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February 4, 2014

Good, But Not That Good

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:12 am

This is not a this team sucks post. Nor is it a, this team is so close post.

Pitt has a good basketball team. In any conference, they would be in the upper half. I honestly see them as a top-30 team. Just a top-30 team.

It’s been something strange. Usually a team like this would have a bad loss and a good win mixed in. Instead, Pitt has no bad losses and no really good win. There are nice wins like Clemson and Stanford. Heck, even the sweep of Maryland is decent. But they aren’t big wins.

Conversely, the losses are not killers. All four losses are to teams presently in the top-25. Virginia, Duke and Syracuse are all in the KenPom.com top-10. All four losses are to teams in the RPI top-20.

I don’t know if that reality makes things better or worse.

Two losses came on last second shots. Three of the games came down to the final minute (or second) with 9 points the total difference in those games. Even the Duke loss was very tight for the first 30 minutes before it got blown open.

It’s not like Pitt has gone down in losses like a big expectation team as Ohio State has to good and bad teams. Or Wisconsin losing at home to Northwestern. Nope. Pitt has been able to handle the teams below them with efficiency and minimal drama. It’s the team above them they haven’t been able to match.

Pulling down that defensive rebound off a Cinci drive rather than letting them get that put back. Kicking the ball out or being a little more patient going back up for a shot when Jamel Artis had a fantastic effort to grab that offensive rebound in the final seconds of the Virginia game.

A defensive stop here. A missed bunny there. A couple free throws. The three that rims out. The missed assignment on the defensive rotation. Those little mistakes that happen to any team during the course of a game. Feel so magnified as the margin of those losses have been so close.

Coming off the Virginia loss, it feels worse. It sucks to see that ceiling appear so obvious for the team. To be grimly aware of what the limits are. The added frustration of the Virginia loss is that it makes that ceiling look that much lower.

Pitt’s been good enough to play with some of the best teams. Just not good enough to beat them.





With a healthy DJ, Pitt only has 2 losses on the season and is in first place in the ACC.

Great way to close the recruiting class strong…

Comment by Wardapalooza 02.04.14 @ 5:31 pm

Looks like the only drama as far as LOI day tomorrow is when or if the Wade Freebeck fax rolls in.

Still wish this was a national holiday, for us college football fanatics.

As far as the hoop team goes, not much to add that hasn’t been said. Sweet 16 seems to be ceiling for this team, why does that sound familiar?

Comment by Pap76 02.04.14 @ 5:32 pm

Welp, guess no drama tomorrow after all. Really leaves us thin at QB.

As long as Voytik is the real deal we will be fine with another year to recruit a QB. If not, could really put this program behind.

Assuming with Freebeck out, this leaves this class ranked somewhere in the #40’s…

Comment by Pap76 02.04.14 @ 5:40 pm

Tough break with Freebeck, but if you don’t want to be at Pitt then too bad for you. I agree that he’ll get more PT sooner down at Vandy, and it’s a bit warmer (anybody else see Freebeck’s tweet about “can’t wait to get to Pittsburgh”? It had a picture of a sunsoaked beach and all the fine scenery you see there). We’ll be fine this year with Voytik and Anderson but Bertke better be the real deal or next year we’ll be pretty thin.

Other than that I think HCPC has put together a nice class. Yes it’s only ranked in the 40’s, but he’s restocked both lines, has found some potentially nice sleepers, and reeled in two real skill position gems. More importantly, all of these guys are outstanding young men and excited to come to Pitt. HTP.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 02.04.14 @ 5:48 pm

Atlanta Panther……………Amen!

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 5:58 pm

Penn State’s recruiting class for football getting great reviews. #21.

Pitt #41.
link to sports.yahoo.com

Comment by TonyinHouston 02.04.14 @ 6:12 pm

If the prognosticator on talent evaluation were or react then Denver would be Super Bowl champs. Seattle is filled with a bunch of free agents and late draft picks.

