March 13, 2012

A Confluence of Angst and Whining

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 1:29 pm

I apologize (sort of) if you think you are being singled out in this rant. Honestly, it isn’t directed at any one person. It’s just that I’ve gotten a little worn down over the course of this season — and especially in the last week. It just seems that too many Pitt fans have gone off the deep end.

Maybe it’s taking the success this program has had for granted. Maybe it’s the frustration of the season. Maybe it’s the frustration of feeling so close in previous years. Maybe it’s because the football program has been such a source of angst that the basketball side has been the tether on the sanity that got cut this year. Maybe it’s just a very vocal minority.

Pitt is somehow above playing in the CBI. That this is an embarrassment. The players and coaches should hang their heads in shame and apologize to all, personally for this season. When did so many Pitt fans think they should be as twisted and warped as the fringes of UCLA and Kentucky?

I don’t know, but suddenly Pitt finally has a season where they truly take a step back. Where they don’t just underachieve, but fall flat on their face. And now the previous ten years of going to the NCAA Tournament is ancient history. The prior eight years of Jamie Dixon being the head coach are reduced to the failures — and any success was merely an aberration. That this year is the true norm.


It think what really wears me down is that criticisms that have no coherence from one whine to the next.

The basic: this team isn’t really that talented or very good, and they underachieved by failing to be a top-25 team as the preseason rankings indicated.

Dixon screwed up the Khem Birch situation because he didn’t coddle and pamper him enough — wasn’t sensitive enough to him — but, by god sit Ashton Gibbs and Dante Taylor’s asses on the bench for pouting and/or bad body language.

Companion to the above is the complaint after games that Dixon has too quick a hook with the younger players when they make a mistake on the court, while they themselves were screaming to get them out of the game when it happens in real time (this is a favorite for the liveblogs).

Pitt needs more offense, and the underclassmen need to play more (and if you can’t see the contradiction then you have blinders to the offensive output of Gilbert, Wright and Johnson).

Pitt should have taken a flyer/chance or two on some project/not as talented big men like Gary McGhee just in case of this year. Sure, J.J. Richardson and Dwight Miller didn’t pan out and transferred. Sure, Talib Zanna is still a project. Sure, Jaylen Bond got squeezed out by the numbers when Birch reclassified. Sure, Khem Birch flaked out. But apparently those don’t count, since it didn’t happen like McGhee.

That Nas, Woodall and Gibbs wouldn’t start for any other major conference team with NCAA Tournament aspirations. Yet, they disappointments this year.

The assistant coaches suck and are mere yes-men. Bill Barton has just completed his first season, but apparently that is enough time to render a verdict. Pat Sandle has been by Dixon’s side from the beginning. Present Rutgers head coach Mike Rice tried to hire Brandon Knight as his assistant head coach two years before.

Then there are the old nuggets that are being re-used. The claim that Dixon won’t play freshmen and underclassmen. Taft, Blair and even Birch got to start as freshmen, but that doesn’t count.

Sure, most freshmen have seen around 10 minutes/game or more in the past 4 years including Gibbs, Wanamaker, Woodall, Patterson, Taylor, Johnson, Zanna and Wright; but obviously they all should have gotten more playing time. The ones who didn’t — McGhee, Nas and Moore were clearly the rule not the exception, and without any possible explanation. Also worth noting that except for Zanna, Woodall and Taylor all the other players in this sample (that are at least sophomores) saw their minutes at a minimum double.

What else? The Sam Young should have started over Levon Kendall back in the 2006-07 season. Not that anyone still having this argument 5 years later is saying more about themselves than anything else. (Like an inability to let something go.)

I got a kick out of the claim that Dixon doesn’t really develop players since Aaron Gray made most of his leap as a junior, but didn’t improve more as a senior (pay no attention to the significant drop in turnovers and increase in blocks — points and rebounds are the only metric). Or that most of the leaps by other players like Wanamaker and McGhee also happened from their sophomore to junior years. If they don’t make more of a leap by their senior years, then it is somehow obvious that they have not been fully developed. I mean, there’s no way they were already close to their ceiling before that.

I don’t like being the optimist. I’m not that good at it. I’m much better (and happier) with a fine coat of cynicism. Yet, the fact is, seasons like this happen to every program and coach. Sometimes it’s not this bad. Sometimes its worse. Lots of factors go into it.

If I have to believe we’ll be great next year then Adams and Robinson will both be NBA starters in 2 years. Chas said it best we are a spoiled fan base with completely unrealistic expectations. It’s not a lack of faith it’s just reality.

