January 8, 2013

And it’s even worse when you have to go on the road and play a top-15 team coming off their own loss.

I was probably more upset by the loss to Rutgers in basketball than the BBVA Bowl game. I was conditioned to expect bad things in Birmingham. Just did not expect to see that mess in Piscataway.

Unlike the other two losses, Pitt didn’t blow it in the second half. No, they made it happen in the first half. Did Rutgers come out extremely hot shooting? Yes. Was Pitt cold? Yes. That still doesn’t explain the horrid first half. About the only explanation that made sense was this:

Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.

No, that’s not entirely true. There are some obvious problems in all the losses. The frontcourt not grabbing rebounds. Given the sheer volume of misses by Pitt in the first half and the hot shooting by Rutgers, you would think Pitt would at least get some extra offensive rebounds. Nope. Pitt only grabbed 5 offensive rebounds while shooting a touch over 30% in the first half. Rutgers, on the other hand, shot nearly 58% but still grabbed 4 offensive rebounds.

Yes, some of that concerns shot selection. Pitt was taking a lot more jumpers. Creating longer rebounds, as indicated by Rutgers backcourt players Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack collecting 8 of the boards in the first half. But there was such the passive play of the frontcourt. Not only did Adams and Zanna only nab 5 rebounds, it took them 48 minutes to do that.

Pitt center Steven Adams, however, pointed to the dip in production as a difference in desire. The 7-foot freshman, one of three Pitt players who finished with four rebounds against Rutgers, doesn‘t think the Panthers are playing tough enough in the paint.

“It‘s got nothing to do with shot selection,” Adams said. “It‘s just (about) wanting the ball more. It‘s a mental thing we‘ve got to buy into. When we do that, we‘ll get more rebounds. We‘re going to try and work on our weaknesses. We‘ve just got to play a whole lot harder and with a whole lot more heart, no matter who we‘re playing.”

J.J. Moore and Dante Taylor accounted for 8 rebounds, and they were only on the court for 32 minutes. Taylor, especially, continues to be surprisingly underrated as an offensive rebounder. Three of his four rebounds came on the offensive glass and it was accomplished with only 10 minutes of action.

Last year, one issue with the team all season — whether Tray Woodall was healthy or not — was that the team let problems on offense bother them on defense. Rather than redouble their efforts on defense, they would get frustrated and sloppy. That seems to be happening once more this season.

In both the Cinci and the Michigan losses, we saw it in the second half. The team struggled with scoring as defenses got tighter and Pitt let the missed chances bother them when they played defense. That was along the lines of what we saw in the first half versus Rutgers. About the only positive, from the Rutgers game was that this time the team did not quit (unlike last year).

And as Ray Fittipaldo notes, the biggest problem on defense comes from the frontcourt.

One of the biggest problems is a backcourt that lacks the athleticism to defend opposing guards or create plays on the offensive end.

Dixon made a change in his starting lineup in hopes of sparking his team after the loss to Cincinnati, but the decision to start sophomore Cameron Wright in place of freshman James Robinson failed to provide any advantage. More lineup changes could be forthcoming.

“We have to find a way,” Dixon said. “We have to get the right group. I know it’s there. I believe we can be the team we want to be.”

Fittipaldo seems most disappointed in Trey Zeigler, which has been the reason for more minutes and opportunities for Cam Wright.

Zeigler has been a turnover machine this season. He is tied for the second-most turnovers on the team despite playing the second-fewest minutes. He has 17 turnovers in in 186 minutes played.

Dixon went to Zeigler early in the game, but he had to pull him after he committed two early turnovers in the first half. Zeigler played just two minutes in the second half and finished with two points.

Unfortunately Wright didn’t exactly rise to the first opportunity given.

The problem is more than simply guards that aren’t as athletic as opponents. Pitt hasn’t had really athletic guards for most of the last ten years. The team defense has been plain weak. Players are late moving to provide help. To cut off penetration. To force teams to pass and keep the opposing guards from being in a position where they can penetrate with regularity.

That’s why we are seeing so much more zone. Coach Dixon is trying to take some of the pressure off the frontcourt. The trade-off of the zone, though, is rebounding tends to suffer. Which feeds into the lower rebounding numbers and gives more opportunities for defensive lapses.

Chas – I have been thinking about this mix of players and am hoping that one thing no one has talked about is occuring. That is; having a huge center 7ft with a large wingspan in the middle. It is something none of these Pitt players have ever had to deal with and it is a matter of spacing that I have observed to be Pitt’s biggest problem.

Our rebounds are down because it is human nature to assume the big guy will get it. Our offense is starting too deep from the paint and our guards are out of position to shoot. Putting a big new guy in the middle is like having a 5 star point guard added to the team. It is a huge adjustment.

Okay, I know I am stretching a bit, but for the life of me, I can think of no other reason this team has looked so awful. I am hoping agianst hope that it is not talent or lack thereof!

Georgetown really struggles to score also. This is a game Pitt can win if we don’t get blown off the boards inside.