Pitt will be fine. Can’t measure heart and desire. Losing the kid from Florida may not be so bad after all if his heart wasn’t at Pitt. Moving on.

Comment by Pitt fan in Atlanta 02.04.14 @ 6:21 pm

Sorry, TVax, no way in hell is this team a 3 seed. Jamie’s propensity to vanish like Mostella will forbid any seed higher than five at best.

Comment by TonyinHouston 02.04.14 @ 6:22 pm

Who knows, there may be more upside with Bertke anyway. He’s a small school kid but he’s also a 3 star and they will be able to bring him along behind Voytik. Next year they’ll be recruiting more quarterbacks.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 6:29 pm

Tony, no need to worry, Penn State class averages 3.17 Pitt class 2.87. Not real sure what that will mean on the football field, but in a couple years when King James walks across the Allegheny and onto Heinz field I guess we’ll find out. Hail to Pitt

Comment by cas myzlinski 02.04.14 @ 6:59 pm

Winning games scoring 50-55 points is never going to work and that is where Pitt is right now. There is no question that this team has no one who can get hot (even if its only 1 out of 5 games) like DJ could and the impact is being felt by LP and TZ. Teams are packing in their defense and defying CW or JR to hit an outside shot. Until someone steps up from medium to long range on a consistent basis, Pitt will may only be able to split the rest of their games.
LP has no room to penetrate with the attention he’s getting and that has impacted both LP’s outside shooting and TZ’s points from the easy baskets he got when LP found him open on drives.
I appreciate that Newkirk is a high risk gamble, but I’ve seen his shooting from the outside as the only potential opportunity as compared to CW and JR so I’d give him more time, especially at the BEGINNING of games to see if he can be effective when the pressure is less.
Without Freebeck, Pitt is so razor thin at QB next season that an injury to Voytik could mean a dramatic drop in wins. Voytik’s game is not conducive to playing a full season without an injury or two, so keep you fingers crossed that they can get 10 full games out of him.
PC has got to save a schollie for a JC QB transfer doesn’t he? Are there 1 or 2 worth getting?

Comment by Taxing Matters 02.04.14 @ 7:11 pm

I am lot less disturbed at losing Freebeck (who is not a can’t miss recruit) than losing real good prospects from our backyard.

Comment by wbb 02.04.14 @ 7:15 pm

I guess wasn’t impressed with Russell Wilson’s game, and the line Chryst is building. Wait till he plays Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, A&M, I hope he has a good pair of legs and eyes in the back of his head.

He is probably afraid that Voytik will play for the next three years, a reasonable expectation after the bowl performance.

We get Jeter they get Freebeck, not a fair exchange.

Comment by gc 02.04.14 @ 7:20 pm

Taxing Matter, as it stands right now, Bertke is every bit the prospect that Freebeck is. Of the 3 scouting services linked on the right hand side of this site, 2 of them rate Bertke higher.

Certainly, Freebeck may prove to be better but if Voytik gets hurt, we are in trouble with or without Freebeck

Comment by wbb 02.04.14 @ 7:20 pm

@Tony in Houston, “Jamie’s propensity to vanish” Your clever little slap at JD is very misleading as past tournament performance is not a factor considered by the selection committee in seeding. We all would have been thrilled to sign on for a 5 seed this past summer which indicates that maybe Coach Dixon deserves credit for giving us an over achieving team. Thought a clever wit like you would appreciate the clarification. Meanwhile I don’t think what happened to Mostella is at all amusing either. Too bad for us but a tragedy for him. I wish there was a way he could be responsible enough to claim the fruits of his talent rather than see them wasted. A very very sad situation indeed.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 7:20 pm

We still have Trey Anderson who should be a decent back-up, he has been in the system, and I think he will be a senior.

Comment by gc 02.04.14 @ 7:26 pm

Unfortunately, the depth is not there due to Adams, Birch, John Johnson, and JJ leaving. Add to that the injury to DJ.

