March 1, 2014

Open Thread: Pitt-ND at Joyce

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:49 am

2 pm on ESPN2. Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke on the call.

Even if Pitt wasn’t struggling and a bit beat up, I’d be worried about this game. Losing five straight to a team will do that to you.

It just seems that much in the same way Pitt matches up well and knows what to do against Syracuse, Notre Dame does the same to Pitt.

“Whenever we play against Pittsburgh, it’s one of our biggest games of the season,” said Atkins, who leads Notre Dame in assists and steals. “I don’t think it’s going to be any different, another tough game on Saturday.”

Asked about Notre Dame’s success against the Panthers — Pitt hasn’t beaten Notre Dame since January 2009 and hasn’t won in South Bend since March 2005 — Atkins credits coach Mike Brey’s game plan.

Last season, Notre Dame limited the Panthers to 34 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle, 40-25. No Pitt player scored more than 11 points.

“We do a good job of scouting them and trying to take away their easy looks for their better players,” said Atkins, who contributed 10 points and seven assists in last year’s victory. “Also, limiting them on the backboards because they usually beat up teams offensive rebounding.”

Their defense has been solid, but the problem has been dealing with their offense. The Irish aren’t too far from Pitt’s adjusted tempo, but when they play Pitt they take it to the next level down.

The dreaded “burn” offense.

That means long possessions, running sets and grinding the game to a snail’s pace.

Dixon said the Irish could use that burn strategy again and if they do, the Panthers can’t get frustrated by it and instead need to play it possession by possession with great team defense.

“When I use the word patience, I mean defensive patience, as well,” Dixon said. “Offensively, we are looking to attack and get transition baskets, but at the same time if they are back and they are playing solid defense, and against good teams that is what is going to happen, you have to have the ability to wear people down and grind them out and that is what we need to get back to.

“It seems like they are running motion and similar stuff and we have to keep [Eric] Atkins in front of us. I think our defense has improved down this stretch of games and if you look at the numbers, it would bear that out.”

I would like to believe Pitt has learned and will be able to handle it. Then I look at the fact that Pitt has three freshmen who play key minutes and have never been through it.

Even without Jerian Grant, they have decent perimeter shooters that can hurt Pitt. Eric Atkins, Pat Connaughton and Demetrius Jackson all shoot better than 36% from outside the arc.

Really, offense hasn’t been a problem for ND this year. It’s been their defense. They don’t like to play it too often.

Part of why their slow grind offensive pace has worked so well is not simply that it wears on Pitt and players get impatient and mistake prone on defense. It’s that they get so thrown out of their rhythm that the Pitt offense suffers even more. And a team that knows to be patient on offense, suddenly is rushing shots and trying to speed up the game. In the 5-game losing streak, Pitt has struggled to get to 40% shooting.

Brace yourself accordingly.

Newkirk isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he’s going to be relied on as soon as next year to provide offense and, hopefully (Jamie are you listening?), a quicker tempo.

Also, just a few quick thoughts about Dixon calling a timeout. The reason it has so many in an uproar because it seems to be tangible evidence of just how much over-coaching and micro-managing many have suspected he’s long been guilty of. It was an awful, awful, awful decision, and there’s no way around that. I, for one, don’t care if he admits to the media and fans that it was a mistake, but he’s a fool if he didn’t own up to it with the players in the locker room after the game. The players bailed him out, and after a tough season laced with horrific losses they needed to hear that.

I do believe if they would have lost the game in OT then this season would have officially imploded. Quite a scare. Pitt and its fans are lucky to have survived it.

Comment by WorkinOnMyPittness 03.02.14 @ 10:46 am

Well said WOMP, hopefully he learns from his mistake as he seems to have done regarding fouling when you are up by three.

Comment by gc 03.02.14 @ 10:50 am

Think we saw a little evidence of just “HOW ABOVE AVERAGE” Dixon can be at times as a Coach. Not just any time… but especially CRUNCH TIME when thhe pressure is on.

Pressure has a way of getting to Jamie. In fact, it’s written all over his face.

Jamie’s tendency to suffer periodic “NEURON MELT-DOWN” has paralyzed his effectiveness as a Crunch-Time Coach time and time again through the years… little OVERSIGHTS that can mean the difference between eeking out a Win or a Loss.

Against Notre Dame it was obvious that Jamie clearly had it in his mind that he was going to call the TIMEOUT NO MATTER WHAT in the event that the original play, as drawn up… did not immediately fall into place.

Unfortunately, having Option A and Option B locked in… left the Coach totally oblivious to the fact that his PLAYMAKER was in position for an easy basket.

But thank goodness the Over-Time, as unnecessary as it was… gave Jamie a Second Chance. And thanks to his Players for rallying to salvage a Win that just might have saved the Season, but most certainly saved Jamie from the avalanche of criticism that would have certainly come.

There would have been no defending Jamie on this one.

Comment by PittofDreams 03.02.14 @ 10:50 am

I really like this team, even though there are days (like yesterday) when they drive me totally crazy. Someone posted already how his heart health was tested. I can relate to that.

