I do think he never really built his confidence either. The lack of confidence can be fixed;shattered confidence is like shoveling fog.
Dixon has no choice but to play Gibbs for the remainder of the year but that will only be a few games.
Gibbs has had a nightmare season, but it does not diminish what he has accomplished. I hope he takes this like a man and eventually proves to be better than he has shown…and I don’t mean on the basketball court either.

Comment by sfpitt 02.23.12 @ 4:12 pm

I am more than willing to call Dante Taylor a bust. For a guy who’s 6’9″ and as athletic as he is to be that mediocre? B-U-S-T.

Comment by Jeff 02.23.12 @ 4:23 pm

Jeff, I would’ve liked to ask Jamie just 1 question at his latest press conference:

“How much have injuries affected recent performance?”

Certainly Woodall, likely Nas and Sleepy are hurting.

If so, more of a reason to play Moore more.

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 4:41 pm

I swear I didn’t read this beforehand, from Ray’s chat today:

Ray Fittipaldo: ….Dixon was on the Big East teleconference today. He mentioned that Tray Woodall was sick for the USF game and had a setback with his hip injury. Didn’t sound major. I think he’ll play Sunday, but that explains why he was so ineffective against the Bulls. He also mentioned how Nasir Robinson missed some practice time this week becaus he got his knee drained. For Dixon, it’s a big deal when guys miss practice time with injuries because he likes to get his players playing a certain way in practice and carry it over into games. With so many injuries this season it has kind of wreaked havoc with the way he likes to do things. I’m not making excuses for him, but I want to give you some insight.

link to plus.sites.post-gazette.com

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 4:54 pm

Just curious, anyone else here anxiously anticipating the Bag of Crap?

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 5:22 pm

People have to face the music. Dixon and staff have recruited a bunch of weak, unathletic players.

Just think about the physical aspects of this team for a minute – forget hoops strategy, skills and all the other factors.

To start the year, Moore and Birch, and if you stretch a bit, Wright, were the only athletes on the squad. Now you’re down to one good athlete that plays minutes in Moore and one decent athlete in Wright who I doubt will ever contribute much in the Big East.

It’s tough to go into battle every night with bigs in Taylor and Zanna that can’t dunk the ball in traffic. For god’s sake, this is the Big East. They barely get their weak crap up to the hoop when they’re facing any size or strength.

It’s tough to go into battle with a PG who isn’t quick enough to consistently beat his man off the dribble and a SG who sometimes doesn’t leave his feet during what’s normally called a “jumper”. (That said, what Gibbs got out of his athletic tools is amazing. I would assume he’s the only preseason POY in BE history who can’t stuff with two hands.)

It’s tough to go into battle with a wing player who understands the game in Patterson, but is too limited physically to take advantage of his basketball acumen.

It’s tough to go into battle with a 6’4″ PF in top-flight college basketball. Sure, Pitt’s had some guys who were under-sized and thrived inside, but they were beasts. (Greer, Blair, Troutman)

Where is the beef?

You had a strong 2/3 man in Wanamaker and a rock in McGhee and a freak wing athlete in Brown last year. You couldn’t push them around They were men.

These are boys.

And Adams and Robinson will not change that much, certainly not as freshmen.

Comment by hugh green 02.23.12 @ 5:25 pm

This team has had problems since Day 1, actually game 2 of the season. And I said it then. They had to fight to the end of the game to beat the Rider Broncs (11-18), got beat easily at the Pete by Long Beach State while never mounting a 2nd half charge at all(this would become a season theme) and then followed that up by barely beating LaSalle. That 3 game home stretch early in the season revealed much about this team. And nothing has really changed much since then(other than we’re minus one Top 10 recruit). 2 of the 3 games revealed how terrible this team played defense as Rider shot 54% & LBSU shot 60%. And the 3rd showed how sloppy Pitt was with the ball, 21 turnovers vs. LaSalle in a 4 pt win.

