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January 19, 2013

Open Thread: UConn-Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:33 am

So, this Manti Te’o crap is overshadowing everything at this point. With no resolution in sight. No clarification or understanding appearing to get closer, it leaves everyone still trying to figure this out.

Te’o and his representatives seem to be doing nothing to make this clearer. The bizarre sitdown with Jeremy Schaap of ESPN — where there was no filming and limited audio — has me convinced that it was conducted that way to purposefully confuse things further. A confused and weary of the story public finally says, “F**k it” and gives up trying to figure it out or care.

Think about it. Late Friday night interview. No video and limited audio — ostensibly to make Te’o more comfortable. Jeremy Schaap gets trotted out on camera — clearly exhausted — tries to give some picture of what Te’o was saying in the 2.5 hour interview. It raises even more questions:

Schaap asked why Te’o didn’t go to see Kekua in the hospital.

“It never really crossed my mind. I don’t know. I was in school,” he said.

Somehow all this crap has managed overshadow thoughts about the game at noon against UConn. One more reason to hate Notre Dame.

It’s a big game for Pitt. The Panthers haven’t won two in a row — or even a home game — since before Christmas. Sitting at 2-3 in the conference slate, Pitt needs to go at least 8-5 the rest of the way to make the NCAA Tournament.

Sitting at 2-2 in the Big East and 12-4 overall, UConn has been something of a surprisingly good team. Despite the turmoil of the conference falling apart while being stuck. Despite NCAA and Big East penalties that have them excluded from the NCAA and Big East Tournaments. Despite playing for a new coach — who only recently had the interim tag removed. Despite a thin bench with transfers. UConn has played real well. They upset the Domers in South Bend. They also have an overtime loss to Marquette.

Needless to say, this is the final meeting between Pitt and UConn for the forseeable future. Which means nostalgia time. Clyde Vaughn a former Pitt star and assistant with UConn talks a little.

Vaughan won‘t allow himself to look at it that way. He knows he can neither change the past nor reside in it. He must accept it.

“I thought some things would happen where I would be a head coach, but it didn‘t work out,” he said. “I look at it as it was never meant to be.”

Vaughan now follows the career of his son, C.J., a 6-2 senior guard at Oswego East. Because Clyde — who also goes by his given name, Clive — was born in England, C.J. will play for the Brits in the U-18 European Championships in July.

“He‘s a really, really good ballplayer,” said Vaughan, now a substitute teacher and private basketball instructor. “His game is completely different than mine. He has the range, like I did, and can really shoot it. And he‘s a great defender.”

C.J. is a teammate of Mike McAllister, the younger brother of UConn guard Ryan Boatright, so Vaughan still follows the Huskies. A proud Pitt alumnus, he calls earning his degree in four years at Pitt his proudest accomplishment.

It does amaze me that he’s completely out of coaching after being tagged for solicitation (yet again), while Pitino still goes strong. And plenty of others who have done worse are still in the game.

There will be plenty of nostalgia during the game on ESPN2, given the games Pitt and UConn have played. The Blair toss of Thabeet. Kemba “effin'” Walker. Khalid El-Amin. Big East Tournament meetings.

I’m not worried about that today. I want to see if Pitt can shoot a little better and keep up the defensive effort.

Zeigler and Johnson accounted for nearly half of Pitt‘s points in the 58-43 victory at Villanova, scoring 13 points apiece off the bench. Zeigler played 25 minutes and Johnson 23, and their playing time figures to increase with every game in which they prove they are more than just scorers.

“They‘re playing better and better, and they‘re understanding what we‘re trying to do,” Dixon said. “I‘ve continually stressed rebounding and defense is the secret to playing time.

“It maybe takes some guys a little while to figure out. Again, it‘s a whole other level from where you played high school or somewhere else, defensively. It‘s not even comparable. It takes some time. You can preach it, but they‘ve got to go through growing pains.”

It has been the opposite for Pitt‘s two other newcomers, 7-foot freshman center Steven Adams and 6-3 freshman point guard James Robinson. They earned starting spots during the nonconference schedule, but are going through their own growing pains in providing an offensive punch against Big East competition.

Coach Dixon loves to keep stressing the rebounding margin. To some degree, the stats are bearing him out this year.

The Panthers were beaten on the boards in all three of their losses and entered the game against the Wildcats, the best rebounding team in the Big East, with a minus-3.7 rebounding margin.

Not only did the Panthers come away with a plus-12 margin on the boards, but the Wildcats, also the top offensive rebounding team in the league, were limited to one offensive rebound and zero second-chance points.

Dixon spent most of his preparation time in practice preaching about the importance of controlling the boards, and his message finally got through to his players.

