Final Pitt game of 2013. Final non-con game.
1 pm start time. No real TV, just the ESPN3.com internet feed.
It’s been ten days since Pitt last played.
They are going up against the Albany Marmadukes. Albany is not particularly good. A 6-6 record which includes beating the New Jersey Institute of Technology (twice?). They have lost to Duquesne. Their best win would be taking out… Brown.
The head coach at Albany met Jamie Dixon back when he was coaching a JUCO program and Dixon was still a Pitt assistant.
Jamie Dixon did a double take when four Albany players 6-foot-8 or taller passed him while walking through Petersen Events Center.
The Pitt coach knew that the Great Danes have an international flavor, with four players from Australia, one from Denmark and one from the Republic of Georgia.
What Dixon didn’t expect was for Albany’s players to appear as tall in person as they are on the roster.
“I’m surprised by their size,” Dixon said. “I saw some of them walking through, and sometimes you see guys listed at 6-8 and they’re not really 6-8, but this team looks like it.”
That’s a cause for concern for Dixon, who has spent the 10 days between games and past five days of practice drilling it into the Panthers’ heads that they must improve their rebounding.
But that size doesn’t translate to defense or rebounding. Albany is simply not a good rebounding team.
That meant he could give the players four days to go home for Christmas and spend some time at home. It also meant he could have five good days of practice before their final non-conference game of the season.
Dixon said the time gave the players a chance to get rested and spend some time with their families. The long stretch of practices enabled the players to get a lot of work on the areas they need to shore up.
“The thing that was different for us was these five days of practice at this time of the season, I don’t remember ever having that before,” Dixon said. “I don’t think we really have had it before so we kind of looked at it as a mini-training camp or a boot camp where we could get after some things.
“We did a lot of live stuff and we were able to get after it. I don’t know that we did enough live stuff going into this year, but we really wanted to and it was good. It was good for us on things we need to improve on defense and rebounding, specifically blocking out.
“We went hard, we had so many games in that stretch [in December] so we didn’t have a lot of good long practice days, but we were able to do that here in the last four days.”
About the only concern for the Pitt coaches is keeping the team focused on this game. It would be very easy to start looking ahead to next week and the start of the ACC slate.