Comment by Tony C 03.14.12 @ 1:40 pm

Iron Mike is right. Pitt is not elite. Final 4’s make you elite. Elite talent gets you there. Both Robinson and Adams are elite. They will help but we need more of them. Jamie also has something to prove next year. I believe he wants to begin proving things tonight in the CBI.

Comment by TX Panther 03.14.12 @ 1:53 pm

Ditka, in the past 10yrs:

–> Duke — 1 final four, 1 nat’l championship. (so not “regularly” making final four)

–> UNC & UConn — each have 3 final fours, 2 champtionships. (OK, they count. but they also missed the tourny 2yrs of the last 10)

–> Cuse — 1 Nat’l championship. Missed the tourny 3 of last 10yrs.

–> Kentucky – 1 final four. Also missed the tourny 1 of the last 10yrs.

–> I’ll add Mich St. 3 final fours. but no championships.

So, fine. Kansas, UConn, UNC and Mich St are teams that “regularly” make the final four. But that’s it. 4 teams.

Depending on what kinda metric you want to use, other than those 4 plus Duke, there’s an argument that there are not any better programs in the country. You can add Florida if you want, but they’ve had 2 good yrs and a bunch of sub-Pitt yrs. Or Cuse, though their bad yrs offset their good yrs. Still that’s 6 teams ahead of us.

I think i know what you are saying. But think we need some perspective ourselves into thinking there is this big group of schools that regularly outdo Pitt. There’s only 6 teams (out of ~250 total, ~80 from power conferences), that have had a better decade than Pitt. We’ve been pretty darn good.

Comment by PantherP 03.14.12 @ 2:01 pm

Thank you silver panther I was wrong the player I was referring to was Anthony Davis. I am not going to be baited into arguing with you about other opinions. As with each of these blogs they are the opinions of the writer and mistakes concerning stated facts will often occur.
Also PanterP while you were joining it on beating me up, you reinforced a point I have made several times that the major problem this year was that Dixon had notrecruited a genuine center in three years.

Also Robinson is ranked as the number 4 PG I not going to go back to Woodall’s ranking because I would be wasting my time.

To all the naysayers concerning Adams watch a video of him. I hope he feels a commitment to Jamie and stays 2 years. Actually it would help him. The NBA is football without pads so he needs some experience being doubled and tripled teamed.

Comment by drw 03.14.12 @ 3:59 pm

DRW – I did not intend to beat you up. I have no objection to some of your comments. I’d agree Dixon has not successfully recruited a center in three years (unless you count Gilbert). Its excusable in my mind though — he, and everyone else, thought he had a beast in Taylor and would have Birch to supplement him. There’s no really glaring poor decision in Dixon’s front court recruiting, just some bad breaks.

James Robinson is the real deal. I totally agree there too. I’ll even bolster your point — DJ Augstin and Scottie Reynolds were ranked worse in the overall PG rankings when they were recruited than Robinson.

However, those two were ranked significantly better in overall rankings than Robinson.

Im also just weary of highschool tapes and recruiting rankings. And Woodall does not suck. and he’s our only real leader next year (unless someone else emerges). Can’t see him taking a back seat to Robinson unless and until Robinson proves he is,as a freshman, an elite BE PG AND a team leader. He’ll be good, and play ~15 minutes (like Levance his freshman year). I just wouldn’t hang my hat on him being too huge a difference.

Comment by PantherP 03.14.12 @ 5:59 pm

Ditka is one of those people who believe that historical powers mean that a team is elite. Pitt hasn’t had a relationsip with suecces and in his mind Pitt is not an elite program. So, in his analysis, does that mean that UCLA is an elite program because they were great in 60s and 70s? Or does that mean that a depaul is elite because they made the final four in the 70s? or an Indiana state? Just because Pitt hasn’t gotten to the final four does not mean that the last 10 years should be forgotten. In the past ten year, Pitt is every bit as elite as any of the other programs you mentioned. The NCAA’s are about matchups more than anything else and in an elimination game anything can happen.

Comment by muddiepitt99 03.15.12 @ 10:02 am

Coach Ditka thank you for a voice of reason. I also do not live in Pittsbugh anymore although I am a native son. Like you no one in my social circle cares about Pitt. In basketball they have no idead that Pitt has had such a successful program for 10 years.

I use this site to vent and a state my OPINION right or wrong, misspelled, grammatically incorrecct, or occassionally use the improper name of player. Too many of us take time to attack the others than state our opinions. The blog, I am afraid is reflecting the level of our decaying society that has lost the ability for civil discourse.

Comment by drw 03.15.12 @ 1:53 pm

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