We are extremely fortunate to have a very strong freshman class.

With LP and Zanna graduating, next year will be even more challenging.

Comment by gc 02.04.14 @ 7:34 pm

I think we’ll be fine. I think as commented above, Voytik’s performance against Bowling Green scared the shit out of Freebeck. The reality, baring injury or Dan Marino type talent, is that freshman quarterbacks typically get redshirted.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 7:36 pm

Voytik looked to me to be nimble enough to protect himself. I hope this years O line decides to join him in those attempts as well.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 7:43 pm

Any way you cut it, the loss of Freebeck is BIG. Sure hope that Adam Bertke grasps the consequences of Freebeck’s apparent decision. Get ready to play Adam you’re just a couple plays away from taking the field come September!

Comment by Dr. Tom 02.04.14 @ 7:44 pm

GC, Yes JJ Moore leaving and Durand Johnson getting hurt certainly changed the depth issue, for the Panthers. The plus side of that is that Artis, Young, Jones, and Newkirk will get more minutes and hopefully be much further along come tournament time. There’s little we can do about the players that are no longer available. As the Pitt freshmen get more and more minutes in conference play, hopefully they will make fewer mistakes. All and all, the Panthers are in much better shape than any of us could have reasonably expected.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 7:45 pm

it would help if we could really get the running attack in gear CONSISTENTLY next year

Comment by wbb 02.04.14 @ 7:47 pm

I like most others here have issues with Jaimie but I remain very glad that he is the Pitt coach

Comment by wbb 02.04.14 @ 7:49 pm

@@@@@

Freebeck in all probability would RS next
Year then compete with Bertke to backup
Voytik. Need at least on QB in 15. So much
for the early commitment process. That
said the kid has a right to attend the school
of his choice.

l

Comment by JR 02.04.14 @ 7:51 pm

Dr. Tom, Whether or not the loss of Freebeck is big deal or not, he’s gone. No use crying over spilt milk. You move on to the next play. It was just like last year when Robert Foster, who everyone thought was going to be a Pitt guy, decided to go to Alabama. So went to Alabama and never got on the playing field. Tyler Boyd chose Pitt, started as a freshman and won accolades for his outstanding play and all ACC honors. I couldn’t care less about local players who go elsewhere. I care about the players who choose to play at Pitt.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 7:55 pm

USA Today pegs Pitt as a six seed in the East:
link to usatoday.com

Comment by TonyinHouston 02.04.14 @ 7:56 pm

spiritofsection22:
Glad to see you back. Latest six seed, at least according to USA Today.

Propensity of vanish = never beating a higher seeded team (and losing to lower seeds when #1).

That’s not Jamie bashing. It’s fact.

Comment by TonyinHouston 02.04.14 @ 7:59 pm

How badly do we need a win against Syracuse? (For many reasons, not just rankings.)

Comment by Lou 02.04.14 @ 8:06 pm

@gc, I understand your concern but disagree with your statement ,” next year will be even more challenging.” This summer fans looking ahead couldn’t imagine Patterson, Zanna or Wright playing at the level that they are now performing. We lost Woodall (leading scorer), Adams (greatest potential), Moore , Zeigler, and Sleepy too. We had Robinson,a declining Zanna (changing position), unimpressive Patterson , and not very good Wright and some transfers and some freshman. The cupboard looked bare. Next year we have solid guards the Junior version of Robinson, a senior Cam Wright, Jones with a healthy shooting hand and Nuke with some experience. Don’t be surprised if Jones, Wright and Newkirk are formidable. Jones alone could be a Patterson/ Wannamaker clone and Nuke has amazing potential. Artis and Young both have shown they belong and they won’t be half as confused come this time next year. We have another group of quality freshman and the sophomore transfer Jeter inbound. We have half a season to fill the center slot by developing Randall, or Uchebo. With Slice on the the hunt for a transfer or a JC center. I think we are WAY WAY ahead of last year not more challenged as you suggested.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 8:13 pm

We don’t need Freebeck, and we definitely don’t need a transfer rent-a-starter. Voytik will be going into his third year in the system. I’d much rather take our chances with him and know that he has even more time to play and grow in the system.