But, despite the very anxious moments, they pulled it out. The freshmen are stepping up. Great work in the paint. The tap ins saved us.

So, next up is the Wolfpack. Are they going to be able to make it to the Burgh for the game?


Comment by pmdH2P 03.02.14 @ 10:57 am


Keep the faith. Dr Tom and I know that you are becoming a “glass half full” guy—but it is a tough road. I know you can do it.

Can’t wait for the party at your place.


Comment by pmdH2P 03.02.14 @ 10:59 am

Did anyone notice that Syracuse got the crap kicked out of them. Talk about end of the season swoon.

No one is calling for his firing although he has won only one championship with an amazing performance by a one and done.

Comment by gc 03.02.14 @ 11:01 am

Did I miss the preseason prognostications that this team was considered a final four favorite? No, didn’t think so. Did I miss the predictions where they were favorite to win the ACC? No, didn’t think so. Did I read anything that stated they were a lock for the tourney? Nope, never happened.

I always feel I need to be honest with myself if I want to get better, so let’s be honest about this Pitt team. They have no true center. Three freshmen get significant playing time and a fourth has been counted on at various times this season (NC game). They have a point guard that would rather stab his grandmother than take an open shot. Since they’re most dynamic player was injured for the year, they have questionable depth at the three spot.

Despite all of these issues, Jamie Dixon has found a way to get this team into the tournament. He makes a mistake and the know-it-all wolves on this site jump down his throat. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I make mistakes everyday at my job. But successful people learn from their mistakes and I’m sure Dixon will do so.

283–93 (.753). He’s the best coach we’ve ever. Eat it.

Comment by denny 03.02.14 @ 11:13 am

GC, Yes it was a butt kicking. It’s interesting to me how Syracuse managed to squeak bye in all those close throughout the season and now they’re coming up short. I’ve held for some time that Syracuse can’t go very far in tournament play only using 6 guys.

Comment by Justinian 03.02.14 @ 11:20 am

And by the way… seems pretty obvouis that a LACK of QUARTERBACKS could be playing into the decision to cancel the Spring Game.

With just two available QBs… you can bet this will not be the only precaution taken to minimize the chance of Voytik and Anderson suffering the effects of ARM FATIGUE or, worse… being lost to INJURY.

Usually pretty supportive of Chryst, I cannot defend him on this one.

As I’ve pointed out in prior posts, among other things Chryst is a GAMBLER. But with just one more QB coming in for Fall, Pitt’s QUARTERBACK PROBLEM amounts to an UNMITIGATED RISK that should have and could have been avoided.

Hopefully the cancellation of the Spring Game is the only loss that is suffered.

Comment by PittofDreams 03.02.14 @ 11:20 am

I had a hard time finding the ND-Pitt BB article in the Post Gazette. I guess PSU had formally taken over the paper just like PA recruiting.

For us on to beat NCS.

Comment by Frank 03.02.14 @ 11:24 am

gc and denny, everything you say is true. And I agree that this Pitt team is nothing more than a middle of the pack team.

However, after years of being a staunch JD supporter, I see a guy who …

– year after year plays people out of position because of his recruiting and lack of depth at certain positions
– plays not to lose (as opposed as to win) and as a result loses many critical close games
– despites promise to the contrary, always reverts to his old habit of bleeding down the clock
– has teams that seems to peak in December and early January but often seems to regress in Feb and March.

If he is going to recruit 4-stars and more athletic types, then he is going to have to give these guys a freer rein and lengthen his leash.

But seriously, do you honestly think he will ever consider sitting Robinson the next couple of years even if the offense is bogged down?

Comment by wbb 03.02.14 @ 11:31 am

Denny, I am a Jamie Dixon supporter. But I still feel this last time out called when Lamar Paterson had the ball was a big mistake. Paterson had his man one on one with an open lane to hoop. That’s exactly what you want. In that situation you either get a lay-up or you get fouled. Both are good things with 2.5 seconds on the clock. Lamar Paterson is the best money player on this team and sometimes you just have to trust your guys and let them finish the play. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that they won the game. To their credit the Panthers continued to play hard and made their foul shots down the stretch, to win the game in overtime. It was a real gut check and kudos to them for getting the job done.

Comment by Justinian 03.02.14 @ 11:35 am

gc, Cuse has lost 3 games, 2 of them to teams that will be in the Top 10 this week on those team’s court. They have also beaten 4 or 5 teams that will be in the Top 20 this week.

Comment by wbb 03.02.14 @ 11:45 am

I think Jones is being groomed for the Wanny / Patterson role. He’s hurt so we are not seeing everything he has to offer. I doubt he goes anywhere. Mostella is the scholly that opens up.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.02.14 @ 11:59 am

BTW – if you look at UVa’s record of the league games they won (all but Duke so far), we held them to their lowest point total and came closest to winning. Small consolation but an interesting point nonetheless.

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.02.14 @ 12:11 pm

*sorry, should have had a comma after record

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.02.14 @ 12:12 pm

wbb, I pretty much agree with your analysis. Criticism of Jamie is justified, while you are not one of them, some think we would be better off without him.

