December 31, 2012

So, I managed to make sure I have the day off on New Years. Unfortunately, I could not swing getting free today. Instead, it is complete DVR-delay and avoiding all media until I can get home and watch.

Cinci is coming off their first loss of the season. An ugly game that saw them lose to New Mexico.

The Bearcats play good defense, but their offense is not exactly reliable. Especially against better teams. Where they are especially good is on the offensive glass. One of the best in the country at getting second chances off of misses.

Considering the emphasis Coach Dixon places on rebounding, this should be a battle inside.


December 30, 2012

Sorry for the lack of posts. Trying to finish up a lot of work to end the year. Not to mention, once more abruptly searching for a car (and some wrangling with the insurance company over the value of the former car).

This was a surprise. And one that is not good for the next couple years. Malcolm Gilbert decided to transfer so he can play with his brother at Fairfield. Yes, Fairfield.

“Malcolm has asked for his release and has informed me that he wants to play with his brother,” Dixon said. “He’s a great kid, hard worker and good player. We thank Malcolm for his contribution to our program over the last year and a half and wish him much success in the future.”

Obviously, it isn’t an impact this season as Gilbert was redshirting. But he was expected to be a big part of Pitt’s frontcourt over the following seasons.



I’ve been waiting to write something on PITT football until there was actually something to write about.  There still isn’t anything really but it’s time to get back into the pigskin mode as we’ve less than a week until the bowl game.  PITT vs Ole Miss – a match up made in heaven, maybe.

I’m not a big fan of bowl games like some people are.  I understand that it is a reward for having a non-losing season… which sounds like crap when you think about it.  Let’s be honest, 80% of the bowl mean nothing at all, and those are the ones PITT has found itself in for the last 30 years.  So it really isn’t a reward but a chance to extend the season by one game for TV money and to get the school’s fans and players one more weekend.

Not to begrudge the players any perks they can get.  These kids work extremely hard from April through January and deserve being pampered on what is actually a working vacation.

So usually I don’t get too excited about these bowl games.  My emphasis has always been on the regular season’s quality of play and won/loss record.  That may sound hypocritical because those two things lead directly to a bowl but IMO the meat of the football season are those 13 games, especially the conference ones.

However this season I find myself more nervous than usual going into the week before PITT’s bowl game.  Why?  Because I think for the first time in a long time the results of this game will have a stronger impact on the program than bowls have had in the past.

But specifically it is about recruiting and the impact of how a program is perceived has on recruiting.


December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy Depth

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 12:14 pm

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday with friends and family. I’m still counting down to the end of the year with the same football coach. Don’t want to get cocky, but I think Pitt will make it this year.

You’ll be forgiven for skipping the Kennesaw St.-Pitt game. Even more so, if you watched but didn’t listen closely to the broadcast itself.

During the game, the play-by-play guy, Jeff Hathhorn commented to Julius Page about the injuries to Dante Taylor and Durand Johnson by calling it a concern, because Pitt “only” played 10 players in the rotation. There was a pregnant pause as Page must have been searching for the words. Finally he very gently told Hatthorn that Pitt is playing with some ridiculous depth to go 10-deep.

[As an aside, Julius Page acquitted himself well as color analyst. He just has to drop saying “most definitely” when he agrees with something his booth mate says.]

With a bench that is J.J. Moore, Dante Taylor, Cam Wright, Trey Zeigler and Durand Johnson; Pitt is giving 40% of its available minutes (80 out of 200 minutes) to the bench. No doubt it will shrink during conference play.


December 24, 2012

Go figure, Pitt puts forth one of its more lackluster efforts and a day later Pitt is ranked. How lackluster? It was the first game this season where Pitt failed to score more than 60 points. Yet, they still beat Kennesaw State by 16.

While the Owls hit a bunch of 3s to keep it tight early, Pitt put the game out of reach before the first half was complete. The constantly hitting 3s does give the guards something to improve.

“They played hard the whole game and hit open jump shots,” Pitt guard James Robinson said. “They were on. We didn‘t have one of our best defensive performances, and that‘s something we‘re going to have to work on heading into Big East play.”

Pitt held Kennesaw St. to sub-40% shooting overall. The problem was they let KSU go 9-15 on 3s (7-27 on 2FGs). So, yeah, that’s something to improve.


December 23, 2012

Open Thread: Kennesaw St.-Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 3:55 pm

So this one is a patsy’s patsy. Kennesaw State — which is not named for MLB Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis — is a former JUCO college that only moved up to D-1 sports in 2009. The Owls are 1-10. Their only win has come against South Carolina State.

Dante Taylor is expected to miss his second straight game with a heel injury. Durand Johnson is unknown with some hamstring issues.