Comment by HbgFrank 02.04.14 @ 8:15 pm

@gc, Not to mention Johnson back. We are so loaded I forgot him.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 8:16 pm

Freebeck hurts b/c he plays against the best competition in the US. Those kids traveled to NOLA and played a nationally televised game against John Curtis. The level of 3 Stars and 4 Stars alone essentailly gives Freebeck an almost RS b/c of the speed he is used to playing against. The Bertke kid is playing small ball against 4H cows and horses. I joke but 1A ball in Michigan doesn’t get me to terribly excited. He may be great but has to spend 2 years to get caught up on speed, etc. Freebeck already has that experience. For us to say that Voytik is a going to be a stud is very premature. He played 1 good half against Bowling Green from the MAC. Yes they had a Nationally Ranked Defense… They still play in the MAC. I hope Voytik doesn’t miss a beat but the jury will be out until he at least starts 4-8 games so to speak. I still think the ACE in the hole is Trey. Mark my words he will play in 2014 whether it be b/c of an injury or a benching to Voytik. Just my 2 cents and a positive version of it. Excited for Fall and going to watch Pitt at FIU and UM. Now come on Pitt Hoops and Dixon… Let’s go and earn it. I want a final four or I’m getting back on my get rid of Dixon and replace him with Archie Miller Rant. LOL

Comment by Upittbaseball 02.04.14 @ 8:23 pm

Lastly, The Freebeck thing hurts because we once again can’t make any in roads in the state of Florida and in particular South Florida…. Broward and Miami-Dade County.

Comment by Upittbaseball 02.04.14 @ 8:25 pm

@tonyin Houston, You said JD’s vanishing will prevent us from getting a 3 seed. Previous performance is not a seeding factor no matter how accurate your left handed slap is concerning tournament losses. It doesn’t effect seeding period. You had it half right and all wrong. The committee doesn’t consider previous tournament history in seeding so you sliding it into the conversation smells of Dixon bashing.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 8:26 pm

HbgFrank, I’m with you on this one. Screw him. Voytik is the guy and Trey Anderson is behind him. It will take time to get any freshman ready and up to speed. There aren’t many freshmen playing Division 1 football that do much of anything as freshman.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 8:30 pm

Emel……I was just wondering how your on here so much…hope business is booming!!..h2p

Comment by Keith 02.04.14 @ 8:30 pm

@Upittbaseball, You are right to notice the importance of attracting Southern Florida talent. The best way to do that is to have success against them on the field. I’m not so sure this Freebeck kid backing out doesn’t have more to do with late arriving opportunities at Vanderbilt than anything we could control.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 8:36 pm

@TonyinHouston

If we do what I expect, we go in 27-7 and at a 4 seed.

If everything breaks right we have a shot at 3 seed and if it goes “left” we are a 9 seed.

Let’s beat Miami and start back on the right track toward the Syracuse rematch.

Comment by TVax 02.04.14 @ 8:38 pm

Trey will never see the field,nother qb coming,the closer May be a hoser

Comment by Paul Shannon 02.04.14 @ 8:44 pm

This is still(potentially) a VERY VERY GOOD Pitt team. Confidence by them and coaching will determine this season from here.

And I say again, it is Zanna who is the key. As he performs, so goes this team.

Comment by TVax 02.04.14 @ 8:47 pm

Nice to see you back Spirit, as usual I hope you are right. I do think there is a chance. But we still don’t have a guard that can score, unless Newkirk has a breakout year and we don’t have an above the line big man. So where are the points going to come from?

I am not saying we will be terrible, but we need to replace the point production of Patterson and Zanna. We will need a big leap from Jones or DJ. Both will be recovering from surgery. If Slice finds an above the line center that helps immensely. A lot of ifs.

