November 28, 2012

Struggling Inside

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 2:33 pm

Pitt has size to compete inside, but it does not have strength right now. If there is one weakness in having Talib Zanna and Steven Adams as the starting frontcourt, it is that both lack the pure physical strength to bang and fight for position inside. Especially when teams are packing it inside whether in a zone or to crash the boards.

A passive defensive scheme still paid off for the Bison, who had a 17-16 edge in rebounding, held Pitt to six field goals on 17 shots from 2-point range and only trailed, 36-28, at the break.

“We wanted to control the paint,” Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “We thought we could control the paint in the zone, make them make eight or nine passes, make them think a little bit, make it look like the paint wasn’t available.”

Howard’s big men, center Alphonso Leary and forward Mike Phillips, upstaged Pitt’s post players early in the game. Each scored 8 points in the opening half to help Howard finish with 24 points in the paint.

Pitt, meanwhile, had just 10 points in the paint.

Especially in the first half. It also helped Howard dominate inside by being extremely physical with Pitt inside. Even with a lot of stuff allowed, four of Howard’s starters had two fouls in the first half.

It helped Howard give Pitt a tough first half. Pitt could not get anything inside. Worse, they were struggling with getting rebounds.

Steve Adams, for all his size, has struggled in the last few games to squeeze the ball. He can get a hand on it, but has not looked prepared for opposing players to rip or tip the ball away from him. I had hoped that after the two games up at Madison Square Garden (where he had all of 4 rebounds), he would be more aware of the need to be stronger going for the ball. That was not the case — at least in the first half. Adams got shoved around and outworked for rebounds.

In the second half, Adams — and the rest of the team — looked a lot better at getting rebounds. Rather clear that Coach Dixon gave them an earful at the half.

“The first half, we came out flat-footed. And (at halftime), we got yelled at by coach, so everybody was focused,” forward Talib Zanna said.

Zanna, held to 2 points in the first half, made all of his second half field goal attempts and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. And center Steven Adams, responsible for just one rebound in the first half, grabbed five off the glass in the second.

“The rebounding thing really stands out,” Dixon said. “It’s something that should be a strength of ours but isn’t right now. We spent two days addressing it, but it’s just not getting done.”

The rebounding was an issue against Michigan and to a lesser extent against Delaware. It was something Coach Dixon had made no secret about wanting to see improved after the trip.

For the season, the Panthers have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 7.5 per game. Dixon’s goal is to outrebound every opponent by 10.

“The rebounding was not where we wanted it to be,” Dixon said. “I thought this was going to be a good rebounding team. But we haven’t rebounded well enough from the beginning — even in our big blowout 35-point wins. Against Michigan, we got beat on the boards point blank, and that’s why we lost. No question about it.

“Our rebounding is something we’re known for. It’s something we’ve probably done among the best in the country over the long haul. Right now, we’re not. So, when you lose a game and get outrebounded by 12 in the second half, you can point to this and that, but, at the end of the day, that’s what we do. When we don’t, we come up short.”

This is going to be an ongoing issue. Especially once Big East play begins and Zanna and Adams have to go up against better skilled and and stronger frontcourts.

Some of it can be improved. Adams is still too casual going for rebounds, and Zanna’s propensity to float out of the paint rather than getting near the basket at the defensive end puts him out of position. Coach Dixon can also try to help them more by sending more players into the paint on rebound chances. Too often, the rest of the team is out on the perimeter waiting to see if the bigs can corral the board or tip it out.

A week earlier, Lamar Patterson was struggling with his shot. Shooting around 40% from outside the arc last year, Patterson was missing everything. He was expected to be a leading scorer and playmaker on the team. It wasn’t happening. Leading to questions about whether being expected to score more while handling the ball less wasn’t working. Instead he found his range last week. Last night he drilled four straight 3s against Howard and providing the spark to give Pitt some space before the the end of the first half.

James Robinson also showed signs of life on the perimeter. There is so, so much to love about Robinson. Decisionmaking, ball-handling, presence, energy and effort.  But his shooting had not been one of them. He came into the game 1-9 on 3s and 14-34 overall. Against the Bisons he was 2-2 on 3s and 4-6 overall. Hopefully his shooting becomes a bit more consistent.

As for why Durand Johnson only played a few minutes, Coach Dixon says that he has a hamstring injury.

