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January 22, 2013

In The Midst of the Big East Muddle

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 10:05 am

 

Hope everyone had a nice MLK/Inauguration Day. I spent mine looking at cars and dealing with various used car salesmen. In my mind I’m pretending that this ordeal is me being recruited by colleges and the car is the scholarship offer. Kind of makes it a little more fun, even if there were points where I kind of forgot that the game was only in my head. There was even a salesman that reminded me of FraudGraham, turning him down cold was pleasant. I don’t think, however, he quite understood when I blurted out that he was going to crash-and-burn at ASU.

Anyways, have you seen the Big East standings?

Quite the jumble at the 1/3 mark of conference play.

The top two teams look solid. The bottom 3 as well. After that

The Monday Big East results are yet another reminder that the league may actually be the most competitive from top to bottom in recent memory. That may not bode well for a high number of bids but there are few givens anymore. If you gave up on Georgetown then hold on because the Hoyas suddenly have life. If you were so inclined to jump on Notre Dame after a win over Kentucky you may want to wait after losses to St. John’s, UConn and now the Hoyas. Cincinnati seemingly plays every game down to the final possession like Marquette. Don’t even try to figure out Pitt at this juncture. I don’t think you have to worry about Louisville and/or Syracuse much at all, but the rest of the conference is as wacky and unpredictable as ever.

This seems to be a year where most of the conference will beat each other up. Not because everyone is so good. Instead it is a lot of inconsistency and mediocrity. You can call it parity, but the difference between teams seems so slight at times. It’s no wonder Coach Dixon is continually harping so hard on the defense and rebounds.

After Providence and DePaul, the Panthers travel to play No. 5 Louisville (Monday) and then play host to No. 3 Syracuse Feb. 2. Those games are only the beginning of a brutal stretch of games in the next three weeks that also includes visits to No. 21 Cincinnati and Marquette (No. 26 with the most votes of any unranked team this week) and a home date Feb. 18 with No. 24 Notre Dame.

“Every game is big,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We’ve had two good road wins. Now we have to go get Providence. The key is to do it the way we’ve been doing it — with defense and rebounding. It’s good to come off a win.”

Those are energy and effort related. Especially something like rebound margin. And Pitt can’t afford to think it can coast in any Big East game.

I think you can even toss Providence into the unpredictable part.

They spent a good chunk of the non-con without several key players due to injury issues. Their Big East schedule has already had them face Louisville, Cuse and Georgetown. Are they an upper-half team? No. But they can definitely win some games at home – including tonight’s.

The Friars feature the Big East‘s top scorer in 6-foot-1 junior guard Bryce Cotton, who is averaging 21.8 points, and a pair of point guards who are back from injury. Senior Vincent Council, a preseason first-team All-Big East pick who led the league in assists last season, missed 10 games with a hamstring injury. Freshman Kris Dunn missed the first nine games after shoulder surgery before setting a school record with 13 assists against Colgate.

Providence also has two of the conference‘s top rebounders in 6-6 sophomore LaDontae Henton (8.2 rebounds per game) and 6-9 junior Kadeem Batts (7.2), who are joined in the frontcourt by 6-10 sophomore Sidiki Johnson, an Arizona transfer who became eligible at the semester break.

With Council and Dunn back, Pitt is especially vulnerable. We have already seen Pitt struggles with the better backcourts. Providence’s may still be trying to gel, but they are very talented — primarily on offense. Add in the fact that Bryce Cotton is a 41% 3-point shooter, and there is reason for concern for Pitt.

Providence is not particularly deep, so most of their starters will likely play 30 minutes or more. Pitt, of course, has depth. And not simply depth, the dropoff at several spots is not particularly large so it means a lot of competition for minutes.

“I’m starting to fit in well,” Zeigler said. “I’m able to show what I can do. That’s the biggest thing right now. Just try to help the team when I can.

“Everyone is starting to figure out what we can do to be successful. For me, rebounding and making plays and just being ready whenever coach calls my number. Durand has done a good job. Cam will be ready when he’s called upon. Dante was huge off the bench [Saturday].”