The same warning signals were showed in the first two pathetic performances by the football team, in their more than lackluster wins over Buffalo & Maine. If you don’t wear rose colored glasses or drink too much Kool Aid, these warning signals can be somewhat obvious.

Back to hoops
It took them another 15-20 games to figure out, that maybe, just maybe we should be playing more zone defense since both the interior and the perimeter defense stunk in the man to man.

And that was the extent of the correction, play zone or man to man. And it took over half the season to even come to that conclusion.

I would hope (mind you hope) that the two freshmen ,and hopefully there will be a couple more or a juco too, will be given ample playing time in the non-con next year(like starting). If one thing should be learned from this year’s fiasco it is, being 11-1 in non-conference come conference play, means absolutely nothing.

And the other thing that should be learned is, if you can’t beat scrub teams on your home court convincingly, you have problems that need addressed. Not explained away.

Comment by Emel 02.23.12 @ 5:26 pm

Guess not. More info here:

link to en.wikipedia.org

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 5:27 pm

Was Woodall also sick with hip injuries during the first USF game and the Seton Hall game and the WVU game?

Comment by hugh green 02.23.12 @ 5:31 pm

Hugh, I’m not disagreeing. This team is in desperate need of a GTG.

And I think Moore is the only player on the current roster, hurting or otherwise, who could take on that role.

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 6:00 pm

Fittipaldo: It’s going to be highly ranked because Steve Adams is a top 10 player and James Robinson is a top 50 player. Adams will start right away and should do well. I don’t see Robinson playing mre than 10 minutes a game as Woodall’s backup, but he’ll learn on the job and be ready as a sophomore. But back on top? I don’t know about that. As I have said, this team has some big issues with defending, and I just don’t see it getting much better next season.

That insight by the PG beat writer is kind of alarming. It suggests PITT will never try any other types of defenses that perhaps would be more suited for the personal.
And Robinson needs to get more than 10 minutes a game. Much as I like Woody, he’s a turnover machine, undersized and not a real good defensive player and easily posted.

Fittipaldo also suggested Dixon thinks Patterson or Moore could be an option at SG. huh
Neither one is a particularly good ball handler and Moore hasn’t shown any passing ability at all.
While Patterson isn’t that great of a shooter.
He needs to go out and get a good SG who is like 6-4 or 6-5. What we got is not the answer.

Comment by Emel 02.23.12 @ 6:07 pm

What kind of defense is best suited for the short, slow, disinterested, clueless and unathletic?

Seriously, Jamie has been here for what 12 years? Shouldn’t he have the right personnel in place to play his defense by now?

It all starts and ends with recruiting.

Comment by boubacar aw 02.23.12 @ 6:38 pm

Agree boubacar.

A lot of this was exposed in the annual flame out in the NCAA’s. Even teams like Kent State, Bradley, Pacific (?) picked apart our man to man defense and we were supposed to have the better athletes, players against those mid-majors.

Usually what happened in those games, was their coach would have one player who had a good matchup against PITT, and they just exploited the hell out of it. PITT could never figure out how to deal with that one matchup problem. One guy was Stan Heath of Kent State, the present day USF coach, this guy just seems to flat out, outcoach Dixon just about every time they meet. Is USF that much better than PITT this year, that the games weren’t even close down the stretch? The 2nd game against them the other day was pathetic, other than Moore playing more and getting hot(I guess in a 33 game schedule it will happen once and a while), didn’t see any adjustments from the 1rst game with them . Even last year with a #1 seed team, we struggled to win in Tampa against a so-so at best USF team.

With PITT’s usual lack of talent and athleticism, if all 5 guys on the floor aren’t totally bought in and play with high energy, the whole thing caves in like a house of cards. Which is exactly what happened this year.