Comment by Dan 72 01.08.13 @ 5:40 pm

72, sure hope we can win and start to build some momentum.Our team needs to force the ball inside.If we take another 20 some 3 point shots tonight I think I will pull my hair out.Please can we at least try one game to see how many shots we can get from the frontline.Grey used to get half his boards on his own misses,but we won.This group of guards are not going to outscore our opponents and I think this game can be won without ever taking a 3 point shot.It is high time we find out what Adams and Zanna can do as the focus of our offense.I can live with losses when we take an approach that has logical opportunity for improvement as opposed to losses that we are certain to fail.We don’t Know if our bigs can get it done offensively because 15 games in we still haven’t tried forcing it inside except as a novelty.We also have gotten awfully soft,what game would be better than Georgetown to get nasty agressive.I am tired of having the biggest guys. I’d rather have guys who cause bruises. I don’t think anyone on our team has fouled out this year.When did we decide to be a finess team?

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.08.13 @ 6:17 pm

One thing that was extremely puzzling (other than losing to a team like Rutgers) was Dixon’s removal of James Robinson from the starting lineup for….wait…..Cameron Wright. Whatttttt!

How do you take your glue guy on offense, your starting PG and not start him.

PITT was down 15-5 before Robinson was inserted and we never got back those 10 points. Which became 14 points at halftime.

Just another extremely puzzling move by Coach Dixon.

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 6:20 pm

Cam Wright played well against Cincinnati. I’m still not sure he should have been started ahead of James Robinson on that basis. Note that Jaime Dixon emphasized Wright’s practice play as part of the decision.

Cam Wright should definitely play ahead of Trey Ziegler who was a near liability against Cincinnati.

Pitt actually closed to six in the first half against Rutgers, missed a couple of chances, played some sloppy D and it was back to fourteen (luckily) at halftime. It could have been worse.

I will say that Robinson has not been successful in keeping his man in front of him thus far in Big East play. This was especially evident in the second half against Cincinnati. He looked no better on ball than Tray Woodall to me.

Robinson has also not demonstrated an ability to break defenders down in Big East play and finish a drive or assist. He was able to do this against lesser opponents. Woodall and Lamar Patterson seem more capable in that regard.

Everybody seems to be having trouble finishing at the rim in Big East play.

Comment by Barvo 01.08.13 @ 6:36 pm


We have two foreign born players starting.
Foreign born players tend to be more finesse players than anything else.

Another reason why Coach should tinker with playing uptempo. Finesse players are much better in the full court than the half court.

Square peg into round hole thing again.

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 6:37 pm

Well I’m sure he shouldn’t have started in front of Robinson. The loss and the immediately down 15-5 was kind of a tipoff. 🙂

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 6:39 pm

Just a few short weeks ago everyone (well near everone) was marveling about the depth of this team.

I was reluctant to engage on the subject at the time, however all that talk should have been tempered due to who,who, who we were playing.

This team is no deeper (and might actually be less) than any other Pitt team of the last decade.

They all look good against the Bethune-Cookman’s of the world. 😉

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 6:43 pm

Emel,Your point is valid,Talib Zanna has been her 4 years now and has the finesse of a rhino and Adams might as well be in New Zealand for all the more we have tried to utilize him offensively.Since ther is no possible way we are going to go to start playing an up tempo game shouldn’t we at least try one game of forcing it inside.I can live with the results.I just thought with a 7′ center and a huge power forward it might have a better chance of succeeding than the fire it up to beat the buzzer offense we have been seeing.Two big strong guys inside why aren’t they taking the shots?

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.08.13 @ 6:52 pm

Agree spiritOS22

Anything would be better than hoisting up 24 three pointers again.

Team plays better when Woodie is a facilitator rather than a shooter.

This team has a bunch of Gilbert Browns without the athleticism that Gilbert had. Meaning they are all so inconsistent, you have clue about what any of them are going to do on a game to game basis.

I suggest Coach really hit the recruiting trail hard, hard, hard and then harder.

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 6:59 pm

The only problem forcing the ball inside and for sure I would love for Pitt to be able to do it.
With the lack of athleticism on the perimeter Pitt would be much more effective playing inside/outside.

However….from what I’ve seen, Adams & Taylor both can’t play with their back to the basket and be effective. And neither are adept at drawing defenders to them and kicking the ball back out.

Zanna, while he had developed a nice little 10-15 foot jumper, still has terrible hands and it not real effective on the low block against teams with equal or better inside players.

None of the 3 will rip a rebound down and clear out with their elbows, to show opponents they mean business. All three are very soft for their size. And since they practice against nobody but themselves, just how are they going to toughen up.

Getting outrebounded 31-21 by a team like Rutgers is indicative of the softness of the frontcourt and the lack of quickness from the backcourt.

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 7:08 pm

When IUP, IUP shot 54% against us in opening ex game red flags shot up.