Dixon said he is using a 10-man rotation out of necessity rather than luxury. Each of the five reserves do something better than the starters or provide a different kind of boost for the team.

Taylor’s ability to crash the offensive boards helped the Panthers beat Connecticut. Zeigler’s ability to penetrate and score helped them beat Villanova. Johnson’s 3-point shooting also helped against the Wildcats.

“Everyone is much more settled into their roles,” senior guard Tray Woodall said. “Everyone knows the minutes they get. They come out and play aggressive and take advantage of their opportunity

“I think it’s a testament to our depth. We have a lot of guys who work hard in practice and they’re always ready when their number is called. A guy like [Zeigler], he played a little early on and he’s been playing more as the year has gone on. He’s been working real hard. Those guys work hard in practice and it shows on the court.”

The depth also translates to a willingness to play tighter defense and risk fouls. The UConn game was the first since before Christmas where Pitt committed less than 20 fouls as well as fouled less than their opponent.

Dante Taylor came in for a bit of love after the UConn game. For being a team player.

“He‘s really an unselfish kid,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “He‘s really a great teammate, and guys like him. He doesn‘t care about his individual stats. He just wants to win. He‘s been around a lot of winning teams, and he wants to continue to do that.”

Taylor‘s most important contribution was a pass to freshman James Robinson, who turned it into a tie-breaking 3-pointer to give Pitt a lead it never surrendered. In the center of a pick and roll with Lamar Patterson, Taylor took the pass, could have turned and shot, but he spotted Robinson alone deep in the corner.

Later, in a similar situation, he accepted the pass from Tray Woodall and decided to shoot. Those plays became the most important five points of the game‘s decisive moments.

“I trusted in (Robinson), and (Woodall) trusted in me,” Taylor said.

Dixon, usually judicious with his praise, was enthused.

“I can‘t say enough about him down the stretch,” Dixon said. “We talked to him about that he may be the guy who gets the catch but not the shot. That‘s something we‘re improving on. That was huge for us. We‘ve got to continue to make right decisions at the right time. Those were two very good decisions by Dante at that point.”

And energy.

“They are definitely feeding off my energy,” said Taylor about his teammates. “Not only do I know that, but the coaches know that so they tell me on the side to bring the energy up on the bench and the team feeds off of that a lot. That is a motivational thing for me and the team.”

“Dante brings energy everyday,” said wing man Trey Zeigler. “He’s a senior and you expect that, but he’s bringing it everyday. Every time there is a big play, whether he’s making it or not, he’s always getting in there and getting us pumped up, creating energy for us, and that’s big.”

Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan in the off-season, can’t seem to recall a rallying figure as effective as Taylor.

“Not as much as we got here with Dante,” the junior said. “Through everything he’s been through, and the fact that he’s coming off the bench as a senior, he hasn’t hesitated to be our guy, bring us energy and boost all of us up.”

Taylor’s vocal and emotional support has become so apparent that it’s a game plan for the coaching staff these days.

“As soon as I score I always yell and get real pumped up,” Taylor said. “I’m on the bench rocking back and forth and I come in, and as soon as I score I always yell and always get amped. I always try to get the crowd involved, get my teammates excited and just try to be happy while I’m out there.”

Who knew? The last 3+ years, there were plenty of comments during games about Taylor’s screaming. That it was a “me first” thing. Now we are told it is for the team.

As much as there is bemoaning that Taylor hasn’t lived up to the billing when he came out of high school. He’s been a teammate that gets it. He is part of the team. He takes on the role as needed. He accepts coming off the bench. He knows he is a cog on this team.





Good write-up as always…

I never thought Taylor’s problem was ‘me first’ thing. I always thought he was just a laid back fellow and didn’t worry about much stuff..which is maybe why he never progressed..he was fine just being part of the team and never had an internal push to become a great player.

Comment by milobloom 01.22.13 @ 10:20 am

Football note: Rivals upgrades Dorian Johnson to 5 stars, which pushes Pitt to the #29 recruiting class.

