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July 17, 2013

Just some of the topics in the basketball notes.

Still no official word on the full men’s basketball schedule. Typical I know, none of the major men’s basketball programs have announced a full schedule yet. And for most, not even the non-con. Instead there are the trickles. Like ESPN announcing some of their non-con tournaments. Including the Legends Classic that features Pitt at the Barclays Center:

Nov. 25: Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech (7:30 p.m., ESPN2); Stanford vs. Houston (9:30, ESPN2)

Nov. 26: Consolation game (7 p.m., ESPN3); Championship game (9:30, ESPNU)

If this goes as hoped — and 5 of the 6 pundits ESPN listed for this think so — Pitt will play Stanford on Tuesday night for the Championship. Important because Stanford is the only other program (aside from Pitt) that will have any expectation of being an NCAA Tournament team. Not to mention being on ESPNU beats being an internet broadcast every time.

As part of this, the four teams also gets two other home games — still not announced — against some low major teams. The write-up on this has Jason King calling for a Texas Tech/Tubby Smith upset of Pitt that no one else sees. He seems to think the players Pitt lost versus the combo of Tubby Smith with a team that “returns the majority of a roster that was showing some positive signs toward the end of last season” is a good recipe. Not sure what those positive signs were. TTU won only 4 conference games all year including a win over WVU in the Big 12 Tournament. Of the other wins, 2 came against TCU. I suppose an OT loss to a bad Texas team at the end of the season was progress comparatively.

I suppose if I were being cynical and suggesting bias, I would note that King as a former Kansas City Star might be a little biased to Big 12 teams. Especially when everyone else looking at the match-ups sees the finals like this:

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Pittsburgh over Stanford
Jeff Goodman: Stanford over Pittsburgh
Andy Katz: Stanford over Pittsburgh
Myron Medcalf: Pittsburgh over Stanford
Dana O’Neil: Pittsburgh over Stanford

Or he could just be going contrarian.

CBS Sports graded the various non-con tourney fields and gave this a rather generous C+:

Grade: C+. Stanford and Pittsburgh can make the NCAAs next year. Texas Tech and Houston? Mmmm … not so much. Pittsburgh is entering the ACC next season, so chances are it might need a strong non-con showing, lest it chance getting beat up in a great league and finding itself on the bubble. Stanford has who could become the most underrated point guard in the nation in Chasson Randle.

Basically not a marquee group, but Stanford-Pitt should be a very competitive game.

An article from Mike DeCourcy talking to Jamie Dixon about coping after Steven Adams left for the NBA. DeCourcy is working from the premise that sudden departures for the pros can hurt a program more than presumed one-and-dones.

Georgia Tech rapidly declined after point guard Javaris Crittenton left, and Paul Hewitt was dismissed for missing the NCAAs three times in four years. Ben Howland’s UCLA program never fully recovered from guard Jrue Holiday’s surprise decision to leave for the draft after the 2009 season. Texas still can’t get off the deck after losing Avery Bradley in 2010 and Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson a year later.

Obviously worst case scenarios.

And Dixon rejects the premise of not being prepared.

Other coaches have been caught by surprise, but he was ready. He would tell prospects Adams would not be in their way when they arrived on campus. However, Adams was telling anyone who asked—and someone in the media always asks, don’t they?—he would be at Pitt four years.

Even if no one believed Adams would last that long, such talk and his middling performances at least suggested a second season was a possibility.

Pitt’s coaches tried to work their D.C. connections to land BeeJay Anya, a 6-8, 255-pound low-post scorer who would up selecting N.C. State. They recruited 6-11 Keanau Post of Southwestern Illinois Community College, but lost him to Missouri. Ultimately Pitt landed Uchebo, who averaged a double-double as a JC freshman but suffered a knee injury last season.

The bigger monkey wrench for this coming year was not Adams going pro, but Malcolm Gilbert transferring to Fairfield so he could play with his brother. That took away a lot of the depth that Pitt appeared to have when of if Adams left for the NBA.

