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November 9, 2012

Pitt starts its season against the Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (no, really, that is their name). In case you are wondering, playing those other Mountaineers, still unlikely in the near future.

There has been no movement for Pitt to play West Virginia in the near future in either football or men’s basketball. Scheduling in the Big 12 and the ACC could prevent the two schools from renewing their rivalry. Pitt has a pecking order in football of keeping Penn State first. And in men’s basketball the Panthers must keep a game with Duquesne. West Virginia’s nine-game schedule in the Big 12 and Pitt’s preference for Penn State first make it more difficult. The best-case scenario for this rivalry to continue would be for the two schools to come up with a similar solution to Florida and Florida State. The two Sunshine State rivals play a basketball game on the same weekend they play a football game. Creating a one-weekend event would make the most sense — if the two sides could agree to a format and possible site rotation.

As I’ve stated several times, given WVU’s looming travel bills. Pitt becomes a very important team to get on the schedule. Not sure when, but the two will play again in basketball before it happens in football.

As for Mount St. Mary’s, they have a new head coach. So, cue the change in culture angle.

In less than eight months as head coach, Jamion Christian has completely changed the culture around the men’s basketball program at Mount St. Mary’s.

There is an upbeat vibe around the program that had been missing in recent seasons. It’s a great reflection of Christian’s high-energy and positive personality.

The players are smiling often and generally seem excited about Christian’s push-the-pace style on both ends of the floor. Though, for the first time in a long time at the Mount, there is more talk about scoring points than playing disciplined, hard-nosed defense.

Mt. St. Mary’s finished 8-21 last year — going 2-9 in their non-con. They haven’t won a season opener since 2008. They haven’t won a road season opener since 1998 (for shame, LaSalle). It’s going to take a little more than a change of culture. Expect them to give Pitt a bit of a hard time at first. Simply because with a new coach, it isn’t quite as easy for Coach Dixon to plan for what they will do.

Jeff Goodman at CBS Sports has Pitt as his pick to bounce back.

Jamie Dixon’s Pittsburgh Panthers — Dixon had led Pitt to eight NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons at the helm prior to last season. Then Tray Woodall went down and he had no backup point guard. Now Dixon has a healthy Woodall and also a terrific young freshman point guard James Robinson.

The Panthers were 216-60 prior to last season in the Dixon Regime, finishing first or second in the Big East five times in his eight seasons. Pitt doesn’t just have point guard depth; it also has one of the most relentless, coachable and talented big men in the country. Steven Adams is a 7-foot New Zealander that should be a major factor, especially on the glass.

Expect Pittsburgh to be back after a down season. Not just in the middle of the pack, either. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers are battling for the league title again.

Similar sentiments are echoed over at The Sporting News.

All in all, it’s deep and talented team in a proven system. Most publications have them picked in the middle of the pack in the Big East. The feeling here is that the Panthers will battle for a spot at the top of the conference, make the NCAA Tournament and be a dangerous team come March.

And, hey, Jay Bilas picks Pitt as the 23d best team — first cracking of a top-25 (Insider subs).

The Panthers should get back to guarding people with physicality and purpose this season. With a healthy Tray Woodall and the addition of 7-foot New Zealander Steven Adams, Jamie Dixon will have more weapons and more of that old Pitt attitude. Last season’s team persevered, but was always looking to avoid getting punched. This season’s Pitt team will hit first.

More on J.J. Moore playing more at power forward to make sure he gets more minutes. A good point was made in it regarding the issue of rebounding, though.

Moore, arguably the team’s best athlete, made at least one 3-pointer in each of the final 13 games last season, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc during that span. But he averaged only 2.9 rebounds per game, and managed only two rebounds in 78 minutes in the three-game CBI finals against Washington State.

If Moore plays power forward, Pitt will need strong rebounding from its centers — senior Dante Taylor and five-star freshman Steven Adams. After having surgery in April for a broken fifth metatarsal on his right foot, Moore devoted time to upper-body work.

They have the extra motivation of last season. Something that hopefully adds a larger chip on their shoulder.

We took a lot of pride in that,” junior forward Lamar Patterson said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. We have to give credit to the guys before us — Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser, Levance Fields, Sam Young and all those guys. They put so much work into building this program to make it what it is. For us to have a season like that, we feel like we let a lot of people down. It’s behind us now. We’re going to grow from it and get back to where this program was.”

Patterson believes this team is capable of doing that. The Panthers have a solid returning cast, and Dixon added a couple of talented freshmen who will begin the season as starters — point guard James Robinson and center Steven Adams.

“I feel like we’re more together this year,” Patterson said. “We have a low-post presence and we have that experience. We have that taste in our mouths with us being considered a loser. Having that stick with you, you never want to go back to that feeling.”