Comment by MikePITT 01.22.13 @ 10:31 am

We’d be in so much better shape if we hadn’t pooped the bed against Rutgers and Cincy. Missed opportunities.

Comment by Jeff 01.22.13 @ 11:21 am

In my opinion were not going to catch 1 or 2 , and not gonna fall to to the last four spots, so fighting for 3 through 12.

Comment by alcofan 01.22.13 @ 11:31 am

Tonites game has me scared.I think the Friars are running way under the radar.Although they lack depth they have some very legit players and are at home playing a team they think they can beat.This is the kind of game that we should win but unfortunately that doesn’t get you any points.D and rebounds=win like the coach says,and it wouldn’t hurt to have a good night at the line.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 11:47 am

The team cannot come out flat, like they did at Rutgers.

I hope they work inside, to force Providence, a team without depth, to foul.

Adams was fouled on a spin-move on Sat., the first time that I really saw him move that quickly and decisively in the lane. I hope Pitt has more of those chances tonight.

Patterson is finally looking like he did late last season (into the CBI). If the team needs a “go-to guy”, I believe that he could be him.

I am not a betting man, but the 6.5 points scare me. This is not a gimme.

Comment by xfmrman 01.22.13 @ 12:19 pm

Chas – I agree that the emphasis on rebounding is largely about effort and energy. I’d only add that, without a pure shooter on this team, often the best play is a missed shot and a putback. Because without the rebound, well…

Comment by Brendan 01.22.13 @ 12:24 pm

Go inside and press. Tire them out and foul them out.

Comment by TX Panther 01.22.13 @ 12:25 pm

WVU athletics is self-destructing and it is a beautiful sight. Football team way under-achieved at 7-5 now Huggins and the Hoopie Hoopers are 7-8 in Huggs 5th year. The Big 12 got them a gem for sure. Hail to Pitt!!

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 01.22.13 @ 12:29 pm

a lot of players with Taylor’s pedigree would have sulked or transferred out. I have to respect his positive attitude and approach, even if we may have expected a more productive career based on his early projections. I still wonder if he’s been limited by chronic injury over the past 4 years. A plus rebounder off the bench is a very usefull role to fill

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 01.22.13 @ 12:33 pm

Coach says take ‘em one at a time however
we need to win the next two and split the
the games w/Louisville and Syr.

Comment by JR 01.22.13 @ 12:52 pm

I was looking at the schedule yesterday and IMO the best Pitt can place is 6th or 7th in the BE. We need to beat ND at home later and hope that the top 3 teams help us by beating everyone they play (except us of course).

The NCAA committee may only take 6-7 BE teams this year.

Rivals now has Dorian Johnson at #31 because he dominated against Robert Nkemdiche and Carl Lawson during the Under Armour All-America circuit.

link to sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Comment by Jackagain 01.22.13 @ 12:53 pm

Took a quick look at the latest Bracketology and we are projected in (on the bubble though) and would have a second round game vs….Butler. Can’t get away from those Bulldogs!

Comment by PittDan 01.22.13 @ 1:07 pm

@ Panther Fan

Lets be careful about making fun of the Hoopies. You know what they say about ‘karma.’ There are still rumors about many ACC teams going elsewhere. Hell we may even end up in the Big XII in a couple of years. Our football team is sub-.500 and the hoops team did not make the NCAA last year, this year who knows. We do not finish anywhere near the top of the Director’s cup standings. Lets put pressue on the Pitt Leadership and give greater emphasis to athletics. Lets take care of business first before laughing at others. HTP

Comment by pittbluegold 01.22.13 @ 1:09 pm

Chas, good technique for car shopping … just so that after you make your decision, you don’t get your scholarship pulled after a year or 2

Comment by wbb 01.22.13 @ 1:11 pm

A picture of Steve Adams is in the trib today.He is holding a basketball and it looks like a volleyball would look in my hands.If you look a little closer you can see that his right hand is wrapped in the thumb to forefinger gap.What gives? I first noticed this about 2 games ago,and I don’t know but maybe he has been wearing this brace longer.It looks like it would hurt his shooting and passing.I haven’t seen any reports or mention of it in the press.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 1:18 pm

Need to come out and jump on Providence early, take the crowd out of the game and not let them think they have any chance of pulling the upset.