Yes, I agree Dixon should just incorporate the Greentree system. That would translate well. In fact, maybe we could convince that kid from YSU to transfer in, since he lit it up too. Maybe even see if John Degroat has some more eligibility left? He looked like a real player out there too.

Comment by JW 11.29.12 @ 10:17 am

Good point about Nasir Imma Man! Before the season started I said their would be addition by subtraction in regards to Nasir and Gibbs.

Comparing Adams to Dejuan Blair just highlights the difference in experience the two had before starting their freshman seasons. Dejuan Blair played AAU ball against top talent since he was little. Just look in 2006 Blair was on a team with Herb Pope and D.J. Kennedy two legit D-1 players. link to
I’m sure whoever Adams was playing with in New Zealand wasn’t nearly at that level.

JoeD I’m not sure that looking at his mentor would be a good idea. Howland has a lot more talent and does worse than Dixon. Dixon is the better coach now for sure.

Comment by Wardapalooza 11.29.12 @ 10:17 am

Dixon never had a team like the one he currently has…
so looking at the past is not a good comparison.

Howland’s style is not cutting it at UCLA… he is losing players left and right… I expect he will be booted after the year.
Dixon style needs to change as the ACC game is more an up and down finese game and different than Big East.

Comment by Joe D 11.29.12 @ 10:47 am

I admit that I am by no means a basketball scholar
but it seems to me that changing your style to fit someone else’s is silly when you’ve been successful using your own style! Didn’t this style
beat the likes of Duke in MSG a few years ago.

Comment by Class of 69 11.29.12 @ 11:02 am

We need to stop with this nonsense that Dixon has to change Pitt’s whole system to compete in the ACC.

I know facts are frowned upon with many of you guys, but do you know what Jamie Dixon’s record is against ACC teams? How about 20-2?

Fact is Dixon’s approach is PERFECT for beating those finesse teams. Tough man to man halfcourt D, superior rebounding, high assist, low turnover with good shot selection works at every level of basketball.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 11.29.12 @ 11:11 am

A basketball addage that rarely changes “The best thing about a freshman is that they will be a sophmore soon”!

Comment by Dan 72 11.29.12 @ 11:15 am

How far has Dixon’s style got him??
Did he ever make Final 4… No…

He now has the roster to make a deep run… and his style has to change… faster pace, press, etc.
Why not before, he didn’t have the depth to rotate players to play an agressive style of BB. He had to “pace” the starters and conserve their energy. Why do you think so many frantic shots in the last 5 secs of shot clock? He doesn’t have to do that anymore. I’ve seen tooo many open shots passed up this season… only to keep passing and frantic shot in the end… why, to conserve energy.

Comment by Joe D 11.29.12 @ 11:17 am

Joe D, His style has gotten him one of the best records in college hoops over the last decade,missed the final four when villanova shot21for21 from the line.We dont need to change anything Dixon is doing the question is why you think you know more than him?

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 11:52 am

If the only thing you can say is that a leopard has to change his spots then you are neither insightful or informed. Get over it, Jamie Dixon will coach the style of play he believes in, the same way almost every coach would. Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t begin spouting all the exceptions to this general rule you can come up with. In the majority this is an undeniable fact accepted by just about every knowlegeable fan of any sport.
From the games I’ve seen in person and on TV, Adams is doing exactly what an inexperienced, promising freshman should be doing, namely showing spurts of outstanding play, followed by longer periods of cluelessness. However the trait that is undeniable, even by the those who see only the black cloud, is that his effort is consistently good.
This team has the chance to be an excellent team and like almost all Dixon teams (last year being the exception) will get better as the season progresses.
Please get over the tired refrain, Dixon’s teams don’t play well in the tournament. He’s the best thing that has happened to Pitt sports in 20 years, stop the complaining. More importantly, stop saying stupd things like he has to change his spots. If you don’t like Pitt’s style, stop watching Pitt basketball and watch some other team. Dixon’s not changing and most of us are thrilled that this is the case.

Comment by Taxing Matters 11.29.12 @ 12:09 pm

Robinson is the real deal. Adams is just going to just get better. This team is fun to watch and has some real potential going forward. No gloom and doom from me. HTP!