“It’s no secret what you have to do in our league,” Dixon said. “You have to be able to rebound. For whatever reason, in our losses, we didn’t rebound. You have to play to your strengths. If you don’t, you end up coming up short.”

I don’t even know how much Coach Dixon truly believes in rebounding margin. He tends to be much smarter about numbers and stats. My (latest) working theory is that Coach Dixon looks at rebounding margin more as a measurement of the effort way the team is playing. Bad rebounding numbers suggest a lot more standing around. Not being active on the boards and especially on defense.

It’s a nooner on ESPN2. We’ll see what kind of effort Pitt shows today.

Pitt Dad:
I read this blog daily & typically like what you have to say. So if you are talking back to my comment then go ahead and address me by name — it’s in fact my real name. Furthermore, I do care about stories that implicate Americans “acting the fool.” It’s embarrassing, frankly.

Comment by Neil 01.19.13 @ 10:57 pm

Also a very arrogant comment if in my direction. As in, “now go fade.” If this is the case, I say in response, “Grow up,” Pitt Dad

Comment by Neil 01.19.13 @ 11:01 pm

No RPI boost from the stage magacians tonight. Took a real beat down from VCU 90-63.

Comment by alcofan 01.19.13 @ 11:05 pm

Sorry. My “fade into the shadows” comment was addressed to T’eo and Armstrong, not you Neil. I equally respect what you have to say on this blog. I just resent people like T’eo and Armstrong filling the airwaves and websites when, frankly, there are more important sports stories and real life stories that deserve more attention
. I’d rather hear what Notre Dame is doing to investigate the Lizzy Seeburg travesty than their investigation of the T’eo farce for example.

So, in the spirit of all things Pitt, please accept my apology for what was, at best, at misplaced antecedent and, at worst a comment which inadvertently offended a fellow Panther fan.

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.19.13 @ 11:14 pm

a misplaced antecedent

I have to do a better proofreading job

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.19.13 @ 11:15 pm

@Neil – Just to be clear, if I am addressing my comment to the poster directly, rather than to the comment itself, I generally begin with @(insert name here). That being said, I can appreciate how my terse comment could have been misinterpreted and, for that, I’m sorry.

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.19.13 @ 11:24 pm

(Hugs all around)

Comment by panther94 01.19.13 @ 11:41 pm

@panther94 – LMAO – thanks

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.19.13 @ 11:43 pm

@Pitt Dad – any time, my friend. (Hug)

Comment by panther94 01.19.13 @ 11:47 pm

Back atcha man
(Hug) (High 5)

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.19.13 @ 11:53 pm

As a kid I was in Ebberts Field and watched Stan Musial hit Three home runs for St Louis. Plus he was well liked by all the Dodgers at the time.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 01.19.13 @ 11:55 pm

I just watched replays of our past few games. I think this team is really coming together and learning how to win close ones. A few observations: Woodall is ice, so you Woodall haters: go f*** yourselves. Adams is getting better…becoming a force. Robinson is definitely our long-term leader. Wright and Moore are disappointing right now. I think Moore is so athletic, he needs to do something with it. Wright will be our Wannamaker next year, maybe. Taylor is getting good cleanup and making the most of his minutes. Durand Durand (shoutout to Emel)will be fierce next year. Patterson and Ziegler can do even more. Zanna can do better, but has not stopped contributing in some way.

I like this team.

Comment by panther94 01.19.13 @ 11:59 pm

I forgot to say that they have lots of heart…probably the most important thing.

(High 5 to Pitt Dad)

Comment by panther94 01.20.13 @ 12:02 am

@Pitt Dad,

We’d be cooler with a fist bump.

Comment by panther94 01.20.13 @ 12:02 am

@panther94 – one of the drawbacks of asynchronous communication is that I did not see you going up with a fist bump when I put up the high 5. That being said, it’s never too late.

(fist bump)

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.20.13 @ 12:11 am

@ old pitt grad – do you recall the year?

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.20.13 @ 12:11 am

(fist bump)

Comment by panther94 01.20.13 @ 12:14 am

What I want to know, though, is where is Neil in all of this?

Comment by panther94 01.20.13 @ 12:18 am

panther94, no doubt that we would have beaten Marquette had Woodall hadn’t been injured early in the game.

While Robinson is playing great for a freshman and came up clutch yesterday, he still makes a lot of careless passes and sometimes dribbles way too much. The team is certainly better when Woodall is on the floor.

Comment by wbb 01.20.13 @ 6:00 am

I will take credit for the “Sleepy” nickname, my only claim to fame?

Dubbed him that his freshman year based on his resemblance to Sleepy Floyd.