Since there aren’t many games today, there’s more TV distribution for this than simply The Pittsburgh Panthers TV. It’s been picked up by SNY.

If you want a radio stream, go to WPTS.

Unknown Quantity, But Decent Offers

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 1:35 pm

That’s the best way to describe the newest verbal to Pitt. There’s not a lot to say about James Julius, the cornerback out of Orlando, Florida who verbaled to Pitt this morning. Any real details about his commit are behind the recruiting site paywalls.

What details are known are that he is an unevaluated/nostar to 2-star recruit.

He is 5-10 to 5-11 at 165-175 pounds. He had offers from Iowa State, Cinci and Boise State. All programs that do well by finding (and developing) diamond-in-the-rough players.

Or there could be a more cynical view about his recruitment…


December 22, 2012

Post-Foster Decision

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:18 am

Not that it is healthy for anyone to have the decision of a high school senior on which college to attend (unless it’s your kid) affect your day, but that was the second-worst thing of my Friday. The first was slamming into a guardrail amidst gusting wind and ice/slush road conditions.

I really do wish Robert Foster the best at Alabama. It’s his decision, and by all accounts he went back-and-forth on it. At one point earlier in the week, letting his parents know he was probably choosing Pitt. But, then on Friday, he changed his mind once more.

Cynically, the fact that he had such a tough decision suggests it isn’t completely over until signing day.

[Pitt wide receivers Coach Bobby] Engram‘s phone call to [Robert Foster’s mother, Sherrice] Clements — only 45 minutes after the announcement — indicates Pitt will keep an eye on Foster through letter of intent signing day Feb. 6.

“This is a verbal,” said Central Valley coach Mark Lyons, who said Foster “probably” changed his mind multiple times Friday morning. “That‘s why I don‘t know if this is always the best thing to do it this early. But for him, it was the right thing to do.

“I‘m never going to say anything is over, but right now, he is comfortable with this.”

After all, if Saban gets lured to the Cleveland Browns, everything changes.


December 21, 2012

The decision is set for 2:30 this afternoon. Right at the end of school, just before winter break begins. That’s good planning.

The choice will be Pitt or Alabama.

The recruiting experts seem to think the lean is to Pitt.

I’m just hoping he doesn’t do the whole hat thing. Just about every variation of that has been played out. I’d rather just see him rip open his shirt and show a Pitt jersey underneath. But, that’s just me.

I know some people are turned off by the whole announcement thing. I don’t have a problem with it. These kids are pursued to ridiculous ends. Filled with such levels of crap about how much teams and coaches need them, want them, how they are the piece they need.

It all ends once they sign their NLI and scholarship papers. They lose all leverage. All their choices, all their control is out the window. They belong to the school and coach after that.

Let them have a little bit of fun and extra attention.

UPDATE: As everyone probably knows, Robert Foster picked Alabama. Ah, well. Guess we can at least hope that Saban gets lured to the Browns.

Football Links: 12/21

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 8:07 am

Okay, just some link clearance.

Anyone know the status of Cam Saddler at this point? He was suspended for the final game (didn’t even travel with the team), and whatever it was, it pissed off Coach Chryst enough that he still hasn’t said anything about his status for the BBVA Bowl.

Speaking of the BBVA Bowl, they will never want anyone but Ole Miss coming back at this rate.

Ole Miss has sold 21,470 tickets for the BBVA Compass Bowl, scheduled for Jan. 5 in Birmingham. That’s believed to be the most in the SEC.

“It’s the first time that has ever happened with these type of ticket sales,” BBVA Compass Bowl executive director Mark Meadows said. “We’ve had some good ticket sales here, when South Carolina was here (in 2010). But this, it’s kinda unprecedented.”

What’s happening is a confluence of factors — an unexpected bowl trip after two dismal seasons, winning the Egg Bowl, and a bowl game that happens to sit in the middle of Ole Miss’ alumni network.

So, at least the stands won’t look deserted. One of the things about the SEC (at least before adding Mizzou and Texas A&M) is the geographic compactness that makes road trips a lot more viable. The trip to Birmingham from Oxford is only 3 hours. And so this is an easy drive from most places. It’s a Saturday game. Come in that morning. Go right back if you want.


December 20, 2012

No MAC In 2013

Filed under: Football,Non-con,Schedule — Chas @ 1:03 pm

The non-con football schedule is complete. Pitt was already scheduled to play Villanova, ND and at Navy. A MAC or some other 1-A from the lower tier was expected. Turns out it isn’t a totally horrible opponent.  The fourth non-con is another home game against the Lobos of New Mexico.