And that begins with defense and rebounding. If you can take the Cotton kid out of the game early it will throw their offense out of synch. Perhaps put a taller player on him, like Wright or Zeigler. Also their main big guy, Batts is susceptible to foul trouble, so working that angle would be advisable as well. Zanna needs to step up tonight in defending their other big guy and rebounding it, as he’s been in a funk lately.

Is this game on TV tonight ??

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 1:56 pm

EMel:

7:00 PM ESPN2

Comment by xfmrman 01.22.13 @ 1:58 pm

Good piece on Sleepy. He’s obviously a good kid, and it’s too his credit that he didn’t sulk(see J.Johnson) when he didn’t become a starter immediately, nor did he when he was forced to play Center which is not his natural position.
In other words he’s not the typical primadonna
McDonald’s All-American you think of, however lots of these kids don’t live up to their high school hype. We just don’t get many, so we don’t know that.

Would have loved to see him playing in more space, as I think he could have been a much better player. (mind you I said …could have, didn’t say …would have)
He was a square plug forced into a round hole, which is why Coach is satisfied with what happened (almost delusional imo). Sleepy never whined and complained and he made himself fit into Coach’s system. And of course coaches like that, so that explains all the accolades on that end imo.

It was good to see things fall for him against Uconn and hopefully he’ll make some more big plays at huge moments in his last year at Pitt.

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 2:14 pm

@xfmrman

Good deal. Thanks bro !!

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 2:15 pm

As all Pitt Fans know, there are no gimmees in the Big East and there are never gimmees for Pitt.

We can never afford to be over confident. The next two games are crucial to maintain the mo. Otherwise the naysayers and Dixon haters will have their day.

We know what the formula is, aggressive defensive play and strong rebounding. Take it strong to the hoop. Keep the ball moving. Make open shots.

Let’s go Pitt!

Chas, I told you last time, now is the time to buy a new car, Interest rates are 0 or close, Used cars are overpriced, due to supply. New cars have great warranties, and will outlast your payments.
Less headaches and you cannot beat that new car smell. In any case, good luck.

Comment by gc 01.22.13 @ 2:18 pm

link to triblive.com this is the site I referred to earlier.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 2:44 pm

Pitt HAS to win these next 2 since they have L’Ville & Cuse next. Pitt has handled Cuse before, but if they lose those 2, then winning the next 2 would only have them at 5-5 in the conference with @ Cincy & @ Marquete coming up.

We close out with 4 dogs and a less than stellar ND at home which is a MUST win too. 5 wins in a row to close the regular season might impress the NCAA Committee.

I just hope we don’t get pared against Marquette early in the BE Tournament.

Comment by Jackagain 01.22.13 @ 2:50 pm

Emel I agree that it is time for Zanna to get going.Please take a look at Adam’s wrist and hand,I think that looks like a significant injury and wonder how much it is hurting his play?

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 2:50 pm

@spiritoo22

wow you are correct sir. Adams hands are humongous.
Looks like he could squeeze the air out of that basketball. Once he learns to rebound with both of those huge hands, he’ll be a terror underneath.

Just a terror !!

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 2:56 pm

I am concerned about the wrist and thumb.My guess is you don’t wear that much tape unless it is at leasta sprained wrist.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 2:58 pm

@spirit22

Looks to me like a sprained thumb. And yes that would be difficult to play with, especially shoot.

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 3:04 pm

…and squeeze rebounds.

Comment by xfmrman 01.22.13 @ 3:10 pm

This might be why he is struggling from the foul line also.Why hasn’t this even been mentioned by the media? I know he has had that brace on there for at least 3 games.I don’t know that I have ever seen bigger hands but you still have to be able to grip with your thumb.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 3:13 pm

@Jackagain..

