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October 31, 2016

Clearing Basketball Tabs

Filed under: ACC,Basketball,Conference — Chas @ 7:40 am

The season is less than 2 weeks away. ACC Media Day. Low expectations from without, higher from within. Time to catch up on some things. And I’m not even getting to recruiting in this post.

ACC Media Day was last week, and Pitt ended up as the preseason pick to finish 12th.

It wasn’t even close to being higher.
ACC Operation Basketball 2016-17 Preseason Poll
(First-place votes in parenthesis)

Team & Points
1. Duke (85) – 1359
2. North Carolina (6) – 1239
3. Virginia – 1125
4. Louisville – 1034
5. Syracuse – 905
6. NC State – 772
7. Notre Dame – 716
8. Florida State – 705
9. Miami – 650
10. Virginia Tech – 645
11. Clemson – 623
12. Pitt – 511
13. Wake Forest – 309
14. Georgia Tech – 199
15. Boston College – 128

Pitt would be more likely to be in the mix for 9th to 11th in the preseason if you didn’t stop and consider their conference schedule. It bears repeating how downright brutal it is this season. UNC, Virginia, Louisville and Syracuse as the home-and-home conference opponents. The teams picked 2-5 in the conference. It is entirely possible that Pitt could go as badly as 6-12 in the ACC and still be on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.

Pitt will have little margin for error when ACC play occurs. The talk of the ACC being as deep and being Big East-esque in getting a record number of teams in the NCAA Tournament has been happening since the beginning of October.

Mike Young was named to the 2d team All-ACC squad. The only other player to notch any preseason recognition has been Cam Johnson, in SI’s statistical analysis projecting him to be a 11th best breakout scorer this year.

Kevin Stallings is conceding that the ACC is going to be a special grind, but is trying not to be negative about it.

“The most daunting thing is that it’s probably the best league or has the potential to be the best league in history in college basketball, perhaps,” Stallings said when asked about the most daunting aspect of the conference. “That’s daunting. What’s daunting is I could have a really good team and play a really good game and get beat. That’s daunting. One of these guys isn’t going to be outcoached. You better figure out a way to outplay them because they’re not going to get outcoached. That’s daunting.

“It’s an exciting challenge, too, because we’re paid to win. We’re going to have to figure out how we can get that done. It’s an exciting challenge, but it’s intimidating at best and scary at worst is probably how I would describe it.”

Other coaches at ACC Media Day said nice things about Pitt and Head Coach Kevin Stallings.

And in recent years, Stallings built relationships with other coaches in the league, including Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams, who reminisced Wednesday with Stallings about a Chicago concert they saw together featuring Keith Urban, the Dixie Chicks and the Eagles. Buzz Williams even said Stallings played a mean air guitar when “Hotel California” came through the speakers.

But it’s not Stallings’ proficiency with imaginary instruments that has his colleagues’ attention. It’s his up-tempo offense.

“He’s one of the greatest minds in the game,” Roy Williams said. “We still do some of the things in the zone offense I got from Kevin, wow, 23 years ago.”


“That team they have now, I don’t care what the rankings say, is a top-20 team,” Pitino said of Pitt. “That’s a great team in the making, and they needed a veteran coach to take them where they want to go and they got him.”

Notre Dame’s Mike Brey has a special appreciation for Stallings as Brey took over the Irish around the same time Vanderbilt hired Stallings. And if you ask him, Stallings isn’t considered fresh meat in arguably the best conference in college basketball.

“It was a great hire for Pitt,” Brey said. “He’s really good, experienced and he’s coached in a great league. He only adds to coaching talent depth in this league.”

The thing about this team is that the scoring — mostly — isn’t in question. Both because of the players on-hand and the coach. It is whether they can play defense for sustained periods.

I’m not saying this team is going to be an unstoppable force offensively. As we have seen, teams that are overly reliant on making jump shots can be really bad offensively when the shots aren’t falling. What I am saying is that this team has the potential to be a lot better on the court than it is on paper.

There is no question the Panthers will struggle defensively, will not likely be a great rebounding team and will have issues matching up with bigger teams.

But because Stallings has been willing to be creative offensively to get his five best players on the floor together, and because the team does have so many good offensive players, the Panthers will have a chance to overcome those deficiencies on most nights.

This is going to be an unconventional team that plays in an unconventional way, and those teams are usually the toughest to pin down in the preseason.

And heck, if the ranking turns out to be true and this team doesn’t win a lot in the ACC, if nothing else, they should be really fun to watch.

I’m going to call bullshit on that last part right now. Style will mean nothing without the wins. Style is the side issue. The thing you complain about when you go looking for things that upset you. Or something of which you complain about in other programs. Fans care first, second, and third about winning.

