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March 22, 2014

I can’t be home for this one. I mean I could, but I am a little too tense to be home watching the game while the kids are bouncing about the room. Better to be in a bar with strangers who will not see me again.

I don’t know who the Florida homer they gave a press pass to, but you have to believe the same guy who went around asking Pitt players if they were intimidated at the prospect of playing Florida was at it again on Friday.

A reporter asked Cam Wright if there was a “gosh, wow thing, where you go [Florida] just looks incredible and there’s no way we can compete with them.” Wright, baffled by the question, answered “Next question, please.”

Wait. What? It wasn’t a Florida homer. Dejan, Dejan, Dejan

I asked Wright if, in watching video of the Gators, he had any gosh-wow, no-way-we-compete-with- those-guys sense, and he hesitated awhile before answering beautifully.

“Um, next question?”

Man, I don’t even know anymore. Spin the column and the question anyway you like, but that was some first-class troll bait.

I was sure it was trollin’ Mike Bianchi asking these inane Florida-centric questions. But no. Bianchi is keeping his trolling focused on the Florida fanbase. Any way he can. I guess there is an odd comfort in knowing ESPN has a replacement for Skip Bayless someday, continuing to hone his skills down in Orlando.

The players know what is at stake. It’s the NCAA Tournament. If it was a lower seed, the situation would not be different. It’s win or go home. But this is a big match-up. It’s the first game of the second round. No other games to split attention at the start.

“These are the games you grow up dreaming about and working out for. You want to play in these scenarios,” Pitt fifth-year senior swingman Lamar Patterson said. “Florida is obviously a great team. Everyone wants to beat them. We want to beat them. We’re going to give them our best shot.

“It comes down to who wants it more. Florida is a great team, but I feel like we’re a great team, also. They have that No. 1 seed, so they have the accolades and we’re sort of just reaching what we have potential to be.”

“I don’t think we have any pressure right now,” [Talib] Zanna said. “We really have confidence going into this game. A lot of people are already counting us out. We’re just going to use that as motivation, to stay hungry.”

“That’s kind of in the back of our minds, if at all,” Pitt point guard James Robinson said. “This is a good opportunity for us, a time to show what we were capable of doing all season. We’re playing our best basketball right now, so what better time to put it on display?”

Sounds good to me.

And just for good measure a bit of a redux from Cam Wright.

Pitt wasted no time in tweeting a photo of Wright with his quote: “The University of Pittsburgh is never intimidated by anyone. Not in academics. Not in basketball. Not in football. Not in anything.”

“It’s trending (on Twitter), so it’s a remarkable feeling to see the love and appreciation coming from our support system within the Zoo, the staff and students,” Wright said.

“If we were scared to play against anybody, we shouldn’t be in this tournament. That’s definitely not the case. You can’t look at an opponent and be fearful or you’ve already lost.”

It’s the second time in a week Wright has become the poster boy for Pitt athletics. The business-marketing major, who will graduate this summer, was the recipient of the ACC’s Skip Prosser Award for top-scholar athlete in the basketball conference.

“I didn’t know how huge the award was,” Wright said. “My mom (Cheryl), she was astonished and extremely happy for me. To see my mother as proud as she was, that made my day, made my year.”

I’m assuming any wishes for him to transfer from last spring are long gone.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan and point guard James Robinson are familiar with each other from the FIBA USA Basketball squads the previous two years.

“They’re really intense. Both want everything to be as close to perfect as they can,” Robinson said. “I remember playing for Coach Donovan, even though we were beating a team really bad, he still wanted us to execute and play sound. That’s the same things that Coach Dixon wants.”

The difference, Robinson said, is in their sideline methods.

“Coach Dixon will yell straight onto the court or stomp his foot to get our attention. Coach Donovan whistles. That’s how he gets his players. It’s going to be a lot of fun going up against him,” said Robinson, who also was a teammate of Florida guard Michael Frazier II.

“(Donovan) expects his point guards to run the team, really, be the leaders on the court, make plays when it’s there. I think I have a pretty good feel, watching their games and playing for him the last two summers.”

Donovan was complimentary of Robinson’s play at the point, calling him a “winner” and crediting his “great IQ for the game.”

As for the actual game. Pitt is preparing to be pressed. Not in the Louisville or VCU Havoc style. But in a way to take the offense out of its comfort.

Florida wants to speed teams up but also make them work hard to get the ball across the half-court line and shorten their shot-clock time.