Depending on the health of Uchebo, it looks like Pitt will be playing rather small up front. Talib Zanna is saying all the right things about playing center.

“I’m ready,” Zanna said. “I’m always ready where he put me, the four or five. I’m ready to play. It’s no different, just passing and stuff. If I’m wide open, I’ll take the shot. If they pass it in the post, I’ll try to make something happen.”

But even as he says this, he speaks of playing a little further from the basket.

Zanna’s also looking to add another element to his game. He’s had conversations with head coach Jamie Dixon about playing more inside-out this season, extending his game further from the basket.

“I’ve been working on everything – my weaknesses – so when next season comes, I won’t have any problems,” Zanna said. “I’m just working on every aspect of the game, using my left hand dribbling, shooting. I want to extend my game outside more. That may be the next biggest thing.

“I already talked to Dixon. We had a conversation. He’s going to let me play in and out a lot this year, so it’s something I’m looking forward to. Last year, we had a lot of big’s and a lot of guards, so I had to be down there to do the work. We have small numbers for next season, so I’m going to have to do a lot in the paint, stay inside try to rebound and play defense.”

We will see about his shooting further away from the basket. He was doing a lot of that last year, but once he got into Big East play — against bigger more physical players — his shooting percentage dropped precipitously. Zanna shot only .397 in Big East action, after hitting at a .602 clip in the non-con.

Zanna playing at center will be more of an issue on defense. Zanna has shown a bit of a nasty streak that is important for an inside player, but has lacked a certain toughness to take all the physical play. (Conversely, Dante Taylor was plenty tough but never really had that bit of nastiness that makes the difference when battling inside.)

In a very solid piece about the summer recruiting and coaches that offer self-serving solutions to the issues, there was a bit of a reminder about why Pat Sandle was the one forced out of his coaching job at Pitt (rather than Bill Barton) for Barry Rohrssen.

Until then, the ideas tossed out by coaches, while full of good intentions, will do far more to ease the burden on coaches rather than prospects. A burden, by the way, that is scheduled to get worse in July 2014. Next year all four coaches can be out at once, without worrying about burning recruiting person-days during July. So do not expect this to just be the whining of weary coaches midway through a long recruiting stint. This conversation will stick around, however ineffectual it may be. That is until the pendulum swings back around and basketball coaches are complaining about not having enough opportunities to evaluate.

[Emphasis added.]

Jettisoning Sandle now makes a lot more sense. It was a proactive move ahead of the coming year. Sandle didn’t go out on recruiting trips. This wasn’t a huge deal since the old rules limited schools to no more than 3 coaches on the road at a time. It was a little more work for the head coach and the other two, but not the worst burden.

Now that the rules are changing, schools that have a “bench” coach would find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting. It is no coincidence that longtime UConn bench coach George Blaney retired after this season as well. A teacher/strategist/scout/pure X-O guy is a luxury that can’t be justified if you aren’t getting the talent compared to the other schools.

Finally the New Zealand national team had visions of Steven Adams being a major part of their push to have an impact in the FIBA competition next month. Problem is, a guy with an NBA contract and lots of potential future earning power is more expensive to protect.

The national body today discovered they will need $25,000 to insure Adams and around $10,000 to bring him back should he turn out against Australia in the FIBA Oceania series next month.

While that figure is a lot lower than what was first forecasted, Basketball New Zealand chief executive Ian Potter, concedes that even raising such a relatively small sum is a challenge.

“We’re running on the smell of an oily rag, we’re doing what we can with what we can – it’s a struggle,” Potter told ONE News.

I now have a new favorite phrase to use in place of “running on fumes.”

The money Basketball New Zealand received from High Performance Sport — which is an offshoot of Sport New Zealand — itself a government organization that supports and encourages athletics — has been cut. So now they are looking for some private money or sponsorship deal to make it happen. Considering how high profile Steven Adams is in New Zealand as their first big NBA player — someone will probably step up.