Pitt can get in high-scoring basketball games and lose, and no one is going to come out of the Pete or turn off the game and think, “Golly, that was fun to watch. Shame someone had to lose.”

The fans will question the coaching, the players, the tactics. People will be pissed. So, don’t even try to make that claim.





Looking forward to it.

Again, believe Stallings has a GOOD CHANCE of putting Pitt Basketball where it should be and where Fans deserve to see it.

Maybe not right away… but soon.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.31.16 @ 9:19 am

Chas

What are your thoughts on the current verbal commits?
Too many guard/small forwards?
Does it signal a change of position for current players like Wilson and Cam Johnson?

I thought the JC commit was excellent.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.16 @ 9:52 am

Is there really a need for having big men in college basketball these days? I don’t think so. Athleticism is more important.

Teams like Butler, VCU, Dayton, Xavier and of course Villanoza will be successful this year with fielding starting lineups shorter than 6’9″ or 6’8″ and they make runs in the tournament.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.16 @ 10:02 am

Yes there is a need for bigs. Maybe not big bully shot blocker hard defender types, but you need size in the paint to score & rebound. Unfortunately the big athletic guys are few & far between & usually go to the blue bloods. Butler, Nova, etc play in small conferences & don’t need bigs like Pitt does. Pitt has good players, but they’re all 2’s & 3’s. Bigger & more athletic teams are going to be a big problem.

Comment by Nick 10.31.16 @ 10:23 am

Chas, could not agree more regarding winning. JD’s perceived faults such as micromanaging, recruiting and style of play were scrutinized in a snowball effect during and after the 2012 season. He couldn’t even catch a break after finishing 5th in Pitt’s first year in the ACC.

That said, if Stallings doesn’t take this senior laden team to the NCAA tournament this year then he is on the hot seat at least as far as fans are concerned.

I say be prepared to defend your guy PoD. You’re on board.

Wilson-Frame is a big body. He appears to be a recruit like JD would have made. He shot 41% from the field in JUCO. He did shoot 37% from 3 last year. That would make him a star from a Pitt fan’s perspective as long as he can do it in ACC play.

As it stands today Pitt will have 5 guys on scholarship next year that are bigger than 6’5″. Cam Johnson, Luther, Nix, Manigualt and Brown. I haven’t seen Manigualt or Brown play. I don’t think Johnson, Luther or Nix qualify as athletic. I haven’t seen Manigualt or Brown play, but I suspect they aren’t particularly athletic having been rated as 3* players. Nix is a project and labored last year just to move around in warmups. Manigault will likely receive few minutes in conference play this year with Pitt’s strength along the front line. Brown is thin and, while it’s still a year away, will likely receive spot minutes at best and red shirt at worst. The front line should go from strength to weakness next year. ACC teams that are “small” are still fielding front lines with 6’8″ guys that can jump and run.

It amazes me that many non-traditional media “experts” and fans are willing to give the new, experienced coach (Stallings) raves on this recruiting class. If JD had brought this in he’d have already been derided and written off.

Comment by Barvo 10.31.16 @ 10:35 am

I saw Maginault at the recent scrimmage. He is athletic and long.

Nix is a non-factor and shouldn’t even be on the team. He can’t move.

I think Johnson is athletic but never uses it.

As far as having a big guy, the success of teams from smaller conferences in the tournament against teams with big men leads me to believe a big man is not a must. Obviously it is partially based on the style of play. Dixon’s offense needed a big man.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.16 @ 12:07 pm

Barvo… Maybe you missed it. Not predicting IMMEDIATE success… as in THIS Year.

You’re showing your HEAVY BIAS by trying to pin everything on Stallings just because he has a few of JAMIE’S Seniors on the Team.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.31.16 @ 12:08 pm

But am I on board with Stallings for the LONGER Term? You betcha.

Just call it a POSITIVE feeling.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.31.16 @ 12:15 pm

Barvo

I do agree, if you have no big man you have to at least have 3 starters around 6’7″ or 6″8″ that can run and jump.

So based on your comments that leaves next years Pitt team with only Johnson and Luther with lots of experience, Maginault and Brown with very little or no experience.

Three things better happen:
1. Stalling gets another guy 6’8″ or taller.
2. Maginault plays a shit load this year.
3. Zero injuries next year.

Otherwise, Robert Morris may be playing with a bigger lineup.