You need to look that schedule over again lol, there’s at least 8 more wins for Pitt, which would give us 11 for the conf. season. And 11-7 would net us 3rd or 4rth place.

Got to take care of business tonight !!!

HTP
VEV

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 3:24 pm

Emel….I looked at it and yesterday mentioned 10-111 wins there. No way they take 3rd or 4th over Marquette or Cincy though IMO. 5th is the best we can do and we need to beat ND in order to do that.

I would be thrilled with a 5th place slot in the BE right now.

Comment by Jackagain 01.22.13 @ 3:28 pm

I think it’s been taped longer than that. At first I only noticed it around his wrist in earlier games so…….idk

It could also be precautionary, as you can get more hand, wrist, thumb type injuries blocking shots and dunking.

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 3:29 pm

@Jack,

Well first things first, don’t want to get to ahead of ourselves. In order to make the return games with Marquette & Cincy for 3rd place or 4rth we must win these next 2 games. I think we can beat both of those teams (M&C). Cincy has 3 losses too.

As does ND. ND just got hammered by G-Town 47-63 so they are certainly beatable. Perhaps Pitt’s depth will become a big factor in the 2nd half of the conf. schedule as teams get beat up in the war that is each BigEast game. Let’s hope.

Comment by EMel 01.22.13 @ 3:40 pm

I don’t think you put that much tape on for a precaution and if they did they should get rid of it.That has to be affecting his play.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 3:42 pm

In my book Pitt can beat every team left on their schedule and they can lose to every team as well (would be shocked though if they dropped Depaul home game of South Fla Home game.)

Considering there are 12 teams within one loss of each other I think if Pitt could get to say 11-7 that may be enough to get to top 4 this year.

Let’s win tonight first though.

Comment by milo bloom 01.22.13 @ 3:55 pm

One game at a time, PLEASE! Let’s not get ahead of things. There is no sure win in any conference these days. Pitt is capable of beating Syracuse or Louisville and losing to DePaul and Providence… Let’s take it one game at a time. H2P!

Comment by MariettaMike 01.22.13 @ 4:04 pm

Milo 10 or 11 would be great.I think we are going to have all we can handle tonight.Hope we pull it off.H2P

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 4:06 pm

@ Emel
Pitt may get hot for a game and beat Cincy (but I doubt it), but Marquette owns Pitt. Pitt has a 2-8 record all-time against Marquette and I doubt we could beat them at their home with this team.

Remember, that record is when Pitt had some really good teams too.

I see 10 wins though at least….ESPN has the Committee taking 7 BE teams. If they do Pitt is in. If it’s 6…

Comment by Jackagain 01.22.13 @ 4:27 pm

And, don’t forget, there is still the BE Tourney at our home away from home MSG.

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.22.13 @ 4:34 pm

Not sure if Chas has this link on his site but I love this site for projecting tourney teams since it averages out all the gurus brackets..it has Pitt as solidly in right now and a nine seed….need to keep winning though..(this is always a little behind since not everyone releases their brackets at same time so Pitt is probably even a little higher than the current projection since they beat UConn.

link to bracketproject.50webs.com

Comment by milo bloom 01.22.13 @ 4:47 pm

The only game I can’t imagine us winning is Louisville.The only two I can’t imagine us losing are DePaul @ the Pete and Villanova senior day our final home game.I think we had better win 10 if we want to catch an invite.10 and 8 would make us 22 and 9 and might require at least 1 win at the garden.I think that would likely get us about a 9/10 seed.We have work to do if we want to dance and everybody we play is facing the same reality.Tonight it is kind of vital we keep things moving in the right deirection.Providence is barely making headway and they need this game badly.They have some real players and I doubt this will be an easy one.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.22.13 @ 4:56 pm

Sleepy started his career at Pitt as an awfully arrogant Freshman, denigrating everything about both the college and team experience.

The people at Pitt, and of course Sleepy himself, turned it around 180 degrees.

I’m very proud to be an Alumnus.

Comment by steve1 01.22.13 @ 5:54 pm

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