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 11.29.12 @ 12:11 pm

Yeh… I watched Duke beat OSU last night.
both great teams…

Comment by Joe D 11.29.12 @ 12:31 pm

I’m not sure where some of you think Talib Zanna is deficient, but he leads the team in points per game (13.3), field goal percentage (68.5) and rebounds per game (6, a close second to Taylor in offensive). I doubt Zanna’s been able to do all that spending considerable time outside the paint. He’s averaging less than two minutes more per game than Adams, Taylor and Moore.

Throw in stat of the day, Zanna has the exact same assist to turnover ratio as Trey Ziegler.

Comment by Barvo 11.29.12 @ 1:49 pm

Dixon does need to reach a few Final 4’s to validate his coaching. He’ll never be a great coach until then. That’s life. Like I said last year, Dixon will need to tweak his ‘style’ to get there AND get some elite recruits. The talent is coming and already here. I’m sure the CBI experience last year has made Dixon hungry and more humble. He’s probably more receptive to tweaking a few things as well. Heck – he’s playing freshmen this year. That’s a start.

Comment by TX Panther 11.29.12 @ 1:56 pm

I didn’t actually see the Howard game, but the stats suggest that it was their guards that outperformed with regard to rebounding. Woodall, Robinson, Wright and Johnson accounted for seven rebounds. Howard’s two starting guards had eight. Three reserve guards had another eight. By my count that’s a 16-7 advantage from the backcourt.

Comment by Barvo 11.29.12 @ 1:58 pm

I agree with you TX Panther…
The players are there this year to make a deep run… provided he tweak as you say.
I’d like to see more full court presses for one.
Improved transition offense for two… translation.. run the doors off. He can still do sets and slow offense after made baskets.

Comment by Joe D 11.29.12 @ 2:01 pm

Tweaks to Dixon system = possible success
Abandon Dixon system = guaranteed failure

Comment by Taxing Matters 11.29.12 @ 2:05 pm

I don’t think anyone is saying completely abandon things but a few adjustments here and there probably can’t hurt and may be what is needed (along with elite talent) to finally reach the Final 4. I think we can all agree that Dixon is a very good coach. Pitt is blessed to have him. Most schools would kill to get a coach with such an outstanding regular season track record, runs a clean program and is a man of character. Just a few minor adjustments are needed and the appetite (humility and risk taking) to experiment with a few new things.

Comment by TX Panther 11.29.12 @ 2:21 pm

I dont think the press is going to fix anything,and think dixon is fine the way he is.He has been so close before and in time we will catch a break.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 2:48 pm

you obviously don’t know anything about basketball and why you would press.

Comment by Joe D 11.29.12 @ 2:55 pm

What is it that makes you make such an absurd observation joe? I see pitt press only out of desperation and agree that Dixon is applying that strategy correctly,does that mean since he obviously doesnt agree with you either,that he doesnt know anything about hoops or is it that you are so astute as to know way more everyone else?The run the doors off approach might work at north carolina but this is pitt,we arent designed that way nor is it our style.joe maybe its you who doesnt know squat.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 3:06 pm

You have shown your lack of knowledge of basketball… this team is unlike any other team Dixon has had… it is deep… it has a 10man rotation… did you every see Louisville play?

Comment by Joe D 11.29.12 @ 4:50 pm

yes three nights ago they got manhandled trying to keep up with duke,should have slowed it down,they would have had a better chance.We had nine available players tuesday night and one of them has a bad hamstring,another dante taylor is lost in transition ball comepletely lost.This team has potential and will go as far as the big kid will take us,and he is still just a rough stone project.this is the last time i would be experimenting with a new defensive strategy.I dont claim to be bobby knight but i bet i know as much about hoops as most and I fail to see who annointed you as some kind of authority cuz u arent

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 5:27 pm

Sounds like Joe likes Rick Pitino’s style of coaching.

As for Adams….he did play some with the NZ pro league (Wellington Saints of the New Zealand National Basketball League – he didn’t take pay) and did well against the best in the country at Adidas Nations….not many high school kids can say that.

link to

But he needs to learn the center position of manning up inside and playing with his back to the basket. He needs to lift weights for a couple of years (see Zanna now).

I can realistically see Adams at Pitt for 2-3 years…

Comment by Jackagain 11.29.12 @ 5:40 pm

Jamie could call his press “high octane”. He could speak in a west Texas drawl…..”We’re gonna play fast, get in the left lane, step on the gas pedal, turn people over, get easy buckets, go, go, go”.

Too soon? Sorry.