That’s why, as Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin explains, the Gators press can be effective even if it doesn’t generate a single turnover. “We try to let our defense create some offense for us, but if the other team does a good job of taking care of the ball, there’s not too much of that,” he said. “Our motto is to try to wear teams down with the press and eventually grind them down with our depth and just the pressure that we put on them.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan said that Pitt is such a good passing team he doesn’t expect the Gators to be able to turn them over much.

He also said the Gators use a variety of presses and defenses, so the ability to mix and match them and change them within the context of a game also makes it difficult for opponents.

“Pittsburgh is an outstanding passing team,” Donovan said. “But [pressure] is disruptive, it is something you have to deal with every single possession. I think there’s other things you can get out of the press. It’s our style of play. It’s kind of what we do.

“There are times we change and don’t trap as much. We play full-court, man-to-man and sometimes we pick up [zone]. Pressing for us is a part of it. Ideally, yeah, you’d want to turn teams over a lot but if you don’t, for us, we’re getting nine players in the game.”

This is the thing. Florida, despite the pressing is not a team that really pushes tempo. Heck, per KenPom.com they have a slower adjusted tempo than Pitt. They are trying to disrupt the opposing team’s offense. Make them burn a  lot of clock just trying to get set, or get out of a comfort zone by trying to go faster than they should.

Florida, like Pitt is not an up-and-down team. They will try to score quickly in transition, but are just as comfortable running a half-court set.

Finally, a good piece from Ron Cook on Jamie Dixon accepting and ignoring criticisms of failures in the NCAA Tournament.

I say the criticism will stop or at least slow significantly.

Dixon smiled and said otherwise.

“It’s never going to stop. No matter what you do, it’s never enough.”

Dixon gets it. He understands the elevator music.

“The more you win, the more you are expected to win,” he said. “If you make the Final 16, you should make the Final Eight. If you make the Final Eight, you should make the Final Four. Even if you win the national championship, it isn’t enough. Look at [Kentucky coach John] Calipari. He won it all. Do you think there saying in Kentucky, ‘OK, you won one. That’s enough.’ Of course, they’re not. They want more. They always want more.”

Former Connecticut Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun eloquently described that sort of thing a few years ago.

“People stop asking about your win total and start asking about St. Louis or San Antonio or wherever the Final Four is that year. As you build that monster, the monster has to be fed. That’s where Pittsburgh is at right now. It has created its own beast.”

You know what?

That’s a good thing.

That means your program is a great program.

“It is a good thing,” Dixon said. “I don’t blame anyone for wanting us to do more. We want to do more.”

12:15 on CBS. We will see if Pitt does more.





Kane would have NEVER had the success he had at Iowa St. if he came here…He woulda avg 20 min..and 8 pts a game…but he would have learned how to play defesne…..cuz defense puts the points on the board…..Damnt!!…how am I gonna put up with this shit!!

Comment by Keith 03.23.14 @ 7:31 pm

Coaching strategy.

Baylor’s zone instrumental in holding a team avg’g 80 points a game, to only 20 at halftime.
McDermott only has 2 points.

40-20

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 8:01 pm

Pitofdreams, just don’t feel you think clearly.

The last 11 years under Dixon were probably the best years Pitt has had in it’s basketball history. I was also a Chipman fan. Too bad he died of cancer. He was going to stay and had us going in the right direction.

It’s takes decades to make a name in a given sport; 30 to 40 years sometimes! Look at Syracuse. Pitt still is considered a football legacy by some, in spite of, playing like shit for several decades.

Pittofdreams, it shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to realize Chryst is a failure. We certainly have enough experience to spot a poor football coach.

Basketball, give me another 30 years of Dixon with the same record.

We never had it so good!

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.23.14 @ 8:06 pm

Got to remind many down here in the South, that at one time Pitt was a ‘player’ in football.

And that was over 30 years ago now. Except for the next to last Wanny year when we finished ranked #15 in the country, when have been mostly average or mostly bad.

When I’m gone, there won’t be any down here to remind anyone of Pitt football. We better hurry up and become relevant again ! lol

Basketball while good, has never come close to reaching the heights of Pitt football from the 1930’s or from 1975-1984.

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 8:13 pm

Football desperately needs an infusion of money, like basketball got in 2000 ?