Great stuff during a long and hot summer. Thanx Chas…

Comment by Dan 72 07.17.13 @ 8:48 am

Rumor floating that Zeise might end up switching from the Pitt football beat to basketball.

If true, it looks some thought may have been given as to how Zeise and the Post Gazette could avoid the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest with the younger Zeise giving his verbal.

If it goes down, a good move on their part. They’re to be applauded.

Comment by PittofDreams 07.17.13 @ 9:44 am

Read an article about Clowney of SC being touted for Heisman and how he puts fear in opposing QB’s.
Reminded me of Hugh Green.
So, let the debate begin the next 6 months.
Who was better in college.
Hugh Green or Clowney

Comment by Pitt.Dan83 07.17.13 @ 10:22 am

Does the CBS sportwriter not know that Pitt has played its last umpteen seasons in the BIG EAST?? The only basketball conference outshining the ACC in competition the last several years?! And he is worried about Pitt getting beat up in the ACC. Pitt may very well need a stronger non-con schedule. But not because the ACC schedule is stronger, but because it could very well turn out to be weaker!

Comment by JCE 07.17.13 @ 10:56 am

In a PG article a while back, Dixon was asked about Zanna and said he would be playing MORE at C this coming year. In other words, he did not say he would be STARTING at C or playing ALL his minutes there.

Then, when asked about Young, what he commented on was how BIG Young was (6’9″ and 245… 15 pounds heavier than the slim Zanna), and the fact that he is getting even bigger.

In other words, Dixon may indeed be thinking about starting Young at C, with Zanna starting at PF and then swinging over to C when Young gets a break. With Young inexperienced at the D1 level, might mean just 20 minutes a game and thus Zanna, would be playing 10 minutes a game at PF and 20 at C (minus any time that Uchebo gets, which I don’t expect to me much for a while, and any time Randall gets at C).

The alternative of course, is to switch the roles of Zanna and Young above. Yeah, not that much difference really between C and PF.

In any case, we are probably gonna see something like this and if opens up starter minutes at PF which will probably go to.. Jamel Artis… and also possibly (I don’t like this idea), Lamar Patterson swinging in from SF for bench minutes at PF.

Yeah, we will just have to see what Dixon decides when the time comes.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.17.13 @ 11:58 am

Saw a pic of Patterson (opposite Troutman) this AM. Looks trimmer. True?

Comment by steve1 07.17.13 @ 12:42 pm

Oy vey, Newkirk not Patterson. Never mind!

Comment by steve1 07.17.13 @ 12:44 pm

Pitt’s full basketball schedule normally doesn’t come out till September. I think last year it was the third week in September before it was released.

Comment by milobloom 07.17.13 @ 1:12 pm

JCE, The ACC looks to me to be a lot tougher with the Big East teams joining. I think the ACC as now constituted will certainly at least rival what we have faced previously. I say that not because I think the ACC was in any way superior, but because it looks to me like it could be now. Example no more UConn, Georgetown, or Marquette but now we have Duke and North Carolina to contend with. Looks plenty tough enough to me. I hope we can keep our excellent conference record intact as The ACC has always been gushed on by the media. We handle the Tarfeet and Dukewads a few times and we might enjoy a whole new level of respect. I sure hope so as I have family in Charlotte and they think they own the sport. It would be close to a catastrophe for them to lose to us with any regularity. I like being the underdog giant slayer, and Lord knows there are a few of those over hyped, already legends by reputation alone types hanging around on Tobacco Road. This should be a lot of fun.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 07.17.13 @ 5:52 pm

If Zanna is in at Center, I would think it would be an excellent time to shift if into high gear and run. Zanna would be faster down the court than most opposing center.

And the BigEAST has been head & shoulders over the ACC for the last several years. No comparison, BigEast was getting 7 to 8 bids a year, no problem, while the ACC was getting 3 & 4.

The names of the schools may sound impressive in the ACC, but the teams haven’t been.