Comment by Emel 02.23.12 @ 7:15 pm

EMel if the whole team plays with high energy
you cant beat a team with more talent or at least give them a tough game.
that is what i was trying to say in my post on here but you have said it better they dont play that way as a team one night 2 men will play there hart out the next night 1 will like moore just did but they dont do it as a team
like you said if all 5 guys bought in every night we would not be were we are.
and you are right that is what happend this year.

Comment by FRANKCAN 02.23.12 @ 7:36 pm

that was to be can beat a team with more talent
not cant

Comment by FRANKCAN 02.23.12 @ 7:39 pm

Dante Taylor was supposed to be the star they built around. Had he developed the way they expected like Thomas Robinson at Kansas I believe we would have seen a completely different team. Losing Woodall still would have hurt but the blow would have certainly been softened. Defense would still be a liability too but as we’ve seen when the offense is going, Pitt will play D.

Having said that, I’m not as hard on Taylor as some. His teammates and coaches like him. He doesn’t sulk or complain about minutes or make up excuses for his play. The coaches and players always blame his play on “injuries” but I’ve never heard him bring them up. He just hasn’t lived up to expectations and it happens sometimes. You can blame coaching or talent or recruiting but sometimes player’s careers go this way regardless of the hype.

Next years team will be free of expectations and will have a talent influx even with the loss of Gibbs and Nas. The current roster will be older and more experienced and it will finally be Woodall’s team and his team alone. Now only if we could fast forward through the rest of this season.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 02.23.12 @ 7:52 pm

Steve1,

How much could injuries really be holding Taylor back when he’s played the exact same way (ie, pretty lousy) for three seasons? Has he been hurt for three years?

Comment by Jeff 02.23.12 @ 8:03 pm

I disagree that the defense wont get better. Pitts losing both gibbs who isnt quick enough and robinson who isnt big enough to play lockdown defense. Theyre being replaced by a lockdown defender in robinson and a 7 ft athletic shot blocker. That will help the defense immensely. We saw the impact a 7 footer can have in the paint when malcolm gilbert has played this year, so that helps. It also adds overall athleticism and talent to the team.

Comment by Pk 02.23.12 @ 8:14 pm

Jeff, who knows. He’s had tendinitis, maybe he still does.

I do know Sleepy came in with a chip on his shoulder a la Birch, but since has become a team player.

Maybe he’ll pull a Sam Young and blossom his senior year. Happens a lot with Jamie-led teams.

Here’s hoping.

Comment by steve1 02.23.12 @ 8:33 pm

I wasn’t implying injuries are the reason for his poor play…it’s the reason the team has given and I have respect for Taylor that he hasn’t used it as a crutch. I don’t think he’ll live up to expectations but I think he has represented Pitt well.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 02.23.12 @ 8:44 pm

Shocker, Kuric couldn’t throw it in the ocean tonight. What do you think the odds are he’s gonna go for 30 on Sunday?

Comment by Pitt Rob 02.23.12 @ 11:19 pm

I’m going to join whoever called Dante Taylor a bust.

We wait 20 years for a Mickey D’s AA, we get two…

One of them quits his freshman year, and the other winds up being Dante Taylor.

GREAT!

Comment by Jimbo Covert's My Dad 02.24.12 @ 1:08 am

Steve,

Sam Young was actually pretty good his Jr. year.

I believe that’s when he first started utilizing that ridiculous shot fake on a regular basis.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's My Dad 02.24.12 @ 1:10 am

Everyone forgets that Taylor was the only one out of the McDonalds all- americans forced to play out of position. As EMEL and I know that playing competitive sports 20 lbs over your playing weight is going to severly restrict your game.

Good example Blair eat himself out of the starting lineup last year at San Antonio because of the weight he gained. Did he just forget how to play or did the extra weight impair his skills?
This question does not even have to be asked it is so obvious. Remember Ali overweight and losing to bums.

We will not know what Taylor could have done if he played at 220lb rather than adding 20 lbs. If he had stayed at 220lb he probably would have been more successful at the 5 but without the experience and the size for the Big East probably not as succesful at the 4. I forgot we have a dynamic 4 in 6’5″ player who can not shot or dribble.