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 8:17 pm

Pittofdreams, we should have built a multi function dome at the Pitt stadium site. Asshole Peterson, or whatever his name is, is guilty of lack of foresight above all. Plus he sucks at picking football coaches.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.23.14 @ 8:34 pm

I’m also here in the deep, deep South….and no one….absolutely no one looks at Pitt as a football school. Or maybe better said, a football school worth worrying about.

As for Dixon, it seems to me the pressure is on him more than ever with Slice on the bench.

Dixon is not a big time recruiter…..the fundamental reason Slice is back. He better deliver or the honeymoon of 12 years will begin to fade.

And, the poster who argued who would come to Pitt after hiring a guy with much success like Dixon is absolutely correct.

A school such as UCLA can fire Howland and land a great coach. That can not happen at a non-elite hoops school such as Pitt.

Finally, to the poster comparing those great Schenley teams, you forgot to include Kennedy’s father, Puffy Kennedy, who went on to play at Cincinnatti

Comment by tallahassee panther 03.23.14 @ 8:39 pm

Emil there where other good years and teams. Not many in a row though; 64 team and some good teams under Gottfred in the 90’s, I think.

Not having a stadium doesn’t help.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.23.14 @ 8:41 pm

Oh Yea I know Old Pitt Grad.

we had some excellent teams under Pop Warner, we had the undefeated ‘Fighting Dentists’ team in 1919 I believe.

We had the back to back good years under John Michelosen in 1955 (Sugar Bowl) & 1956 (Gator Bowl) and of course the 9-1 # 4 ranked ‘no bowl’ team of 1963.

Aren’t too many ppl who know more Pitt football history than your’s truly.

But unfortunately most of that is in the way distant past. I’m getting tired of waiting !

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 8:47 pm

Gottfried was gone by 1990.

He had limited success, our best year under Mike was 1989, we finished 8-3-1 and ranked 17th in the final national poll.

As I mentioned previously Wanny’s 15th ranked team of 2009 was the highest Pitt ranked team since Marino’s senior season(1982), when we finished ranked #10.

That is a long long time.

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 8:52 pm

Tallahassee panther before Pitt got Holland it couldn’t buy a decent basketball coach.

I bet everybody down South will agree Pitt plays big time basketball. Pitt is an elite program in basketball; with an elite coach!

Does anybody really think another coach will get us further? Just like changing football coaches has helped, right?

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.23.14 @ 8:53 pm

Ya, 64 team was 1- 10. I meant the 63 team. A bunch of my fraternity brothers played!

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.23.14 @ 9:05 pm

No, wrong again! 64 was not 1- 10.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 03.23.14 @ 9:15 pm

Yep keyboard, I forgot Virginia is still alive. Good catch. I figured NC was out when I posted well before the game was over. Hope they win or we will never hear the end of the ACC not having representation in the sweet 16.

Pitt had a chance to get Calipari and chose not to commit to the circus that follows him. I would have supported that move and very few others. A .750 winning percentage is fantastic. Perhaps the AD can add a couple of difficult non conference games in the coming years.

Time to turn to football. Paul Chryst will continue to build. Two more years and we will be consistent 8 game winners, with an occasional 9 or 10 win season. Until such time as Pederson leaves, that is the best we can do.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 03.23.14 @ 9:43 pm

TJ McConnell’s father played for the ‘Little Panthers’ along with Sean Miller per the announcers.

How come we didn’t recruit him ? Or did we ?

If he can play for Arizona he can definitely play for us.

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 10:22 pm

Old Pitt Grad, to answer your question….no…I do not think people down here look at Pitt as elite, especially since all of SEC Country just saw what happened Saturday.

As for Dixon…well respected to be sure. But, what have you done for me lately?

Comment by tallahassee panther 03.23.14 @ 10:25 pm

Btw Syracuse opened the Carrier Dome in 1980.

By the 1986-87 season they reached the Final 4, actually the National Championship game and lost on a buzzer beater by Keith Smart of IU.

2 years later(88-89), another Elite 8.
Following year (89-90) Sweet 16.
93-94 Sweet 16.
95-96 Final 4 & National Championship Game
97-98 Sweet 16
99-00 Sweet 16
02-03 Final 4 & National Championship Gm (won)
03-04 Sweet 16
08-09 Sweet 16
09-10 Sweet 16
11-12 Elite 8
12-13 Final 4

We had that window of opportunity of 2003 to 2008 when Cuse was a little down.
And we didn’t get to but 1 Elite 8.

Question is: will that window of opportunity open again ?

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 10:34 pm

Uconn opened Gampel Pavillion in 1990.