Comment by boubacar aw 11.29.12 @ 5:50 pm

What one scout said about Adams:

“On the other hand, he clearly has no concept of how to play fundamentally sound half-court defense, giving up deep position without any fight, and showing a very limited understanding of help-side defense. He doesn’t really know how to use his body inside, does not box out his opponents, and is too quick to chase blocks wildly.”

link to

Sounds about right…

Comment by Jackagain 11.29.12 @ 5:54 pm

But instead of improving/correcting that, let’s just play zone.

Comment by JW 11.29.12 @ 5:58 pm

All of what you both say is right on about Adams but what I also see is an athletic kid who seems to have the desire to learn with huge times huge potential. I think he is fortunate to be at Pitt and we are just as lucky to have him.The best part is he might be here awhile and it looks like Dixon has a super group assembled to help us forget about last years team. I love that we have cut our turnovers,add d and rebounds and we can play with them all.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 6:09 pm

Well played Boubacar Aw!

Comment by ECH 11.29.12 @ 6:40 pm

Several months ago on the blog we remarked about the possible slight by the BE for leaving Pitt out of the SEC/BE challenge. Well interesting how Notre Dame and Louisville got marquee match ups and are bolting for the ACC as well. Karma…hmmm could be.

Comment by J Bizz 11.29.12 @ 7:07 pm

Why is Uconn being held out of the ACC? I have heard BC doesn’t want them and I am sure the sanctions cant help but does anyone on this sight have any real knowledge? I like the hoop rivalry.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 7:43 pm

2 problems with both UConn & Cincy in the ACC…their FB stadiums only hold a little over 35K.

35K at Cincy and 40K at UConn. They look like Div II stadiums.

Comment by Jackagain 11.29.12 @ 8:33 pm

maybe but duke and wake forest barely hold 30k,

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.29.12 @ 8:45 pm

Rumors in ACC country that UNC and Duke are being courted by SEC. Not sure that makes sense. Raleigh is not a huge market. Neither school is a huge brand name in football. Both are primarily basketball schools. In both cases, the alum’s would revolt if the schools bolted the ACC.

I think the ACC should make a play for Vanderbilt. Academically they are a much better fit in the ACC. The Nashville market is appealing. Throw some serious cash at them and see what happens.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 11.30.12 @ 11:08 am

And only about 30k Pitt fans actually show at our games despite announced attendance of 45k and playing in a stadium that holds 65k. Duke is expanding their stadium but Wake is small. Why is Wake in the ACC again? UConn doesn’t really bring a new market. BC doesn’t want them. I think the ACC would prefer bigger markets, with established football programs with proven recent success, and in the South or West. That rules out the Huskies. If they join, it will be as the 18th or 20th school.

Comment by TX Panther 11.30.12 @ 1:36 pm

Tx Panther..
Wake was a good BB program in 80’s and 90’s… up/down in 2000’s..
Tim Duncan, Josh Howard, Chris Paul ring a bell??

ACC is a basketball league first… don’t kid yourself that ACC thinks football first… even though it brings in the revenue… ACC basketball brings in its share of revenue whether tv or gate receipts… NC and Duke basketball are must see tv..

Comment by Joe D 11.30.12 @ 1:47 pm

I knew someone would mention that Pitt only draws 30K fans….but the stadium still holds almost 70K!

That’s all that matters once Pitt starts winning…those other teams have no choice. Also, Pitt can still draw if the game is big…like ND and the Brawl. They sell out.


Now back to hoops…..Dixon is called out on the development of Adams….

link to

Comment by Jackagain 11.30.12 @ 5:00 pm

Nice article. I didn’t know Joe D was a reporter too.

Comment by marcus of schaumburg 11.30.12 @ 6:05 pm


Comment by Jackagain 11.30.12 @ 11:55 pm

That’s an interesting exchange between Dixon and the reporter. Media is responsible for lot of the hype on Adams, but I think it’s fair to ask about his development. I might have asked in a different manner though but anyway.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 12.01.12 @ 10:56 am

marcus he is big on the “press”

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.01.12 @ 11:55 am

steve adams will be fine. remember pat ewing during his freshman year, i do he was awkward, offensively challenged, aloof and kind of a dissapointment to many, it takes a while sometimes. pitt needs to learn how to give him the ball when he calls for it, let him build his confidence with missed shot, bad shot, etc will become fewer with activity.

Comment by greg 12.04.12 @ 2:19 am

Powered by WordPress ©

Site Meter