March 15, 2013

I sat down to watch the game around 10 pm last night. It’s been that kind of a week. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Where to begin.

First, it has to be recognized just how on James Southerland was in this game. Perfect from outside. Yes, the defense — especially in the first half — was a step slow. But he was knocking everything down regardless. He was 6-9 the day before against Seton Hall. It was infectious. Syracuse finished the game shooting 12-19 on 3s. Everywhere else they were 10-28.

The three point shooting made the difference, that could not quite be overcome. The effects of the double-bye were once more readily apparent in the first half. Pitt was just not as ready at the start of the game. Syracuse had more energy. They were getting rebounds and extra chances. They outrebounded Pitt 18-14 in the first half. Something that might be simply explained as having more chances at defensive rebounds since Pitt shot  35% to their 53%. That wasn’t it.

Even shooting that well, the Orange grabbed 7 offensive rebounds in the first half. Getting the extra chances early coupled with getting very hot late in the first half. Pitt put itself into a hole.

It wasn’t like Syracuse came out and blitzed Pitt. For the first 10 minutes the game was tight. The teams swapped the lead eight times. Then Syracuse and Southerland went red hot shooting and Pitt was the exact opposite.

And even as it appeared that Pitt could at least close the half with a little surge, Syracuse got the friendly bounce on the rim to drop one more 3 before the half. Again, Pitt was a step late and not able to foul early enough when they had one to give. Dixon was visibly pissed in his rather curt halftime interview with Andy Katz.

I have to harp on the first half difference in energy. Syracuse had it, and Pitt looked like a team that was still just getting up to game speed. The Orange were more active, their zone looked much sharper than it has in a few weeks. They were much better at keeping the middle bottled up and not letting Pitt get to soft spots that Pitt typically exploits. Some of that has to do with Pitt having less energy to get to the spots faster, but you do have to give Syracuse credit as well.

In the second half, Pitt dominated the boards. They had a 26-10 advantage in the second half, including limiting Syracuse to 1 offensive rebound. Their energy and effort was clearly there. They just put themselves in too deep a hole.

Syracuse was able to keep Pitt at bay for most of the second half. Even as the shots didn’t fall as frequently, their inside presence was in foul trouble and Pitt’s energy was noticeably higher.

The final five minutes just had Syracuse hanging on, barely. A couple missed free throws, some errant shots, and a turnover on a simply terrible, telegraphed, soft pass kept Pitt from making the comeback.

Okay some individual thoughts.

James Robinson. So he found his shot. Unfortunately, he’s lost some strength on his passes. Right from the start, his passes lacked any umph. They were soft, slow bouncers that led to three early turnovers by him. As much as his well-placed shooting and free throws gave Pitt a chance in the second half, that turnover while down 3 with 25 seconds left was the killer.

Tray Woodall. Not far off what was expected offensively. It seemed that he was just slightly off at times. His biggest error was trying to rush a 3 before the half down 10. If I had to guess, I’d say he was hoping that Pitt could go 2-for-1 on chances to cut into the lead. Just not a smart play there. There wouldn’t have been enough time, even if it went. Pitt wasn’t in any position to rebound, and it led instead to a by Cuse to end the half (with the friendliest bounce possible). Pitt needed a bigger game from him or the next guy.

Lamar Patterson. The numbers look about right: 14 points, 11 rebounds. But he was also just off. Only 1-5 on his 3s. The biggest problem when he and Robinson are on the floor together is that it sometimes seems that they are playing a game of who can refuse to shoot longest.

Talib Zanna. He brought effort and is still scoring. When he was in a funk, he would merely bend for a loose ball. Last night he was diving at them. Wish he was still shooting 60-70% on free throws rather than the 50% he’s been at in Big East play.

Steven Adams. With Dante Taylor’s early foul trouble followed by the profuse bleeding the officials failed to see, Adams got 31 minutes. That’s the high point. Len Elmore was accurately critical of Adams last night. It’s one thing to put a hand up to wave for the ball. It’s something else, to actually put yourself in position to receive the pass and do something with it. Despite all the foul troubles that the Orange big men were in, Adams was largely ineffective for most of the game. He continues to struggle to field passes cleanly inside. Taking too much time to gather and put it up. Again, Elmore was all over him for not going hard at the basket when he did have the ball. Letting himself get stuffed or settling for tossing up the ball at the basket.

Trey Zeigler. Why is he allowed to play? I’m not giving up on the kid for next year, but he cannot be allowed to play 13 minutes at this point. His defense remains atrocious and he is back to being lost and tentative on offense. Give Moore some more minutes at that spot. Or Johnson. I’m even fine with Cam Wright because I know he will play better defense with no worse offense. The last time Zeigler scored more than 2 minutes in a game: February 2 — versus Syracuse.

@Pittisit I agree that Adams is by far the only NBA player on the team and his value is not understood by most fans because they do not understand how the scheme of the opposing team when the presence of a legitimate 7footer with long and athletic skills on the court.

