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March 22, 2012

The Game That Didn’t Matter, Did

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 9:04 am

I got more into that game than I expected. I was trying to be mellow about it. Not take it too seriously. Just try and observe players, but mid-way through the first half I was shouting at the TV, fired-up up about the game and really wanting Pitt to win. It had nothing to do with last year. It was simply that I was watching Pitt play a competitive game and I wanted my team to get the win. I hope I never lose that kind of reaction.

This was a gritty win for Pitt. One that had a plenty working against them. On the road, bad shooting, iffy officiating, defensive breakdowns. Unlike a lot of games this year, though, Pitt got to the other side with a win.

Yes, it helped that Butler was hideous at the free throw line, but that sort of balanced out the one-way officiating. That aspect was extremely frustrating that Butler players could just throw themselves at Pitt inside and toss the ball in the air — and draw foul calls. Pitt players were standing straight, arms straight. And the foul would still be called. I don’t blame the Butler team for doing it all game. I blame the officials for giving them the reason to keep doing it.

It wasn’t pretty at times. Gibbs could not hit anything in the first half (0-6), and barely tried to shoot in the second half (0-2) — and did not attempt a single 3-point shot in the game. In the second half, you could see that the rest of the team was not even looking to get him the ball. There was a sullenness about him. I don’t know if it is still frustration at the season, or being in the CBI (some people who attended the first couple CBI games at the Pete have indicated that Gibbs had looked disinterested). It was disappointing, to be polite.

Pitt stayed in the game in the first half, mainly behind J.J. Moore with a little help from Talib Zanna and Cameron Wright. Zanna’s improved play in the CBI — combined with yet another spurt of Dante Taylor playing no defense (which led to his 2 quick fouls) — led to Zanna getting the start in the second half. Zanna finished the game with 15 points and 8 rebounds. While he is still not good on defense, he could at least keep up with Smith and avoid the dumb fouls from being late getting to defensive position.

Taylor simply could not handle a mobile big man with range. Butler’s Andrew Smith moved around the court. In general, Pitt struggled with it. In the second half, Pitt did a lot more of having Nas, Patterson and Moore on the court together to stay with the constant motion of Butler’s offense.

It did seem that the poor shooting would doom Pitt in the second half. Then Lamar Patterson really stepped up. During the season, there was some question about his play late in the game. Questions about how he responded to the pressure. He hasn’t answered them well. This time, though, he was huge.

In the final 2:11 of regulation, he had a steal and 5 of the 6 points — including a clutch 3 — to tie the game and send it to OT. In OT he had 5 more points, an assist, a block and rebound. Woodall also stepped up in the final minute — after a frustrating first 39 — and in overtime. Along with Moore, the three of them appear to be taking the reins of this team for next year. They are going to be counted on to be leaders on this team, and they seem to be ready to embrace it. (I hope.)

Now it’s on to the CBI Championship series (PDF). A 3-game set that has Pitt playing Washington State. Pitt will travel to Pullman for the first game on Monday night at 10 pm eastern on HDNet. The next game and third if necessary, will be at the Pete at 7pm on Wednesday and Friday. If Pitt wins, the trophy can go right into storage. Only to be brought out as a reminder to the players at the start of next season — this is not the goal.





See? We CAN get to a hoops championship game…

Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 03.22.12 @ 9:21 am

Just got to 20 wins for the 11th straight season. That puts a little lipstick on the pig.

Comment by pitt1972 03.22.12 @ 9:26 am

It’s still a pig however.

Comment by TX Panther 03.22.12 @ 9:32 am

I also started watching just to see the young players and then got into it. It’s hard to judge how well the young players will do next year from these games given the level of competition, but it is good seeing Moore and Patterson being assertive. Having a PG with a 3 assist, 3 TO line isn’t good though.

Comment by velvil 03.22.12 @ 9:57 am

Playing in the CBI championship game is a hell of a lot better than losing in the CBI tournament. Good on Pitt for finally stepping up and winning a tough game. Hopefully its something they can build on for next season. Now to finish with 22 wins.

Comment by Hurriquake 03.22.12 @ 9:58 am

Granted this tournament is like playing in the Maui Inivtational or something. But a few points
- it doesnt mean we’re playing for the “120th best team in the country”, because due to the selection process half the NCAA tourny field is worse than Pitt, and same with the NIT. (granted we’re stil only like 65th best team, but whatever)

- more importantly, its still matters to me that Pitt wins, whatever game it is playing. And it apparently still matters to all the guys playing on our tam next year. Its says a lot that these young guys are coming out after the kick-in-the-balls season we just had and are still playing hard. To get a championship will do alot for these kids psychologically.
– so all the smarmy, jaded Pitt “fans” who are holding their nose when talking about this tournament and saying we shouldn’t even bother playing in the CBI, as has been said before: Its not about you. This is a building block for the future.