1990-91 Sweet 16
93-93 Sweet 16
94-95 Elite 8
95-96 Sweet 16
97-98 Elite 8
98-99 Final 4 & National Champ (won)
01-02 Elite 8
02-03 Sweet 16
03-04 Final 4 & Nat Champ (won)
05-06 Elite 8
08-09 Final 4
10-11 Final 4 & Nat Champ (won)
13-14 Sweet 16

I compare us to Cuse & Uconn since they are the schools most similar to Pitt, with average or below average football programs and have similar enrollments(around 20k undergrads), etc.

And what happened to their programs after building on campus basketball arena’s.

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 10:46 pm

The Pete opened in 2002

2002-2003 Sweet 16
2003-2004 Sweet 16
06-07 Sweet 16
08-09 Elite 8

** only years where a school reached the Sweet 16, are listed for each school.

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 10:50 pm

Question is: are we getting enough of a return on our investment ???

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 10:51 pm

Brackets are doing good, I have 13 of the Sweet 16.

misses were: Stanford, SDSU & KY.

Comment by Emel 03.23.14 @ 11:03 pm

Those that want Jamie Dixon fired are simpletons.

I have nothing to back up this statement just as those think JD should be fired have no actual reason that makes any sense.

The kids graduate, the program is clean, we play in the NCAA tourney 11 out of 12 years and compete at a high level.

MANY schools would LOVE to have Jamie Dixon as their coach so I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a few of you just tolerate him.

Comment by Tony In Harrisburg 03.24.14 @ 12:04 am

Emel,

You’re the Fox News or ESPN of this board. Asking questions to which you have ready made answers.

Had you ever seen a Marshall game when Kane played for them? He was a ball hog and a gunner on a middling team. Check out his career stats. He was exactly the kind of crappy shooter that you constantly lament that Pitt has. A turnover machine. A poor FT shooter. There was nothing there to indicate a successful transition to a higher tier program.

His lone year at ISU is easily his best. He benefited by being surrounded by other talented players. BTW, Long’s shooting is what kept ISU in that game yesterday. Kane has no “moment” without it. Tell the whole story.

What exactly is the “return on investment” of which you have a piece? Are you a donor to the athletic department or university (I am)? You live in the south so I assume that you’re not a ST holder (I am). If you’re neither of those you are simply a fan who needs to back a winner so that you can brag to your friends.

I am with you regarding McConnell. I appreciate your points about Boeheim and Calhoun. However each still took several years to make the FF. They built those programs during an era with far less team parity and consequently fewer upsets in the tourney.

Undefeated, and 2013 FF team WSU lost yesterday (third round). Early plays like a lottery pick, but still done. Duke lost to a #14 seed that was crushed yesterday. Kansas stunned by a team Pitt beat by 22. Duke and Kansas have pick of the litter recruiting every year and they are done just like Pitt. Add in UNC.

Comment by Barvo 03.24.14 @ 5:15 am

I think I’d rather be them, as opposed to
ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, or NPR
who only whine and cry, and blame others.

You’re ok in my book Emel.

Comment by Dan 03.24.14 @ 9:02 am

As for Pitt basketball.

I like Dixon. I do not wish him to be fired.
He has done a lot for the program, no question.

However, it is very apparent to even a novice fan that stagnation at best has set in.

Someone above compared this to past basketball teams and this is the best we have had.

No arguments, you are correct.

However, I am a human. When you get to a certain point, you want to become even better. It’s human nature.

I personally would not be happy settling for this for the next 30 years.

Jamie is a good coach. I’ll even give you very good. He is not a great coach or an elite coach.

Can he be?? Well, he’s going to have to adapt and be willing to change some things. Will he, can he??

First one, is an easy one. He has to get better players. If he only wants ones that fit into “his” system, then this is what we’re gonna have for 30 years.

We need better players, it’s that friggin’ simple. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.

He’s also got to be willing to adapt and change his offenses and defenses. I see many other teams doing this, actually most.

If he’s not willing to adapt his recruiting and strategies, then is, is what we are.

Jamie Dixon is a good coach.

Great coaches get their teams to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 periennially.

Elite coaches get their teams to the Elite 8, Final 4 and NC games often.

Making the tournament was enough for me 4 or 5 years ago. That was fantastic. Still is fantastic.

Sorry, I want the program to take the next step. I don’t see Dixon doing this, unless he makes some changes in the way he does things.