However, I will respectfully disagree with you — this year’s team goes as far as Woodall will lead them. Robinson et al may run the efficient, Dixon style of high efficient basketball that will keep us mostly competitive style that will work against good teams. However, the ability to make clutch 3pt. shots, mid range jumpers, manufactured FTs from drives and streaks when plays break down will be key for beating great teams and fending off those pesky good teams early in the tourney.

Woodall needs to lead this team by example: average 15+ points and 4+assists and >80%FT; Fields or Brandin Knight would have ave this team in the Sweet 16 and with the not-so-strong upper tier of teams, possibly further.

JR will be the man in coming years, but this year, it is up to Woodall.

Comment by Pauly P 03.16.13 @ 10:36 am

I have seen some early round NCAA games where the officials (mainly out west) where hand checks, minor bumps that do not affect a players direction, etc. have killed Pitt’s style. As for ACC refs I have read where they prefer that officiating style. Of course in NBA anything goes including muggings.

Comment by Frank MD 03.16.13 @ 10:42 am

gc – I think Bradshaw was out for that same year, also, and came back in the championship game, but was clearly not himself against Oakland, if my memory serves me. And those Hall of Famers in many cases were not high draft picks, but were drafted and molded into a dynasty, and Chuck Noll played no small part in that.

But I will give you your two super bowls. 4 out of 6 in the premier sports league in the world ain’t bad. I would settle for a 1 year out of 10 trip to the Elite 8. Even the Duquesne of Cincinnati and VCU have made it to the Elite 8 in the last 10 years. Even West by god Virginia.

Point is, Pitt always seems to be on the short end of the hot shooter, the lack of foul calls, the ball just nicking the sidelines, the incredible full court drive and layup, etc. Bad luck, for about 10 years? Maybe, but the odds are against that.

Comment by PO'd Panther 03.16.13 @ 10:56 am

Pauly,I think you are right and I think Krauser would have been a monster with these guys inside.Woodall can have his moments and I don’t think it’s likely he can carry us for 3 or 4 games but can’t rule out the possibility either.

Comment by spiritofsection22 03.16.13 @ 10:58 am

Here is my point about Adams. It certainly is not a question of talent. Actually the kid has so much athletic talent at 7′ it can overcome his lack of experience that is why many scouts said he had the highest ceiling of all freshman in 2013.
Consider your from the other end of the world. You hung out with gangs until you were 16 and had no parental supervision. At 16 someone mentors you teaches you some basketball because of your height. In New Zealand basketball is not popular and you play in front of 50 to 100 people.
You are discovered come to U.S. play in summer camps against the best players in small gyms in front of maybe 100 interested people.
Next you go to Prep school play against quality competition again dominanat but small schools maybe 200 in the stands.
You are a shy kid 4,000 miles from home wanting to please everyone. You come to the big city as the savior. You just want to fit in with your teammeates and please your coach. You do not want to bring attention to yourself.
Holly shit you are now a gladiator in the colosuim in Rome and thousands are expecting you to kill all the lions. You would rather let your teamates do that although deep inside you know they do not have the ability. Also your coach shelters you and you welcome it nad hide behind his excuses/ He asks little and that’s what you give him.
Here is what Adams said before the Syracuse game. For Adams, that came at the start of the game. The New Zealand native was awestruck by the crowd of 20,057 at Madison Square Garden, a good percentage of which was pro-Orange, and failed to dominate the paint in the first half against foul-prone Rakeem Christmas.
“The first half, I guess, we were just taken aback by the crowd, the whole atmosphere,” Adams said. “Well, I was. I’m not going to speak for them, but I was kind of taken away by it.”
It’s not me individually. It’s the whole team,” Adams said. “We have to make that bond. We ain’t going to win a championship if one of us just tries to take it all. If we work as a team, that’s much better than our individual styles.
“Do I think I can bring more? Yeah. I guess so. Honestly, I’m working hard. I’m just trying to do what Jamie says — I’m sorry, Coach Dixon — and do it to the best of my abilities. I’m not trying to change his system. If you look at it, the postseason ain’t time to experiment. You have to go with what works. That’s one of the tough things, trying not to stray away from your system.” coach speak
I understand his anxiety but it does not bother me as much that it hurts the team but that he is not fulfilling the potential and gifts he has.
If he is not getting counseling to help his confidence then the coaching staff is shorting changing the kid and holding back the program because they will go as far as he takes them.

Comment by pittisit 03.16.13 @ 11:54 am

Pittisit,You seem to take every shot at Dixon you can think of.That isn’t to say some of your points don’t have merit just that you are a consistant critic.I trust Dixon to do what is right for Adams and Pitt.I don’t always agree with him either but He knows more than us and I think his integrity is of the highest calibre.It will be extremely interesting to see where this unique and amazing biographical oddity leads both Adams,Pitt hoops and Dixon.My guess it will prove to be a win for all involved.It certainly has been fun so far.Lighten up on the replace Dixon reteric though as it doesn’t become you and is too extreme.

Comment by spiritofsection22 03.16.13 @ 12:08 pm

Sorry, I’m not buying it. Maybe for the first minute, but then the game is on and the crowd is simply a crowd. He has been in 35 games so far– the jitters are hardly an excuse.