Comment by PantherP 03.22.12 @ 10:07 am

Ive been railing about Dixon’s underperformance in the tourney for years… finally someone did the excel legwork

ladies and gentlemen, i present the results:

only once coach in the entire NCAA is worse in march than Jamie, and that is a man who has never won a game…

link to bracketscience.com

Comment by DeVanzo 03.22.12 @ 10:21 am

amen PantherP!

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.22.12 @ 10:30 am

No doubt, the officaiting stunk. I wanted so bad to turn the game off because of that, but hung in there til the end. good win for Pitt and these younger players.

Comment by blaise 03.22.12 @ 10:42 am

Devanzo, you can’t blame Coach Dixon for his NCAA record, I put the blame squarely on the responisble party…Dave Wannstedt!

Comment by HbgFrank 03.22.12 @ 10:57 am

Devanzo, I won’t argue that Dixon has not under-performed in the post season.

I will argue that he has OVER-performed in the regular season and has gotten Pitt higher seeds than they would have without his coaching. There no doubt were a number of under-performing post-seasons. But that number is inflated due to the regular season over-performances.

Cant see the spread sheet — its a pay site (you know a free way in) — but i would guess if you adjusted the numbers for over-achieving seasons (say against pre-season rankings) Dixon is probably middle of-the-pack for guys with 12+ NCAA tourny games to their name.

Hey let;s knock Duke. Pitts under achievement is bad, but we never have losses that are so dramatically bad as Duke’s (twice in past 10yrs Duke lost to a team at least 8 seeds below them, 4 times to a team at least 5 seeds below them). Closest we come was the 2nd round loss to Bradley (a team that also beat #4 Kansas).

Also, in addition to the 4 dramatic upsets above, a #1 seed Duke lost to a #5 seed in 2002 and 2005; in 2006 #1 duke lost to a #4 seed. Lost to lower seeds in two other years. Thats 9 out of 10 yrs losing to lower seeds. 6 of those years to seeds at least 4 seeds below them.

We can do a lot of things with stats. Let’s use them to knock d-bags like Duke. Nout our own coach.

Comment by PantherP 03.22.12 @ 11:52 am

Well said PantherP..couldn’t agree more.

Comment by milobloom 03.22.12 @ 12:03 pm

Is HDNet on cable or strictly a dish channel?

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 03.22.12 @ 12:14 pm

Where was that horrible Butler free throw shooting last year when we actually needed it????

Any chance someone in the Pitt athletic dept is ordering a CBI Finals 2012 banner right now for the Pete???

Comment by Coach Ditka 03.22.12 @ 12:43 pm

HDNet is on cable but not everywhere. FiOS has it but Time Warner (at least in NYC) doesn’t. I think Comcast is another cable system that doesn’t carry it.

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.22.12 @ 12:46 pm

Glad these guys are fighting to the end. I don’t get to watch the games because my cable provider doesn’t carry the channel, but I listen and get really into the games. These kids are playing hard and getting valuable experience that could pay dividends next year. As long as Pitt is playing I want them to win the games no matter the tournament. H2P

Comment by Pitt Rob 03.22.12 @ 1:27 pm

Little help ; what date & time is the CBI championship & are we playing Oregon st. ?

Comment by Rocky20 03.22.12 @ 1:39 pm

Rocky,

Playing Washington State at 10 PM Monday (Mar 26), followed by game #2 at the Pete Wednesday (Mar 28) at 7 PM and game #3, if needed, also at the Pete at 7 PM on Friday (Mar 31).

TV is HDNet

Comment by pitt1972 03.22.12 @ 2:01 pm

Pitt vs. OSU looking for an ‘Obama bump’ for 2012!

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.22.12 @ 2:01 pm

When’s the last time Pitt gutted out a tough late March postseason win? We used to take these kinds of wins for granted in conference play, but the underclassmen need this experience. This is good for next year, even if ultimately it means little for this past season. It would be so easy to just quit and lick their wounds, but they’re scrapping. Jamie will get this group on track.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 03.22.12 @ 2:05 pm

Washington St game #1 is at Pullman, Washington.

Comment by pitt1972 03.22.12 @ 2:08 pm

Monday the 26th @Washington State – 10:00 pm eastern

Comment by CBC 03.22.12 @ 2:10 pm

Only bad thing about playing a PAC 10 team is they are used to the Howland/Dixon model of playing basketball. Motion half court offense and man to man defense with no ball pressure. And this year for both teams, putrid man to man defense with no ball pressure. Except UCLA has better more highly recruited players than Pitt, which means Ben was even worse than Jamie this year. And his seat in Westwood is more than warm.

Comment by Emel 03.22.12 @ 2:17 pm

I also found myself caring a little too much about that exhibition game last night.

Some positives (last night and this whole CBI nonsense):

Patterson/Moore – both have stepped up and led the team. As juniors, they will be counted on BIG TIME next year. This past month or so has given us a glimmer of hope that they’re capable. They also played well together, they may be the two best players on the team next year, they can’t share a position.

Defense – They have played better defense recently. Next year with a true defensive presence in the middle and with five guys actually trying (bye bye Gibbs) they might actually get back to playing decent D.