I am one that prefers to live with his deficiencies because of his overall record and that he has consistently put together very competitive teams.

You did leave out Syracuse’ loss at home to BC and the fact that when the regular season championship was on the line, they got blown out.

Your question regarding Robinson is rhetoric, but he is showing a lot of confidence in Newkirk.

Hindsight is 20/20 but Birch and Adams really hurt this team. Was that Jamie’s fault?

Comment by gc 03.02.14 @ 12:24 pm

We are in the post BB season. The next 2 games, the ACC tourney and hopefully NCAA will define this season. The regular season BB record is about what we expected. Maybe the close games will help this team from here on.

Comment by Frank 03.02.14 @ 12:30 pm

12.6 8.3 0.5

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.02.14 @ 12:32 pm

12.6 8.3 0.5

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.02.14 @ 12:32 pm

11.6 9.7 0.9

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.02.14 @ 12:32 pm

which line is Birch this year and which is Talib Zanna

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.02.14 @ 12:33 pm

Blocked shots

Zanna 22

Birch 108

Comment by gc 03.02.14 @ 12:42 pm

Notre Dame lost their best player, having a bad season, Brey gets accolades for how well he has coached.

Jamie loses Adams and DJ, ranked 5th in the ACC, three close losses to the two leaders, but Jamie stinks and must go.

Comment by gc 03.02.14 @ 12:46 pm

TMG – i brought up trees as a joke. The new stadium is nice quality for a D2 or D3 program like a wooster or marrietta not ACC Pitt. Look again and yes I have been there. There is no dirt anywhere chief. Find some and I will buy you a case of your fav beer.

link to

Comment by Upittbaseball 03.02.14 @ 12:51 pm

Back to football for a second. After Fraud’s dip out, this kid Chad Voytik was a major player in keeping his own recruiting class from completely falling apart, similar to the way Wanny’s last class disappeared after his departure, that showed me some of his leadership potential prior to him even stepping onto Pitt’s campus as a student athlete.

Everything I’ve seen, read and experienced first hand with this kid is telling me he is the real deal. By that I mean the kind of person who is a game changer. Not necessarily by just demonstrating his physical prowess as being superior, but by all of those other aspects of one’s personality and mental make up that inspires others to follow such a leader. And I feel that Voytik is going to be just the kind of key player that Pitt has long been without at the QB position.

Savage was a step up in that leadership department over our previous QB, but it is next to impossible to come in as a transfer and endear yourself to the team under such circumstances. Tom did a hell of a job for us but he was really just a quick fix for a larger problem of not having a groomed seasoned QB ready to step into the system 100% ready to assume the responsibilities surrounding that key position.

Now, Chad is ready! I’m hoping he becomes the QB that he has shown is his potential to be in the limited action that he has already seen for the Panthers. No doubt about it, I’ll take three seasons of performances just like those that he demonstrated in the second half of the Pizza Bowl. Coming in under duress to have that kind of come from behind game changing winning performance was beautiful!

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 03.02.14 @ 12:56 pm

Dr Tom, hear, hear, it is really great going into the season with a guy that has been on campus and in practice for two years. Knows the playbook and is not totally unknown thanks to his bowl performance.

Need to keep him healthy, but like you, hoping to watch him for three years.

Comment by gc 03.02.14 @ 1:14 pm

I realize that a number of you have much more college coaching experience than JD but you should cut him a break with regard to that time out. If JD had your view of that last play he might not have called time out, but he didn’t. Viewing the play from court level on the opposite sideline it would look totally different. What he saw was the play not being run the way he called it and therefor the spacing was not there.

Comment by letterman 03.02.14 @ 1:21 pm

Not being a PITT grad, I looked at the link Upitt provided.

I quickly spotted a baseball stadium with what looked like dirt in the infield, pitcher’s mound & warning track.

So unless Upitt’s challenge was a trick question (considers clay as not being dirt, or that specially Trees is now either the soccer field or been converted to a paved parking lot), I believe TMG is owed a case of beer.

Comment by PITT-cocks fan 03.02.14 @ 1:32 pm

Dixon called time out with a little over 2 seconds left … and the inbounds play he ran resulted in a player with lesser skills getting the ball further away …. that’s the part I don’t get. If a anything, it was a total waste of a timeout which thankfully was not needed in OT.

Comment by wbb 03.02.14 @ 1:39 pm

@Dr Tom

Exactly. I remember those days when Chad was doing his best to keep “his” recruiting class together. That has to get him respect from his teammates—and all of us.

Let’s kick butt to finish the season in hoops, make some noise at the ACC and then be the surprise team in the big tourney.


Comment by pmdH2P 03.02.14 @ 1:59 pm

No dirt what so ever. The turf is colored brown to look like dirt.

Comment by Upittbaseball 03.02.14 @ 2:00 pm

Upitt- Thanks for the explanation & thanks for the link. The aerial view still looks good.

Comment by PITT-cocks fan 03.02.14 @ 6:55 pm

Yes it does.. USC should have another great baseball squad this year.

Comment by Upittbaseball 03.03.14 @ 11:34 am

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