That means a seven-game home schedule in the first year of ACC play. There was already going to be excitement about that first year. With only one 1-AA team. No MAC (or Sun Belt) opponents. Notre Dame at home. Ticket sales for the 2013 season should be strong.

Wisconsin Finally Has a New Coach

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 12:49 pm

Well, my son is running a fever today. Which means I’m taking a sick day as well. (Hence the slew of posts.)

Today, Wisconsin officially hires Gary Andersen from Utah State. Wisconsin fans like the fact that Andersen was a candidate, and they seem very pleased with the hire. By most accounts, the hire was considered to be an excellent move.

A coach that won in a place that has been mostly a rent-a-win since its return to 1-A. He’s from the Urban Meyer coaching tree. He was the DC at Utah. It also seems to be a fiscally prudent hire, as Andersen’s salary is in the $1.8 – 2 million range.

Obviously for Pitt fans, the relief is that Wisconsin may have found a coach that can win. If Wisconsin wins, then they aren’t looking to replace him a few years down the road. Which means if Chryst succeeds like we hope and believe, he won’t be faced with the choice of going home.

There is one nagging fear.


Despite being a class AA all-state pick last year, Shakir Soto was not highly regarded (or evaluated). Yes, he played in a low classification, but he definitely flew under the radar. When he verballed to Pitt in April. Since that time, his profile has risen enough to be evaluated and ranked by all the sites. He is now a consensus 3-star defensive end, and one of the top-20 players in Pennsylvania. He will also be graduating this year, and enrolling at Pitt in January.

Before he gets to Pitt, he was once more named to the AA All-state team (h/t to Scott).

Soto, a Pittsburgh recruit, racked up 69 tackles and 3½ sacks while being the focal point of opposing offenses.

This is Soto’s second consecutive all-state selection.

“Pennsylvania is a great football state, so it feels great to know that you’re a part of that list, especially to do it twice in a row,” Soto said. “My family is really proud of me. It’s a great thing.”



Robert Foster’s Decision Time

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:40 am

Remember folks, tweeting at recruits is bad form — and before the decision is made can be a potential NCAA violation. Whether before or after a decision just leave the kid be. Follow his tweets if you must, but don’t go jealous boyfriend/girlfriend on a kid.

At least Robert Foster will end the drama before the start of winter break — and he means right before.

Robert Foster (Monaca, Pa./Central Valley), No. 28 in the ESPN 150, will hold a ceremony on Friday, Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m. ET at Central Valley, his coach Mark Lyons said. While the date was set earlier this month, the time was still up in the air as late as this past Friday.

The No. 2 receiver nationally, Foster will choose between Alabama and Pittsburgh. He officially visited the Tide on Oct. 26 and the Panthers on Nov. 16.

Pitt and Alabama have been in the mix from the beginning. Other programs have been mentioned, then fallen away from the list.



Really thought I would have all this done by the end of last week. I was going to lump all the big men together, but given the panning of his first couple months (Insider subs.) nationally, followed by his game against the oh-so-overmatched Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (wildcats? Really? Well, it’s… generic.), along with another near double-double versus Delaware St., and the spirited defenses of him in by Coach Dixon. It just seemed that Steven Adams probably deserved his own spot.

At the very start of the season, Adams was facing the expectations. And after only one game, it prompted Joe Starkey to issue a warning.

We all agreed on these central facts:

• Adams is legitimately oblivious to the hype and harbors no desire to be “the man.” How that plays out — say, late in games when somebody has to be the man — will be interesting.

• His game is part raw and part refined. He‘ll block a layup, then step out to block a 3. He snaps a wicked outlet pass. He spots open men and gets the ball to them quickly, sometimes creatively.

On the other hand, he‘ll probably want to curtail those one-armed rebounds, judging from one coach‘s reaction, and his low-post game is undeveloped. Pitt didn‘t throw it to him inside until nearly eight minutes in.

• Man, can Adams run. He‘ll trail the break like a speeding freight train and finish with a flying alley-oop dunk. Which is precisely how he scored his first collegiate basket.

The rebounding with only one-arm is a common big man bad habit. Especially for freshmen big men who infrequently went up against players of similar size or physical strength. It was a very frustrating sight in several games. Adams was there for the rebound but either stabbed at it with only one hand — allowing a smaller defender to either go up and snatch it or knock it free — or let himself be bumped out of position because he wasn’t expecting anyone to be able to move him.

And it has only been in the past few games where he has started to shed that habit. Corralling and securing rebounds with both hands. Being more prepared and able to absorb contact. It’s a noticeable change in the stats. In the first 8 games, Adams had 35 rebounds. In the last 4 games: 39.


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