Bad Woodall – no problem. Like it or not, Tray is going to be an important player next season. But Pitt has to be able to rise above his inconsistent play. Last night they got very little out of him and were still able to win (see Moore/Patterson). That hasn’t happened much this season. When Woodall was bad, Pitt has mostly lost.

Zanna/Wright – Again, like it or not, Pitt needs them both to play well next year. Zanna appears to be a good compliment to Adams. He was a great garbage man last night. With other teams focusing on Adams, Zanna should have more opportunities. He could easily be a 10/10 guy next season. Wright continues to improve on defense, he is limiting his dumb turnovers and improving his shot selection (and percentage). Could be a decent role player.

Dixon – Made some adjustments???? He had his guards/forwards switching the high ball screens, he hadn’t really done that much all year and it seemed to bother Butler. He also went with a TINY lineup for most of the late second half with Nas playing the 5. Nas did a good job pushing Smith and then got help when he made his post moves. Questioned it at the time, but it worked.

But anytime Jamie goes outside the box, it makes me happy.

And yes – IT IS ABOUT ME!

Comment by boubacar aw 03.22.12 @ 2:40 pm

Can someone help me with this? I’m not a basketball expert by any means, but I listened to the game on the 1070 “The Fan” broadcast…the announcers kept mentioning that Pitt was “switching ball screens” as a defensive tactic. What exactly does that mean, and is this something Pitt normally does? It sounded somewhat effective.

Comment by Lou 03.22.12 @ 2:55 pm

Duke has also won national championships in ’92, ’93. ’01, ’10. I don’t mind losing to a lower seed if Pitt wins a national championship once every 5 years.

Comment by Omar 03.22.12 @ 3:05 pm

Duke has also won national championships in ’91, ’92. ’01, ’10. I don’t mind losing to a lower seed if Pitt wins a national championship once every 5 years.

Comment by Omar 03.22.12 @ 3:05 pm

I saw WSU play here against Arizona early in the season. They are not very good and dont seem to have gotten much better. We “should” not lose to them. They are not deep at all and will be really down if they are without their scoring leader who got hurt last night (ankle, had to carried off). Only two guys averaging more than 5 pts a game.

They did beat Stanford and played Washington and Cal fairly tough, though. Even with an average performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was over on Wednesday with us cutting down the nets at the Pete (snicker).

Comment by CnorwoodAZ 03.22.12 @ 3:20 pm

Omar, Its more accurate to say Duke wins nat’l champtionships every 10 years. Anyway, my point was only that Dixon’s post-season under-achievement is a bit overblown.

I know Duke’s been more successful, by the way. But again, as has been said many times on this site, it took Coach K took 11 years to get to his first final four and 16yrs to get a Nat’l title. Don’t think anyone can say Coach K’s first 9 yrs were much better than Dixon’s. In fact Dixon has a better overall and tourny record in his 1st 9yrs than Coack K did in his (pretty sure about this fact last fact).

Not making a particular argument here. Just some perspective for the cynics out there.

Also big news in Storrs — Oriaki is apparantly transferring from UConn. UConn is screwed next year in light of this and everything else (senior departures, NBA draftees, the sanctions and their failure to get out of the Big East).

Comment by PantherP 03.22.12 @ 3:47 pm

a little self advertising… a new podcast Im working on… looking for feedback !!!

link to nullandvoid2.blogspot.com

Comment by Snala The Panther 03.22.12 @ 3:57 pm

Speaking of transfers McConnell is leaving Duquesne, any chance PITT could send Epps over there and free up a slot (LOL)?

Comment by jim 03.22.12 @ 4:05 pm

Umm we don’t need to send him anywhere, just a “oh by the way you’re off the team, feel free to stick around if you can keep your GPA up, otherwise transfer anywhere outside of the ACC”

Epps goes bye bye, and that makes room for the 4th recruit (i think.)

Comment by ClarkLotTgate 03.22.12 @ 4:23 pm

Lou I’m no expert either, but I think they were taking about the defenders switching assignments whenever there was a screen instead of the screeners guy hedging and the screenee’s guy fighting through/over/under to stay with his man.

It’s not normally what Pitt does and can sometimes lead to smaller guards defending big men down low or vice versa. Ask Gary McGhee about switching to cover Kemba Walker last year.

Comment by Chris 03.22.12 @ 5:39 pm

Thanks, Chris. I think I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Comment by Lou 03.22.12 @ 6:30 pm

4 championships in 20 years leads to a once every 5 years average. However, I do see your point.

Comment by omar 03.22.12 @ 7:00 pm

boubacar aw, no it isn’t.

Comment by steve1 03.22.12 @ 7:39 pm

I am not sure the Dukes would take Epps. He could be a star at LaRoche.

Comment by Jimbo 03.23.12 @ 7:52 am

[...] point was that those events should serve as an example and motivator to the teams for what not to let happen to the season (“If Pitt wins, the trophy can go right into storage. Only to be brought out as a reminder to [...]


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