All that being said, I don’t see us challenging the powers that be, Duke, Syracuse, Louisville, and NC will be back.

By the way, you did say that VA would be no problem, and that we were a top ten team.

I appreciate your positive attitude and enthusiasm.

However, your blue and gold glasses are just a little rosier than mine.

Comment by gc 02.04.14 @ 8:51 pm

Paul – I think Trey is better than Voytik right now. Voytik played a 1/2 in one game.

Comment by Upittbaseball 02.04.14 @ 8:52 pm

Spirit – I think his heart and his parent’s was in the SEC and Vandy is a great school as well. Who knows. I think he wants to go in G’Ville and beat the Gators to be honest.

Comment by Upittbaseball 02.04.14 @ 8:54 pm

The way I see it, if Zanna is wincing and wiping his eye(UVA game and several conf. games last year) or down on the court writhing in pain, we go nowhere.

If he toughs it out through eye pokes and then throws a well placed elbow back at the opponent(as Dejuan Blair might do) or gets up from an ankle roll and brushes off the pain and leads this team, we can go far. We need Zanna the Warrior, not Talib the mouse from here on out.

Comment by TVax 02.04.14 @ 8:55 pm

And lastly, we do have a not so secret weapon that can be used at any time necessary.

The dreaded DJ headband!!! They should be pulled out and worn at key times the rest of this season.

Comment by TVax 02.04.14 @ 8:58 pm

@Tvax, When the Zman went to the lockeroom Sunday I was worried that we were cooked. He was gone so long that I feared the worst and when he came back out I said my thank yous to the Great Scorer in great earnest. VERY VERY GOOD might be stretching things a little but when we are at our best we are very good and capable of beating every team I have seen play this year. The team that thumped Clemson can play with Florida or Arizona. We need to figure out how to bring our best when it counts.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.04.14 @ 9:01 pm

I find myself having to agree with UPitt, the loss of Freebeck hurts. A high profile QB from FL was a big get.

Need to find a better one next year.

Should have wore the headbands for all home games.

The team did seem to have less emotion than Duke or VA.

Comment by gc 02.04.14 @ 9:04 pm

My threshold for v v good is a top 15 team and we were very close to that 3 games ago.

Comment by tvax1 02.04.14 @ 9:13 pm

GC – You may turn to stone. Haha

Comment by Upittbaseball 02.04.14 @ 10:26 pm

I too find myself agreeing with UPitt. At day one, Freebeck had to be ahead of Bertke. Time will tell and you never know who will pan out, but I’d much rather have both of them than just one. 3 QBs on the roster is not enough, especially when none have experience.

I’m also not willing to anoint Voytik the next Marino based on two quarters. Freebeck carried the Florida banner, and we all agree Pitt needs to make in roads in the Sunshine State. Lastly, it just blows to lose a kid at the 11th hour who has been committed since June.

I don’t blame the staff on this one. I think they gave him a pretty hard sell, he just changed his mind. But this a fairly significant loss.

Comment by Iron Duke 02.04.14 @ 10:35 pm

Iron Duke, No one likes to left at the altar. There are a lot of 3 star quarterbacks out there who aren’t considered good enough prospects, to be recruited by the top programs. Who are we kidding, Freebeck isn’t Dan Marino. He went to Vanderbilt, not Alabama. Flipping one day before national signing day, he really screwed the Pitt staff, who this late in the game have no other options until next year. He made a verbal commitment to Pitt back in July and then waited until the very last day to change his mind. Yes,lots of luck trying to beat Florida.

Comment by Justinian 02.04.14 @ 11:25 pm

So Freebeck…

– watches a Chryst QB win the superbowl,
-sees a Pitt program being build around pro style offense, offensive line,etc.
– has a NFL players as position coaches at QB and WR…

BUT, he will have to compete for his job with an existing QB and another coming in. RS one year, play in 2-3…

So, go to south, play for a defensive coach desperate for a quarterback now… and be in the lower tier of the SEC…

Good luck to the kid and enjoy college… but if he chooses not be here given the above… we definitely don’t want him here.