Like I posted previously Tony Bennett came into UVA which was way down and the last 2 years they’ve finished in the top half of the ACC.
And he coaches an even more plodding style than JD.

Comment by EMel 07.17.13 @ 7:10 pm

Thought the same when I read the Clowney piece 83. It has me reaching for my 9/1/80 SI with #99 on the cover, along with a black Panther under the title, ” BADDEST CAT IN THE GAME.” Absolutely love the pic on pages 34 & 35, where Hugh is about to lay the wood to a Pedo RB! Mr. Green was the most dominant defensive player ever to play college football. H2Hugh! H2P! UPone

Comment by UPone 07.17.13 @ 7:37 pm

From what I’ve seen/heard…Artis is a candidate for a RS. At least that is what JD has in mind.

A lot of that has to do with Uchebo.

Comment by EMel 07.17.13 @ 7:38 pm

A link off of that recruiting article:

“Path to Sanctions Reduction Starting to Take Shape for Penn State”

Why is this even being discussed. For imo they got off light. And the criminal trials of Spanier, Sgt. Shultz & Curley haven’t yet even begun.

And a former pol (George Mitchell) is the overseer of Ped State’s atheltic programs.
What a joke !

Comment by EMel 07.17.13 @ 7:50 pm

This is out of sync, BUT, Pirate fans should REJOICE in last nite;s performance of the Pirate farmhands from Indianapolis in the TRIPLE AAA All-Star game in Reno. Tony Sanchez(catcher)was the MVP of the 4-3 victory over the Pacific Coast League’s BEST. His 3 run homer was decisive for the victorious International League . Pitchers Ken Johnson and Vic Black (reliefer) also excelled. Rev. George from Columbus. P.. The future looks promising for the Pirates!!!

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 07.18.13 @ 6:35 am

Spirit — I would certainly agree that the ACC competition is seeing an upgrade with the influx of ex-Big East teams. Maybe I overspoke saying the competition could be weaker. My main beef was just that the CBS writer seemed to totally ignore the fact that Pitt had been playing a highly competitive Big East schedule, and succeeding, for over a decade! And that with a less than strenuous non-con schedule. In other words, this writer seems to think that Pitt, for some reason, now needs to be wary of the exact circumstances it has already been encountering for the last 10 years. There are plenty of reasons for Pitt to be wary going into the ACC, but that isn’t one.

Comment by JCE 07.18.13 @ 7:15 am

Young isn’t any bigger around than Zanna. Not sure I’d buy that 245. Unless Uchebo gets healthy or Randall surprises, Pitt is going to be light inside.

And Artis isn’t going to see any time this year…..

I won’t even comment on the Clowney/Green comparision until Clowney dominates all year.

Comment by hugh green 07.18.13 @ 11:30 am

I’m not very knowledgeable of basketball positions, but didn’t Villanova beat us to the Final 4 without a true center? If Pitt has no true big man inside, why can’t they go with 3 forwards?

Comment by Caw Miller 07.18.13 @ 11:47 am

JCE, I agree with you completely, but get used to the media embracing all things ACC concerning hoops. We will be an outsider to the media until we win a few big ones, and then we will be coveted and gushed over as one of their own. Until then though it’s as if we don’t deserve to be there. Better get ready for the Duke fans too, all they want to do is bore you to death with their illustrious history, and od course they are the media darlings. Can’t wait to kick some toucus.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 07.18.13 @ 3:53 pm

CAW, Nova actually had some good success at one point playing 4 guards, but typically that isn’t an effective way to win.

Comment by spiritofsection 22 07.18.13 @ 4:09 pm

If Dixon RSs Artis… maybe he will…. transfer out.

At Greentree the guy has shown he is ready to contribute… and if this continues into training camp… you find a place in the rotation for him.

If Artis is better than Randall… and Dixon really feels a need to RS someone, he should RS Randall.

As far as the idea of RSing Artis, maybe that was before Artis BEEFED UP… going from around 215 to something like 230 now.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.19.13 @ 12:38 pm

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