I will concede, however, that a poor entry pass for a big man is tremendously limiting to the offensive move when back to the hoop– and certainly has stunted Adams’ maturation as an offensive player. A catchable entry pass in a location that minimizes movement and allows the big to maintain position is critical. I don’t know if I buy that a bigger passer gets it in a better spot, I think it is a matter of technique and delivery. Brandin and LeVance were vertically challenged and they were great at it.

Don’t get me wrong a big has to work to retrieve and recover from sometimes off kiltered passes– but that takes a tremendous amount of lower body mass and desire (reference Blair) for someone to overcome…. But, it is the backcourt’s job to put the ball in a position for a play to happen for the big.

I used to feel sorry for Gary McGhee and Sleepy because Woodall, Gibbs and present company of guards could never put the entry pass in a position for the bigs to make a play. Brandin was the master. LeVance was very good also. Krauser was underrated on that front. This current crop of guards are awful at the entry pass. JR might be pretty good when it’s all said and done.

Comment by Pauly P 03.16.13 @ 2:40 pm

Pauly,I have been crying all year for lob passes,whenever they deliver one we score,or get fouled.Zanna is really challenged at catching and securing a bounce pass.Sometimes I think our guys have weak hands because they really struggle with anything low.Adams has hands like Andre the giant too.

Comment by spiritofsection22 03.16.13 @ 3:38 pm

Last word on Adams 2 points above one I mentioned his problems with nerves and concentration but the other point he made slipped past me.
“Do I think I can bring more? Yeah. I guess so. Honestly, I’m working hard. I’m just trying to do what Jamie says — I’m sorry, Coach Dixon — and do it to the best of my abilities. I’m not trying to change his system. If you look at it, the postseason ain’t time to experiment. You have to go with what works. That’s one of the tough things, trying not to stray away from your system.”
Here Adams is telling us what I suspected Dixon’s game plan does not revolve around his talented 7′ player. From his statement you get the feeling that this is one of his points of frustration and limiting his confidence. He is not blind he knows that now he is far better than his teammates and that he could regain his confidence if his coach showed some in him.
Here again we see why Dixon will never attract elite atheletes or if they come they will leave. The system is paramount (Fraud Graham) not that once in a decade player who can if you build the system (Calipri, Boehiem, Pinto, Calhoun) around your stud when you get one.
Adams would be better off going pro playing back up for a couple of years getting quality coaching and mentoring. Unless as our astute Pitt fan from Dallas pointed out Dixon has to go for Pitt to get further. Of course he needs to be replaced not by a nobody like Brandon Knight but by a nationally respected coach who already attracts top players.
But Pitt has no recruiting base. Does Syracuse, UCONN, Kentucky (SEC only plays football) or Arizona. Quality of life were would you rather live Storrs, Syracuse, Tucson God forbide. Pitt is forttunate to have it’s own Boehiem, Sean Miller (salary 2.5 mill/ Dixon 1.5 mill.) give Miller 2 mill. and a parade down Liberty Avenue welcoming the family home.
Bye Dixon, stay Adams.

Comment by pittisit 03.16.13 @ 3:54 pm

I know gc will criticize for the Chuck Noll analogy. But there is nothing wrong with the “my way or the highway” approach to coaching, if your system works. It worked pretty well for him. Very, very disturbing remarks from Steven Adams. This kid was so ecstatic about being at Pitt, it was refreshing. And now, no surprise if this kid bolts for the NBA. And Gilbert, Johnson, Birch, and a point guard transfer in a one year period. You need to question the kids for sure. They grow up talented in an environment that few can relate to. But at some point, you need to question something else.

Dixon knows how to coach one way. It succeeds against certain teams, doesn’t against others. It stinks in the tournament, CBI aside.

Bad vibrations all around.

Comment by PO'd Panther 03.16.13 @ 8:42 pm

Updated bracketology: Lunardi just bumped Pitt down to a No. 6 seed squaring off against No. 11 California. Just food for thought….

Comment by WorkinOnMyPittness 03.16.13 @ 8:50 pm


Adams was not ready this year to have the offense run through him, as Blair was his freshman year, when Jamie ran the o through him. Also as was stated our current guards are nowhere near as adroit as Knight and Fields were at getting the ball inside. Knight was a magician.

Next year Adams will be the man. He will be ready and Robinson will be too. They have a whole year to prepare.

Do you have special inside information on Sean Miller? Why in the world would he take a pay cut to come to Pitt? I think he is much more likely to end up in the pro’s making 4-5 mil.

PO’d, Only you and a few others wish to spread the “Bad Vibrations”

Comment by gc 03.16.13 @ 9:44 pm

Who appointed you as the thought police? Maybe you Dixon lovers are trying way too hard. Don’t lecture anyone on this board about bad vibrations. Maybe you’re spreading stupid vibrations, huh?

Comment by TonyinHouston 03.16.13 @ 10:35 pm

Tony another Dixon hater heard from. PO’d is the one that said the Bad Vibrations are all around, doesn’t surprise me that there are some emanating from Houston.

By the way I’m self appointed. If disagreeing with those that only bitch and moan makes me stupid so be it.

Comment by gc 03.16.13 @ 11:23 pm

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