Comment by alcofan 01.08.13 @ 7:18 pm

Emel,Play #1 lobb the ball to Adams low and insist he shoot the ball when he gets it.Follow every shot,never shoot falling away.Zanna attack the basket when Adams shoots and look for missed shots.Play #2 lobb the ball to Zanna down low ,force up a shot and follow the shot to the basket.Adams attack the basket and look for misses. Play #3 repeat play #1. It sounds too simple I know,but at least it would have beaten Rutgers.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.08.13 @ 7:31 pm

What a stinging article on the PG by Fittipaldi

link to

It’s funny Gary McGhee didn’t have a whole lot of talent, but he had heart, a big one and desire and a real strong work effort. He also got to practice against one of the strongest, toughest guys ever to play at Pitt, that being the DeJuan Blair. This made him even tougher as I’m sure it wasn’t easy practicing against DeJuan.

Sleepy comes along, with way more talent than McGhee, and he did practice against Blair in that 2009 season, as well as Sam Young. However Sleepy unlike McGhee, never developed any toughness from Blair & Young. Nor did he in 2010 playing & practicing with Gary McGhee who became a beast on the boards again with limited talent.

The recruiting misses with Sleepy, then Birch and now Malcom Gilbert are really setting this team back. That traditional Pitt toughness, being physical, underneath the boards was lost somehow in the transition from McGhee to Taylor and now Adams.

Now there is no one left to uphold the tradition, nor practice against it in practice. Dixon’s NUMBER ONE priority is finding a big guy or two, preferably two, who are physical & tough.

Because it doesn’t appear he knows how to coach any way but the one way. Halfcourt offense.
And this crew is not up to it.

Hope I’m wrong starting tonight !!!


Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 7:43 pm

emel–You are right, muscle in the middle is needed. I am still hoping Adams will become it–eventually. Otherwise, things will stay ugly, IMO.

Comment by pitt1972 01.08.13 @ 7:53 pm


Hey I’m all for trying it. You have to get Adams & Zanna involved early, as it should make them more aggressive. If you don’t get the ball, you become passive. And then that passiveness,while it shouldn’t, it can bleed over to your defense.

Very frustrating for a big guy who continually works for position, bumping and pushing, etc. to never get the ball. Somebody needs to be able to execute entry passes into the post.

Maybe Dixon should try some new sets, as everyone in the BE seems very familiar with the current ones now a days. Maybe try a double low post, thereby once you get a pass inside, it can either be passed to the other big guy, back outside or take a shot.

The two players down low can also try to rub their defender off on the other in a double low post. You can also have your forwards cut off screens from the big guys and roll to the basket for easy layups. Or if the defense switches, a pass right back to a cutting big guy ends up an easy deuce. The idea being is to create movement in and around the paint, where shots are easier to make and fouls can be picked up.

It just gives you a few more options, rather than the one pass into the post and if he doesn’t have a shot, it just goes back out to the perimeter again.

Just passing the ball around the perimeter accomplishes nothing but winding down the time clock and then forcing a hurried shot to beat the clock. Pitt doesn’t seem to run many screens or back door plays like so many teams do. When you’re a poor shooting team, you have to run some back door plays hoping for some easy baskets.

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 8:04 pm

Emel, these guys aren’t that bright, I like my plays better.Lobb play 1 and 2 not necesarily in that order. Do it over and over until you get it right then do it some more.We are big and strong.Zanna can’t catch a bounce pass and why should he. Give it to them high and go up with it then follow. Have the other guy crash the other side hard.Even a moron would get good at it at some point. Make there big men defend so maybe we can get an occasional rebound in the 2nd half when they foul out or get tired.Right now all our big men do is run around outside trying to set screens for guards who can’t drive anyway.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.08.13 @ 8:18 pm

lol yea I think the high screen with a Center out 25-30 feet away from the hoop has always been ridiculous. I can still envision big Aaron Gray, all 7 foot, 280 lbs of him, flailing his arms, trying to defend off the high screen, lightyears away from the basket. Same with McGhee.

If your talking offense, I’d rather see the big guys setting screens along the baseline, than way outside. With what you said, guards that can’t drive anyway.

Yes I like lobs, but you need a Sherman Douglas to lob it to Derrick Coleman for it to work real well. I envision plenty of turnovers with Pitt, for Zanna would fumble them out of bounds, as would Taylor unless he was wide wide open. And I haven’t seen enough of Adams to know if he can catch and chew gum at the same time. Yes he can do it against North Florida or Bethune Cookman, can he do it against BE competition. Don’t know.

We don’t have a Sherman Douglas or even a Brandon Knight at this point. Almost game time.

Beatdown the Hoya’s!

Comment by Emel 01.08.13 @ 8:54 pm

My Pitt nose smells a blow out!!!!

Comment by Dan 01.08.13 @ 8:59 pm

Where was this Pitt team on Saturday? Adams much much better tonite, very active, good to see. G’town looks awful.

Comment by Iron Duke 01.08.13 @ 10:25 pm

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