At the blue gold game this year, I asked him to sign a ball “Sleepy” Taylor and he did.

When I showed him an iphone image of Floyd he gave me a disbelieving look. The other players grabbed the phone and had a hearty guffaw at Sleepy’s expense.

Luckily for me Sleepy can take a joke!

Comment by steve1 01.20.13 @ 6:49 am

Sleepy Floyd was a 6’2 guard who despite having an accomplished college career, wasn’t expected to be a good NBA player .. but he fooled them all.

On the other hand, our Sleepy was much heralded 6’10 big man, but didn’t turn out to be a very accomplished college player. Nonetheless, I hope he goes out with a bang, graduates and maybe makes good money in Europe or something.

Comment by wbb 01.20.13 @ 7:43 am

Seconding Omar, Adams is getting meaner. Now all he needs is just half of Blair’s butt.

Comment by steve1 01.20.13 @ 7:59 am

Trivia: Stan Musial played both baseball and basketball at Donora High, and was offered a basketball scholarship to Pitt. He chose a baseball contract from the Cardinals instead … how dare he!!!

Comment by wbb 01.20.13 @ 8:21 am

Isn’t this whole Monti Te’o thing silly? They played up the whole dying girlfriend thing to get sympathy, in the Heisman Trhphy voting. Years ago when Notre Dame was promoting Joe Thiesman for the Hiesman, his family name was pronounced “Thees-man” with the longe “E” sound. However the Notre Dame publicist told him, from now on we’re going to pronounce your last name to rhyme with Heismen. Today years after his pro career, the family now pronounces the family name that way.

Comment by Justinian 01.20.13 @ 8:27 am

Notre dame is a football factory. Whether they like to admit it or not. Their athletes are no more special than any other school. I lump the domers with the nitters. Those programs can both rot in hell. Those self righteous, arrogant pricks. I’m a hater of both schools so I would probably be told to go fuck myself by their fans and alumni. I often wonder what that means. If I can achieve orgasim, why would that be a bad thing?

Comment by TX Panther 01.20.13 @ 8:53 am

@wbb Good piece of triva….Also Dick Groat was a better BB player than he was baseball player as well and he liked it better according to him..but in those days baseball was the biggest sport by far so the best athletes almost always ended up in baseball.

Comment by milo bloom 01.20.13 @ 9:20 am

Yesterday I’d say Robinson was more clutch than Woodall. He hit 2 big 3s, Woodall hit some nice shots but also had 2 or 3 really bad turnovers, including on two lazy one-hand passes, one of which was late in the game and could have been very costly. Zanna disappeared again but it was really nice to see Sleepy come up big. Strong team win.

Comment by Carmen 01.20.13 @ 9:35 am

Carmen, Those turnovers by Woodall really helped UConn make their run. Yes, Robinson and Dante Taylor, both came up big in the clutch.

Comment by Justinian 01.20.13 @ 9:49 am

Milo, Yes Red Arbach of the Boston Celtics always said that Dick Groat, played the wrong sport. He thought Groat was a terrific player and that he should have continued to play basketball. I heard from older guys that he was an amazing shooter.

Comment by Justinian 01.20.13 @ 9:54 am

Nice to see Patterson returned with 14 points and 5 assists and Zanna had 7 points in half a game. Still think that Moore needs more than 13 minutes. I guess , unfortunately there are not enough minutes to go around. Each game a few come up short, Moore 13, Johnson, 10 and Wright 4.

This is Jamie’s biggest challenge, getting the right matchups, recognizing the hot hand, keeping them all happy. I noticed one shot of the bench, everyone but Johnson was smiling and cheering for a big play. Hope it is just an aberration, he has been playing well but was 0-3 in his 10 minutes yesterday.

Comment by gc 01.20.13 @ 10:02 am

Also, great to see Robinson come through at crunch time, paper said first made 3 pointer in big east play. Nice foul shooting too.

Comment by gc 01.20.13 @ 10:05 am

The case for not going to zone full time:

1. Doesn’t suit Pitt’s talent
2. Best used as a change of pace
3. Takes away some of Pitt’s aggressiveness

Pitt lacks the length and quickness to play zone at an elite level. Patterson, Woodall and Robinson are all too short or too slow or both to move around the perimeter and force bad shots. Pitt has recruited players they think can play man, stronger, tougher guys. Syracuse recruits players with length who they think can bother shots and recover quickly.

When Pitt has been effective with the zone it has been because either the other team was beating the man off the dribble and the zone ensured that there was help ready for the penetration or because the other team wasn’t expecting it. But eventually the other team finds the holes in the zone (baseline or high post) and starts knocking down shots.

