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.
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.