Finally a piece listing three things Pitt needs to bring to this season.

Gametime is 6pm. It is online at Hope your internet provider offers it.

There will be a separate open thread for the Pitt-UConn football game at 8pm.

Pitt WVU in the Pinstripe bowl

Comment by dacs 11.09.12 @ 5:18 pm

Like i said before it will take 7 games playing together to work the kinks out to know who is were

Comment by FRANKCAN 11.09.12 @ 5:35 pm

Midway through second half, and MSM is applying a little full-court press against Pitt…and being successful!

Comment by Lou 11.09.12 @ 7:25 pm

Adams showing ability to rebound and put back a quick bucket!

Comment by Lou 11.09.12 @ 7:28 pm

What happened to Patterson, a goose egg on the scoreboard. Did he get or something?

Adams only 4 shots, Sleepy only 1 shot.

Again we see, they are not getting the ball into the bigs. Which should be easy against these non-con teams. Zanna did get off going 11 of 13 but we know he won’t be great against stiffer competition.

I know it’s early, still…….

You develop habits early and tend to stick around the whole season.

Comment by Emel 11.09.12 @ 8:06 pm

Then hopefully the defense they played tonight sticks.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 11.09.12 @ 8:53 pm

Emel–obviously you didn’t watch the game and only read the box score. Patterson wasn’t needed. Zanna is very effective paired with Adams. He gets open inside often when the opponent focuses on Adams. It’s called “synergy”. Huge scoring in the paint differential for Pitt. Big advantage in turnover margin as well. Dribble penetration by opponent not there either. So defense was excellent overall.

Comment by Pitt1972 11.10.12 @ 12:04 am

You would have a diff view from the Pete. Adams looks good, and Zanna feeds off his presence in the paint. Getting lots of bunnies. Zanna played his best game in a long time. Zeigler stepped up last night too. MSM shot lights out and was quick in the first 10 min, but our depth killed them. amie is playing alot of guys. Lamar had a few nice assists but otherwise had an off night. Didn’t matter because Jamie has more weapons this yr. We will see how good this team can be next week with Lehigh and C.J. McCollum (1st team All American) and the 2-game NIT in NYC. So far it looks promising.We know all about stats from FB, don’t we? HTP

Comment by Bossdaws 11.10.12 @ 8:07 am

Loved to see Pitt’s guards pressuring the ball so much — they really had active hands, too, which caused MSM all sorts of problems.
Pitt’s bigs didn’t get that many touches because the guards were getting to the rim with ease. MSM’s pressure, and Pitt’s ability to penetrate, led to a lot of quick possessions. And when you shoot 70 percent, I don’t really think we can be too critical about how the offense was run — it’s not like they were bombing away from the outside and getting shots to fall.
One game, but a really good start.

Comment by JW 11.10.12 @ 8:14 am

Agree with above posters on the box score being misleading. Pitt had many easy points in transition and 1/2 court. Shooting % very high and aside from some early 3s MSM never really got going on offense and their pressure wasn’t terribly effective. Patterson was a good facilitator as was Robinson, who plays like an upper classman – poised, has a good feel for the game flow and knows where to be.

There was little not to like in this one.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 11.10.12 @ 9:22 am

Here are my impressions, although my connection to espn3 was a little screwy and it sometimes looked like that pixalated infra-red view that the Predator alien sees…

Robinson- I just checked the box score and he had 0 assists and only 6 points in almost 30 minutes. He had one turnover- I think on an offensive foul. Yet, I came away very impressed. He’s poised, an efficient ballhandler, and really got after it on defense. Pass first mentality. Had a couple of nice looks that weren’t converted. Clearly he is or is soon to be a coach’s favorite. Best court vision and sense for the game since Fields.

Adams- About what I expected. Had some blocks and some distrupts on defense and some junky points. Rebounded alright. He wasn’t as spacey as I was expecting him to be and had a couple of nice heady assists. Didn’t try to really force much. He’s not caught up in himself the way some highly touted big men are. You just get the impression he is going to improve quickly.

Ziegler- My first look at him. This dude should be the offensive spark off the bench guy. Just takes it to the hole. A little out of control at times, but he can ball. He played a lot at the 3. Looking forward to see more of him. No one on the team really has his driving ability, so he’s really got a nice role carved out I think.

Woodall- Picked up where he left off before he was injured. He’s a little unconventional at the 2 guard, but often Robinson would bring it up and Woodall would be the playmaker. Glad to see that he didn’t always settle for outside shots and took it to the basket. Defense seemed a little better and he’s been lifting and has filled out a bit more.

Zanna- Played with a lot of confidence. He was in the right place at the right time a lot for his points, but he converted. A little hard to tell where he will be at.

Patterson- I’m not concerned about his numbers. It’s not like he played poorly. He just wasn’t a factor.