This Pitt team is not aggressive enough by nature. Jamie has to constantly push them to step it up. Man to man is a more aggressive defense and gets the team to be more active. A zone is more passive. The attitude creeps into the whole game, they tend to get back on their heels on both sides.

Syracuse is the only big time program that uses a zone full time. They have been doing it forever, it is in their DNA. It is effective for Pitt as a wrinkle and I like that Jamie is willing to use it occasionally. But the second half yesterday was a great example of why it won’t work full time. Pitt used the zone well in the first half to protect against the crazy speed of Boatwright et al. They came out in zone in the second half and quickly gave back a bunch of their lead. UConn found some holes, hit some shots and the momentum switched. Jamie said in his post game comments that HE thought coming out in the zone was a mistake but it took away some of their aggressiveness.

The zone is best when used in small doses.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 01.20.13 @ 10:06 am

Boubacar, Belien at Michigan uses the 1-3-1 a good bit and when they were getting beat, by Pitt in the 1st half, the went to in the 2nd. It turned the game around. When Huggens took over the West Virginia program and saw how good they with the 1-3-1, he used it a good bit along with his tought man to man. I like the 1-3-1 because it’s an aggressive zone with a lot of man to man principles. In any event I do agree with you. Pitt is best in their man to man, but it’s also good to throw a change up at times here and there.

Comment by Justinian 01.20.13 @ 10:17 am

I was wrong.
I did not think this team had the heart to get up off the deck and grab victory from the jaws of defeat.
It was more pleasurable having lost a lead. Ask Louisville about being up 48-40 with 8 minutes to play.
Just keep showing me. Providence is better than people realize and that game will be a huge challenge for us.
Finally, Notre Dame is perfecting the art of hypocricy. George O’Leary, death in the video tower, refusing to speak to rape victims and soaking up the glory of this kids tragic but beautiful “love” life so long as it suited their PR needs.
“Notre Dame” my left nut, “Votre Prevaricator” is a far better description.

Comment by sfpitt 01.20.13 @ 11:02 am

Nicely said, SFPitt.

Not too many kudos here for Zanna’s turnaround yesterday. He conquered the yips.

Kudos, Talib!

Comment by steve1 01.20.13 @ 11:07 am

Zanna had an odd game – 6 points the first 5 mins of the game then 1 point the remainder on only 5 shots.

I like that Dixon has trended towards offense versus defense (Cam Wright only 4 minutes).

Seems like they are rounding into shape … hopefully, this Pitt team is the norm. I’m still a little disappointed in the 14 point lead going away but UCONN’s guards weren’t going to be cold the entire game. They came up big when they had to and as Dixon has always said – “They made their free throws when they counted”.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 01.20.13 @ 12:02 pm

Can’t relax with Providence and DePaul coming up. In the middle of the BE pack right now. Would be nice to get a bye in the BET by finishing in the top 8.
On a final 2012 football note, in the Raycom Div I & II All Star game in Montgomery ALA, Sir Tino finishes his collegiate career as the starting QB, losing 31-3, and going 8-18 with 105 yds, and 2 INT. Can’t blame that one on the O-line or coaching. Let the Savage-Voytik-Chapman era begin.

Comment by Bossdaws 01.20.13 @ 2:04 pm

Anybody know if we had a recruiting contingent at the game yesterday? This would have been a good one for those recruits who were on the fence about Pitt student enthusiasm regarding their athletic programs. A reall good vibe from the crowd in that one. The Zoo was full of excited animals yesterday!!!

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.20.13 @ 2:28 pm

Fittingly ended with starts…and fits…in AL.

Comment by steve1 01.20.13 @ 2:40 pm

lol Sal has some connections in Alabama obviously as well. To get him into an All-Star game of any kind would take some serious ones.


Comment by EMel 01.20.13 @ 4:39 pm

3-31 sounds about right. Wouldn’t you love to have made an All-Star game as a college player, only to find out, your QB is one
Sir Tino.

Oy Vey !

Comment by EMel 01.20.13 @ 4:41 pm

One last thing, I’ve never even heard of that All-Star game. Sort of like the Compass Bowl it just appeared out of nowhere….and in Alabama.

Both will probably be defunct next year.


Comment by EMel 01.20.13 @ 4:45 pm

@Bossdwas..Only need to be in top 10 to avoid Tuesday games this year since only 4 teams playing on Tuesday this year…no WVU and no UConn. Top 4 is what to shoot for.

Comment by milo bloom 01.20.13 @ 7:09 pm

thanks Milo. didn’t realize that. Won’t miss the obnoxious UConn and Hoopie fans at the Garden. HTP

Comment by Bossdaws 01.20.13 @ 7:40 pm

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