I had been a Taylor baiter until realizing when playing ball with people my age >60, it was less my age than it was my 20 pounds over weight that
allowed lesser players to exploit me. There is no argument to this.

For those who say videos do not tell you much when you watch Adams or Robinson my response is, with no intent to be demeaning, the probabilites are that you did not played high school basketball or higher as I never played football but it never stopped me from being inflexible in my oinions. After watching many viedos on both I am very confident that they both are the best recruits Pitt has secured at their position since Billy Knight.

I hope Dixon gives them a chance. Woodall v. Robinson is a no brainer. Three years of college ball does not surpass talent and good coaching. Would Dixon have played Jermey Lamb (UConn guard)as a freshman. I doubt it.

Adams natural abilities exceed every other big man player coming into college next year. Because of his lack of quality competiton he may be a small step behind but unless Howard wants to use his college eligibility I think Dixon stumbled into a pot of gold and I hope he rolls the dice.

Moore can excel with the subtration and addition next year. I really think if Dixon moves Taylor to the 4, he drops 20 lbs. and if his body is not yet ruined the NBA will be interested, because of
his size and athletic abiility at the proper weight.

Maybe I am dreaming but a very capable front line of 7’0″, 6’9″, 6’6″, and a backcourt of 6’3″ and
?. Let them play

Comment by drw 02.24.12 @ 1:13 am

A 15-17 record isn’t all bad considering that means no NIT

Comment by Tony C 02.24.12 @ 1:13 am

I go Woodall, Patterson, Moore, Taylor, Adams next year with Zanna, James Robinson, and Durand Johnson off the bench.

Comment by Tony C 02.24.12 @ 1:16 am

Frankly, if I were a gambler I’d bet against Pitt for the rest of the season. Guys like Gibbs, Nas and Tray look they want to give up the chase and hide.

Or let the young-ins play instead.

Comment by steve1 02.24.12 @ 7:17 am

Jamie has nothing to lose by playing his bench player’s more. I agree with other Pitt Blather’s, let’s look to next year, our final year in the BE and win the BE before joining the ACC. HTP!

Comment by MariettaMike 02.24.12 @ 7:34 am

I agree with both MM and S1 it is time to stop worrying about the feelings of Gibbs, and certainly NAZ.

Woodall turns the ball over to much and aside from the couple games played beyond his level his ceiling is low. Go back to Gibbs at point, Johnson and Patterson at 2, Moore and Patterson at 3, Zanna and Taylor at 4, Gilbert, Zana, and Taylor at 5.

I never bought Jamies excuse for Taylor getting time at 4 too difficult to learn two positions. He played 4 in high school. This was a self-serving excuse to disguise the fact he failed to recruit a center.

Work these changes in practice. Although it maybe to late for this year start Taylor in a weight reduction program.

These are wild changes but they set the foundation for next year.

Comment by drw 02.24.12 @ 8:07 am

I think Mark Myers throwing alley-oop passes to Dante Taylor at the 4 spot would be unstoppable.

Comment by JW 02.24.12 @ 9:45 am

I’m not normally one to buy excuses, but I actually believe that Taylor’s knees are a factor in his lousy play. There are times you see him move gingerly, especially in the lane, and I can only assume that’s because the knees are sore.

That being said, even with good legs, I don’t think Taylor had much upside. There just isn’t much to his game. We’ve seen very little face-up, few inside moves, no clever fakes, no court vision, no

My guess is he’d be marginally better playing on solid knees…..a little quicker, a little more bounce….. but certainly not some power inside player in the Big East at the 4 or 5.

Comment by hugh green 02.24.12 @ 10:46 am

i was going to add “no good outlet passes”.

Which brings up a tangent: Whoever coaches the big men on Dixon’s staff has never heard of coaching the outlet. No one thing is more important to a decent fast break than a fast, accurate outlet pass and it’s obvious that none of Pitt’s bigs have ever been coached on pivoting outward and firing that pass to a waiting guard at the hash.