Comment by Dan 03.24.14 @ 9:17 am

@Dan – can you give us a few examples of coaches who meet your definition of “great” or “elite” – and over what time period you measure – and then tell us how they did (or are doing) this year?

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 9:31 am

BTW – did you know that Pitt is tied for 18th all time in consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (2002-2011)? We’re tied with Cuse. Only active streaks in the list are Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Wisconsin.

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 9:39 am

@Dan – here’s your “great” list

link to en.wikipedia.org

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 9:40 am

What I may never figure out is how a team like UVA plays ball very similar in style to us in the regular season and then plays at a whole different level last night. They are just one example but there are others. Stanford, Dayton, even Baylor and Tenessee are seemingly playing over their potential the regular season showed.

Is it that one or two elite or near-elite player/s? Is it the coach with x’s and o’s? Is it the coach in how he sets up his kids mentally? Is it the players who just need to take responsibility and achieve/over-achieve under the pressure of the bright lights?

We’ll never know, but looking at the Florida game(again on DVR), I still see early open misses as the key to the loss. Some were contested but some were open even wide open looks. Florida missed too, but then Wilbekin became the difference maker late in the game. Our difference maker was Lamar and he could not do it alone.

For those wanting Dixon gone, you guys must really be depressed and frustrated and will be for a while. If somehow Dixon is replaced, I would first laugh and then pray(not really) the new guy does well. If in the next 3 to 4 years we are stuck in this same mode, maybe I will switch to Keith, Upitt, etal’s camp. But not winning a NC or making it to the FF will not be my bar. There is a lot to love about Pitt’s basketball program that I would not trade away.

Comment by TVax 03.24.14 @ 9:59 am

Think you answered your own question. From about 6 and up, Donavan and up, those would probably be your elite coaches.

??? If you’re going with the length of time angle, then Jamie better get on his horse, this is his 11th year, and only has one.

Doesn’t look promising for the Elite 8 to happen in the next few years either.

Hey, he’s a good coach.

Comment by Dan 03.24.14 @ 12:29 pm

@Dan – I agree with the 6 and up. But none of them are coming to Pitt.

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 12:57 pm

But check this out:

Look at this list and see how many coaches have a better percentage of years in the tournament as compared to years coaching than he does.

link to dbwoerner.com

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 12:59 pm

I agree Pitt Dad. Like I said, I love the fact we’re in the tournament. out of 351 teams, only 19% get in, compared to football where 70 out of 126 go to a bowl, something like 57%.

Never once called for his firing.

I’m just thinking, he needs to do some adjusting in his mind. I’m all for getting some kids for “his” system, but going forward, I think he needs to land some next level up kids consistently to move forward.

We’re very good. Many, many teams and coaches would love to go to the tourney once, let alone 12 out of 13 years.

I just want to make the next step up.

I thought we were already there up until the last couple years. Maybe it’s just a bump in the road, I hope so. He does have some shooters coming in, in a year or two. We’ll see I guess.

Hey, I’m cheering for him, you can tell no one wants it more than him. He’s probably taking years off of his life every season. I hope he can do it.

Comment by Dan 03.24.14 @ 1:17 pm

Just saw your link. Ya, he’s right there, hopefully he’s on his way.

Great links by the way. Excellent. Have looked for something like those before and never found them. Good stuff.

Comment by Dan 03.24.14 @ 1:19 pm

@Dan – Happy to add the links. (Hail to Google?) Any Pitt fan should be pulling for JD. Having met him a few times, he’s a great guy, a credit to the school and I believe one day (soon) he will break through to the next level.

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 1:28 pm

@pitt dad

great or elite coaches have been to multiple final fours. almost making it does not count in my opinion. jd has earned the right to leave on his own terms and not fired especially by sp. however, it is my opinion this program is stuck. the goal of any sports team is to win championships not just make the playoffs. if he never gets to a final four, i guess that’s ok with some, but not for me, especially if he is an “elite coach”

Comment by goalie44 03.24.14 @ 2:35 pm

@goalie44 – here is that list

link to en.wikipedia.org

Note that it includes vacated appearances.

If multiple is more than two, the list isn’t that long.

Comment by Pitt Dad 03.24.14 @ 2:53 pm

Wasn’t calling for JD to be fired. Was just bringing to ‘light’, some of this talk that it took some of these schools, 20-30 years BEFORE they broke thru.

Comment by Emel 03.24.14 @ 3:38 pm

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