JJ Moore- I need to see more of him at the 4. I’m not sure what the right combination of teammates should be on the floor when he is in there. But he’s now behind Zanna at power forward which opens up Ziegler at the 3.

Wright- First of all, that must have been an incredibly emotional day for him. If you didn’t hear, he had lost his father earlier in the day after a long battle with brain cancer. I think he did his father proud by playing an excellent game. He looked assertive on offense and had some nice conversions with the left hand. And he was real disruptive on defense with a couple of steals and some deflections. He’s the first guard off the bench. His ball handling is going to be pressured in the Big East, but he’s a good athlete.

Taylor- Not much from Dante but he didn’t sulk and was active on both ends.

As I have noted in past comments, John Johnson is going to be challenged to carve out a role on this team. He didn’t get in on this one. Not sure if he was scratched with an injury or not. No Gilbert, no Durand Johnson, no Chris Jones as well. Gilbert and Jones should redshirt if possible. Can you redshirt two guys?

Overall, team played good aggressive defense that forced a lot of turnovers. Looked athletic and I thought, moved the ball well. Not a lot of crazy wtf plays or dribbling ourselves into a corner. We did to our opponent what we should have done… I like the Woodall and Robinson combo. And Wright and Ziegler and Moore off the bench to fill the 2-3-4 spots in various other combos. Throw in Taylor to spell Adams and I think this is a solid 9-man group that’s a good balance of athletic ability and experience. Hopefully all means better defense… Outside shooting isn’t so hot. Look for 3-pointers to be way down. And I’m not sure how they will do against really good defensive pressure…. I really wouldn’t look for a lot of dump downs to Adams. Woodall, Ziegler, and Moore all like to shoot too much and Wright isn’t much of a passer. Robinson looks like he has the court vision to set Steven up a bit. I’m less concerned about that than I am about good spacing and passing on the perimeter. I just have a lot of bad memories from last year of rather spastic ball movement and late shot clock chuck-ups. Anyway, would have preferred playing on an aircraft carrier on ESPN or in downtown Brooklyn against top class opponents, but it was a good outing nonetheless. Football- that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 11.10.12 @ 10:16 am

I attended the game abs echo the comments from the Silver Panther. And a few more.
Adams is smooth and has an attitude.
Zanna played like a man.
This team could be very, very good.

Comment by SFPitt 11.10.12 @ 12:48 pm

Was at the Pete last night. Agree with SilverPanther.

Too early for me to really see any specific developments but what clearly struck me was that this team just LOOKS better — more athletic, confident, focused, etc — than last year. Sure that’s not such an astute analysis but it was game 1 and it was Mt St. Mary’s.

With so much depth its going to be a matter of roles emerging and on-court chemistry (off-courts, sounds like its already there). I’m expecting some ups and downs, nothing like the dropped gimme games like last year, but there may be close calls against say Lehigh or someone. Looking forward to their first real test.

Comment by PantherP 11.10.12 @ 1:02 pm

also would add that while Adams post-moves to create his own shot werent really on display he is so much better at cleaning up the garbage than Tayor or McGhee were. Hands are more like Blair’s. Little thing like that will increase the team’s offensive efficiency by at least a few % points. Pretty certain that the importance of that difference will become increasingly clear over the course of the season.

Comment by PantherP 11.10.12 @ 1:09 pm

Watched last night’s game on espn3.

Lots of good but certainly some areas of improvement to be expected as it is very early in the season. Some initial perspectives:

Robinson: Smooth, rebounder, doesn’t force a lot, defense is avg, definitely lacks the speed of a pt guard. He may struggle a bit against stiffer competition.

Patterson: Being a non-factor is not an excuse for a seasoned player. He needs to be more aggressive and must find a way to contribute more on the offensive end.

Adams: Moves great for a big man and can play defensive well but has to be more assertive on offensive and needs to rebound with two hands (opposing guard stole the ball from him). Needs to improve on his positioning as well. It will improve with practice.

Woodall: Likely our best player and established leader of this team. He continues to show results on both ends of the court.

Zanna: Excellent game overall. Needs to keep up the consistent play against better competition.

Moore: Very active and strong but needs to stop shooting 3s. Take it to the rim Moore! You have the ability to dunk of folks.

Ziegler: I like this kid’s physical presence. Def can score inside. Haven’t seen enough on defense but can tell he is a veteran player. Dixon- play him more.

Wright: Tough kid to play last night after his father’s death. Plays hard and is very athletic. Just wish his shot was more polished.

Dante: Didn’t see enough of him last night. Not really expecting much from him other than playing a supportive role off the bench. Based on previous yrs, he just doesn’t seem to have the IQ for the game. Hopefully that improves this yr.

Comment by MoE 11.10.12 @ 3:37 pm

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