Just makes you wonder if the current ass’t coaches are fully competent.

Comment by hugh green 02.24.12 @ 10:51 am

Agreed JW.

Comment by TX Panther 02.24.12 @ 11:19 am

I hate to be a broken record but: I’m really sad for Gibbs & Nas, that their senior years are ending like this. I’ll admit to being a Gibbs apologist, my brother went to Seton Hall Prep in between Knight & Gibbs, and I see how his lack of leadership has affected this troop.

Also, Nas, his last signature play is the foul against Butler.

We’re all Pitt homers on this blog, so I think we’re all sad to see them end their careers on a mediocre season, when so much was expected.

Comment by Rieur1114 02.25.12 @ 11:45 am

Gibbs never stepped up this year and has a poor attitude. He is the main reason this team has been so bad. can’t feel sorry at all for him. good riddance.

Nas has been playing on one leg all year – can’t blame him for trying to do too much – at least he is trying since it was obvious no one else could step up. I feel bad for him.

Taylor stinks, and doesn’t seem to care. I think he is clueless.

Can’t really fault anyone else, as they are doing what they can, and at least seem to be trying hard, not like Gibbs and Taylor.

Comment by get real 02.25.12 @ 3:40 pm

The 2009-2010 team had more unknowns coming in than this season. Jermaine Dixon was injured for the first few weeks of the season. Pitt started five guys who were not starters (Woodall, Gibbs, Wanamaker, Robinson, and McGhee) the season before. Woodall hadn’t even played the season before. Out of that group only Wanamaker had been an early guy off the bench the year before. Through that season all those guys and Gilbert Brown (who I think was on academic probation during the fall) demonstrated skills that at best we had only seen glimpses of. In Gary McGhee’s case he absolutely blossomed into a guy who could defend without fouling, rebound, and block shots. Gibbs improved his shooting. Wanamaker made plays without being a turnover waiting to happen. Brown started to show, albeit inconsistently, a 3 point shot.

Only two guys on this year’s team have demonstrated clear improvement. Woodall and Patterson. Before his injury Woodall was shooting much better all around and his assist to turnover was much better. He was playing better on ball defense. Patterson can clearly shoot when set and also has good passing vision. He doesn’t seem to mind contact. Gibbs and Robinson pretty much plateaued in the 2009-2010 season. In truth, Robinson may have become a less capable defender since that year. I’m not sure if it’s his knee or the fact that McGhee isn’t there to cover for him.

I’m hopeful for next year. I think that Patterson and Woodall will improve. I am highly encouraged by JJ Moore’s efforts in the USF game. I still think Zanna can noticeably improve. Especially if he doesn’t have to play center. With Adams and Robinson coming in, as long as Pitt can replace the shooter that Ashton Gibbs was from 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, I think Pitt will be good again.

Also, people keep posting that Dante Taylor gained 20 pounds and that it has hindered him in some way. They suggest that Dixon has therefore mismanaged him. Dante Taylor is much more lean and fit than he was as a freshman. He has no more or no less apparent ability to elevate now than he did as a freshman. Dante Taylor has thus far demonstrated little growth on the offensive or defensive ends. It may be coaching, but it is not due to the 20 pounds.

Comment by Barvo 02.26.12 @ 12:02 pm

The only exception that I take with the Dokish’s position is that it wouldn’t have mattered whether Taylor or Zanna pushed Robinson at the 4. Dixon never would have started them over Robinson anyway. Just as if John Johnson had pushed Gibbs at the 2. Dixon never would have started him over Gibbs. Those guys were two year starters and there was no way that Dixon was going to have them coming off the bench in their senior years. In hindsight, he should have.

Comment by Barvo 02.26.12 @ 12:17 pm

[…] are the things, most of us know. The issue of players who are cogs and the development (and non-development) of some players, I’ve hit […]


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