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January 27, 2014

Open Thread: Duke-Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 6:15 pm

On Saturday I turned on the noon game on ESPN which was Miami-Duke. My 6-1/2-year old son came into the room to see what I was watching.  He’s at that stage where he is trying to watch some sports with me. He looked at the TV and with an exasperated sigh turned to me and said, “Really, Dad? Duke is on TV, again?”

I was so proud of him.


Slight anticipation. Bit of excitement. Hard ticket to get.

Pitt got through their road game with Maryland. Duke throttled Florida State on the road.

Briefly, I’ll get some thoughts from the Maryland game out of the way, first.


January 25, 2014

6pm on ESPN2.

Tonight is a father-daughter night for me. It’s a “Cinderella Ball” that my daughter’s school has, so I have to set the DVR and hope the Western Ky-Louisiana-Lafayette game doesn’t cut too far into the start of the game. It’s probably wrong that that there’s a small part of me hoping that snow we’ve been getting today in the Cleveland area cancels the event. Especially since in another year or two it will be about some boy trying to take her to a dance.


Maryland Inside and Out

Filed under: Basketball,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 10:24 am

I’ve written at least once this week, that I don’t think Pitt will look past Maryland. If for no other reason than the amount of friends and family that the players will have at the game. Whether it turns out those players press and try to do too much because of said friends and family are in attendance is something entirely different.

Coach Dixon doesn’t seem to be pushing that warning in public, either. Instead talking about the focus they have shown.

He said one of the things that has impressed him the most about this team is, despite having five new players (four freshman and a transfer) playing large roles, the Panthers have been mature and task-oriented and he doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.

“We have been a very focused group, we have been able to key on the next opponent,” Dixon said.

“I think the guys will be prepared and know what to do, but we have to execute as well. We’re not going to be surprised by things and we should have a better handle on where they are trying to score from and how they are trying to attack us.”

I will be curious about the crowd at College Park. This has been a disappointing season so far, and they aren’t playing one of their old foes one last time before heading to the Big Ten.


January 24, 2014

Thoughts on Playing AT Maryland

Filed under: ACC,Basketball,Bloggers — Mike Zimmerman @ 6:22 pm

Good evening all.

My name is Mike, and I’m happy to announce that I’ll be joining Chas as a writer here at Pitt Blather. I’ve spent many years here, first as a casual reader and in more recent years as an active poster. You guys are a vital part of this great community, and I look forward to continuing the standard of excellence that the Blather has come to know.

As always, I will remain active in the comments section. Ultimately, the backbone of this site is the tremendous dialogue, and I wouldn’t give that part up for anything. If you like what I have to say, that’s great; if you don’t like what I have to say, that’s great, too.

Now, with introductions out of the way…


Assorted Football Things For the Weekend

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 3:03 pm

Okay, so Aaron Donald continued to dominate the Senior Bowl practices. Hey, another honor:

Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been selected as the Most Outstanding Overall Player during Reese’s Senior Bowl practices, the top honor in the Alabama Power Practice Awards.

“Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle,” said Mike Smith, the coach of the Atlanta Falcons who is guiding the North team this week. “I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s short in stature by NFL standards and doesn’t maybe have all the measurables, but he’s one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He’s done a very nice job both in the running and the pass game.”

Last year, Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher was selected by NFL scouts as the Most Outstanding Overall Player during practices for the Senior Bowl, and he went on to be the first player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.

As I have said, Donald will take a hit on his draft status at the NFL Combine as teams get hung up on measurables, but I believe he won’t get past the second round.


First The Terps, Then Big Monday

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:32 am

I really am not worried about the Pitt players looking past Maryland tomorrow evening. Simply because too many Pitt players are going to have family and friends at the game.

The Panthers have four players from the Washington-Baltimore area and a fifth, Lamar Patterson, is from Lancaster, which isn’t that far away.

“There will definitely be a lot of family and friends coming to the game for us,” said Pitt point guard James Robinson, who is from Mitchellville, Md., and went to DeMatha Catholic, which basically is in the shadow of Maryland’s campus.

“A lot of us are going home or at least close to home, so we’re looking forward to seeing a lot of family and friends. It is going to be a fun atmosphere to play in. We’re expecting a rowdy crowd.”

Beyond Robinson, the Panthers have three players — Jamel Artis, Aron Nwankwo and the injured Durand Johnson — from Baltimore, one of Pitt’s prime recruiting areas.

This game matters and is something they circled.


January 23, 2014

2014 Schedule Thoughts and Etc.

Filed under: ACC,Football,Schedule — Chas @ 8:39 am

Here’s the one thing that must be kept in mind for the 2014 schedule. There was no way it was going to match 2013. Not with the excitement over the ACC in the first year. Not with FSU and ND on the home slate. To say nothing of the Labor Day extravaganza to kick things off. So, if that was your benchmark, you will be disappointed.

It’s a better schedule for Pitt, though. Iowa is a solid non-con. There was a bit of shifting and scrambling with the non-con because of the changes with the ACC and ND. So, that removed the road game to South Bend that was supposed to take place.

As noted, the bye weeks work out a lot better.

The Thursday night game at home with VT is a mixed bag, personally. Thursday night is a showcase night and Pitt should be happy to get to host a big one like that against the Hokies. The flip side is not many out-of-towners like myself can attend the game.


January 22, 2014

ACC 2014 Is Now

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Football,Schedule — Chas @ 3:08 pm


Sure, Pitt. I get it. You don’t leak. Not like FSU. Not like Duke. Not even Syracuse. No. You have to keep it under wraps until the 3pm time. Fine. You don’t want to share early. I get it.