Program just has to start winning more games and then being in the ACC and playing in the south will reap its proper reward.

H2P

Comment by Pittscript 02.04.14 @ 11:53 pm

“I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond, that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.”

John D. Rockefeller

Comment by Pitt Dad 02.05.14 @ 12:20 am

Script. Are you talking about Bollinger as a NFL QB?

Comment by Upittbaseball 02.05.14 @ 1:33 am

Iron Duke, I repeat .. 2 of the 3 scouting services linked on the site have Bertke ahead of Freebeck. But the main thing is neither are a sure thing and neither are ready for D1 FB this coming year.

I’m not the person who automatically puts a guy down who rejected Pitt, but in fact, I had posted on this site previously that Bertke was considered a better prospect by many. That’s certainly not to say he will be, but I don’t necessarily see why Freebeck HAS to be better.

Comment by wbb 02.05.14 @ 7:28 am

wbb, I hear you, and agree Bertke could be > Freebeck in the end. I’m saying right now, based on level of competition and interest from other D-I schools that I agree with UPitt – Freebeck is likely ahead. If Bertke works hard and has ability, maybe he surpasses him.

My biggest concern is depth and risk. I’d rather have both and hope that one blossoms, vs. all eggs in one basket. Really need a good QB prospect in ’15 now.

Comment by Iron Duke 02.05.14 @ 8:39 am

The other thing that bothers me is a guy that makes a commitment in July, then gets swept of his feet by another suitor just before the prom. Brings back nasty old memories.

Comment by gc 02.05.14 @ 8:48 am

Our hoop team has slipped a couple notches the last week. We would be wise to check that trend tonite and catch the slide before it becomes problematic. Miami isn’t a walkover but with a good effort they are certainly beatable. I would love to see us take control in the first half and cruise to a nice safe win.HTP

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.05.14 @ 9:46 am

GC, As to my top 10/ Virginia no problem statements- The team that played Clemson was at least top 10 and without the injury to Zanna and the sorry officiating we would have handled Virginia with relative ease. Now we look more like top 25 and Virginia is still no problem if we are healthy. I hope we play them again at the conference tournament because I don’t think they could beat us again.As far as your “not seeing us challenging the powers that be UNC, Louisville, Syracuse, and Duke. We weren’t expected to be a challenge to any of them this year. Last time I looked we are doing way better than 2 of those teams and capable of challenging the other 2. I bet next year will be about the same. Generally no one expects us to compete yet we almost always do. We will have a deep, experienced, and talented backcourt next year. Our guards will be the envy of the conference. I think a healthy Jones and Johnson would be making big strides this year and by adding a more experienced Newkirk to our 2 returning starters with Robinson and Wright. We could have the best and deepest backcourt ever at Pitt next year.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.05.14 @ 10:14 am

Gc, Who really is top 10 anyway. I know we can hang with Cincinnati,bet we can handle Creighton, and wouldn’t panic if we had to play San Diego St. I am looking forward to getting another shot or two at the Orange. I don’t think that makes me a wide eyed optimist either.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.05.14 @ 10:26 am

Tonite’s games that can help Pitt’s RPI/seeding:

Albany over UMass-Lowell (Albany should win at home)

Duquesne over George Washington (Not likely)

Lehigh over Army (Lehigh on the road, might be close)

Youngstown State over Wright State (@Wright State, expect a close game)

Fresno State over Air Force (Air Force should win at home)

Stanford over California (It will be tough for Stanford to get a road win here)

Pitt must win in Miami.

Comment by xfmrman 02.05.14 @ 11:17 am

Latest line @ +5.5

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.05.14 @ 12:17 pm

Uppitt,trey has noway no how the skills ,he is great kid that will just be on the team

Comment by Paul Shannon 02.05.14 @ 6:27 pm

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