You miss that early bounce and overreactions. Let people wait, only knowing that Pitt will go down to Miami for Thanksgiving weekend.

So we waited. The interminable minutes ticked by.


Pitt Takes It Out On Clemson

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:39 am

We’ve seen Pitt beat down teams before. We’ve seen them dismantle bad teams like DePaul. We’ve seen Pitt have their way with good teams like Syracuse and UConn in the past. But this. This was abuse against a good team unlike many I’ve seen.

Pitt didn’t run them off the floor or grind them down. They just treated them like they were mannequins they had to move around and through. It was almost like watching Pitt run a drill where they would move the ball and work it around for a set time (roughly 30 seconds) and then finish the play. Over and over again.

Looking at the box score, you know what really jumps out at me? The minutes played by the starters. Zanna scored 22 points but only played 21. minutes. Patterson 26, Wright 25, Young 21. With the bulk coming in the first half. The only reason Robinson played 29 minutes was because Newkirk couldn’t stop fouling. Pitt was able to do this to Clemson the entire game.


January 21, 2014

Open Thread: Clemson-Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 3:30 pm

First up this game is not an easy one to watch outside Pennsylvania and the Carolinas. The syndicated ACC Network is only showing up in a handful of markets on the weekdays (but at least Happy Valley gets to watch some good basketball). So the other viewing options are online at or if you have the ESPN FullCourt package (hooray for a wife that forgot to cancel the package!).

It’s an 8 pm start, so that feels a little awkward.

As a brief aside, it sure seems like the early returns on ability to watch non-ESPN aired ACC games is inferior to the old Big East. Say what you will, and I know we have said plenty, but at least the Big East got their syndicated football and basketball games on wider reaching sports channels.

I’ve convinced myself that this is going to be a very tough game for Pitt. Clemson has only one inexplicable loss — at Auburn. After that, their other losses were to good teams like FSU and UMass and at Arkansas — which is one of those bad road/great home teams.



A Team Looking To Make A Statement

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:23 am

Before taking the cash grab that DePaul desperately tossed his way, Oliver Purnell could be considered nothing short of a turnaround wizard. He was the one that made Dayton something that mattered so that Brian Gregory could succeed there. He created success, excitement and even expectations at Clemson.

Clemson had to replace Purnell, and it sure looked at the time like they got a good one from the mid-majors ranks in Brad Brownell. Plucked from Wright State, Brownell made his name at UNC-Wilmington as an assistant and head coach there. He had turned down other jobs before taking Clemson. A guy familiar with recruiting in the Carolinas and in the ACC footprint. Considered a very good Xs-and-Os coach. Clemson looked like a program ready to build on its success.

But it hadn’t worked out that way in the first three years. Diminishing returns each year, and very low expectations this year — picked to finish 14th in the 15-team ACC.


January 20, 2014

Signing day is still a couple weeks away, but it looks like Pitt is finished with the 2014 class even as the 2015 class recruiting is already underway.

The final two verbals over the weekend were not a huge surprise. Jamal Davis and Hez Trahan were Pitt leans and expected to commit this past weekend on their official visit. And that’s exactly what happened.

Pitt landed a pair of commitments for its 2014 class Saturday, securing verbal pledges from Canton, Ohio, linebacker Jamal Davis and Philadelphia defensive end Hez Trahan.

Davis is rated as a three-star prospect by and chose Pitt over offers from Louisville, Indiana and Minnesota, among others.

“Just committed to Pitt!!!” Davis announced on his personal Twitter page.

Davis is the third linebacker in Pitt’s 2014 class, joining Cocoa, Fla., prospect James Floston, Jr., and Fox Chapel senior Quintin Wirginis.

Trahan had scholarship offers from James Madison and Massachusetts. He is the third defensive end in the 2014 class.

Davis is a 3-star recruit by every recruiting site.


January 19, 2014

Not There Yet

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 10:25 am

Missed bunnies, missed free throws and some unkind iron.

Those are the top three reasons for me that led to Pitt’s 5-point loss yesterday. The officiating sucked, but it sucked both ways so I consider that a wash.

The freshmen looked like freshmen for large portions of this game. This was their first game in a truly hostile road situation (sorry, I can’t count NC State or GT when they were dead or half-empty crowds). It showed at points, and they will learn.

I can’t say I expected Pitt to win this one going into it. I can’t say I’m surprised at the loss. I am, though, disappointed.

What I am not, though, is frustrated.

This team is better than I expected it to be this year. They are playing better than expected. They have proven adaptable and play at different paces and styles.

This is not a moral victory thing. This is simply, not hanging the head and gnashing teeth. The chances were there, they didn’t take them all, but there’s a rematch in February at the Pete against the Orange. There are a lot more games to play.

(Oh, dammit, I just agreed with a Ron Cook column.)


January 18, 2014

The rest of the ACC must have such mixed feelings right about now. On the one hand it isn’t Duke-UNC sucking all the oxygen out of the conference as seems to happen every year. But, here are the two teams from the Big East firmly at the top of the conference. The only ranked ACC teams besides Duke. Everyone is mocking the rest of the ACC for being like the Big Ten in football — more reputation/name recognition than what the teams are doing on the court.

The gametime is 4pm on ESPN. Good announcing crew with Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke. The Carrier Dome should be near electric for this game. This is amazing.

Since 2001, Pitt owns a 14-5 record vs. Syracuse. Since Jamie Dixon became head coach, Pitt is 10-4 vs. Syracuse and 5-1 vs. the Orange in Syracuse. In games played against SU at the Carrier Dome, Pitt has won four of the last five and six of the last eight meetings. That span also included a five-game Pitt win streak vs. Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.


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