One thing is for sure, Stallings has playing time to sell for next year.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.16 @ 12:17 pm

If you go by preseason polls…half of Pitt’s game this year are top 44…10 against top 25 teams…and if WVU was added would be 11.
I don’t have time to research but I would not be surprised if that isn’t the hardest schedule in the country. And as I wrote last spring this years schedule was one of the reasons Dixon left when he did. As Chas wrote Pitt could go 7-11 and make tourney and have a pretty good year. But for Pitt fans with that many losses the negativity would of been defending.

Also and people wonder why Dixon didn’t schedule harder non conference games.

Comment by milobloom 10.31.16 @ 12:24 pm

I still don’t like the process by which Stallings was hired but he seems like a good fit for the ACC. He put together a decent first recruiting class and Dokish is reporting Stallings and the staff have much better ties to the 2018 class based on the recruiting cycles they were in at their previous schools.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 10.31.16 @ 12:30 pm

Teams with sub .500 conference records will never make the NCAA tourney.

Comment by Nick 10.31.16 @ 12:34 pm

This year team only need like 2 guys to step up and play much better – maybe Jones and Johnson – if Pitt is to have a good year. Next year’s team will require the entire team to ste up, and that sounds very unlikely. Also some much needed quickness with Kithcart and Milligan should help a lot this year. We have been way too slow and with bad shooting guards to run a fast paced offense in the past few years. Those team had to really work hard to get good open shots from the outside.

Comment by rayhpgh 10.31.16 @ 12:34 pm

This not needing a “Big Man talk is pointless unless all “Big Men” are created equal.
No coach is going to turn down AJ Hammons or Skal LaBissiere if they could get them.
And you sure don’t play a player like Nix just to have a big man either.

Comment by milobloom 10.31.16 @ 12:34 pm

Nick…many teams have made the tourney with sub 500 records….FSU in 1998 was 6-10. ten teams since 2000 have made tourney with sub 500 conference records…last was UConn in 2012 who were 8-10. If ACC s going to get 11 teams in as many are predicting this year…good chance that 11th teeam and maybe 10th will be under 500.

Comment by milobloom 10.31.16 @ 12:40 pm

Besides Steve Adams, who fell into Dixon’s lap, Pitt isn’t going to be on the radar for the top players that are 6’10” or taller. There are a hell of a lot more 6’7″ and 6’8″ kids they can get and they can win with those kids.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.16 @ 12:43 pm

Agree Notrocketscience…Pitt’s not normally going to get those guys….but that still is different than saying not a need for one in college hoops.

You don’t need $200 bucks to have a good time at Cheerleaders…but if you had $200 bucks you’ll be having a much better time than a guy who doesn’t.

Comment by milobloom 10.31.16 @ 12:52 pm

FYI, Pitt went 4-5 vs. ND, Ville, CUSE, UNC and Duke last year. No reason why they can’t have similar success with almost a full roster coming back from a tourney team.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 10.31.16 @ 1:41 pm

milobloom

I agree, I should not have said ‘need’. Like you said, no one is going to turn down a good big man.

Putting someone on the roster like Nix, just to have a big man, as Dixon did, was foolish.

Having seen the poor kid play, I do not understand why Dixon signed him.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.16 @ 2:41 pm

Milo, Dixon didn’t schedule harder non conference games for the same reason JoePa scheduled bums to play the pedos…he wanted wins (they still do this in Cupcake Valley) to this day. Dixon wanted 20 wins every year no matter what.

Barnes wants game excitement and fannies at the Pete and season tickets sold. Also to be ready to play in March. Dixon didn’t care….

BTW, Barnes could not afford to have a wet behind the ears assistant learn on the job this time, not with so much $ invested in the Pete & the basketball program. He needed a seasoned HC to step in and hopefully stay afloat and improve once he gets HS coaches and the shady shoe salesmen to accept him.

Comment by Jackagain 10.31.16 @ 5:35 pm

Previous years teams went long periods of time without scoring, because they had next to nobody who could take it to the hole and finish (hello Pet).

They were mostly a team of jump shooters and when they’re not hitting they’re clanging, as in brick city.

Perhaps Artis will drive to the hole more, perhaps not. He likes to jack them up from far out. We’ll see.

Of more promise… is a true Point guard who is quick enough to get the basket and finish, is this Kithcart kid. Am anxious to see what he can bring.

And if Damian Wilson has grown into a better player over the summer.

Actually believe our hopes rest with these 2 players, than the others. As we know their pluses and more importantly…..their limitations.

Comment by Emel 10.31.16 @ 7:12 pm

~ notrocket

How about ….pure desperation.

Ala Tyrone (never got off the Pines) Haughton.

And a whole list of other stiffs.

Comment by Emel 10.31.16 @ 7:14 pm

I think the enormity of the move over to the ACC will begin to show after this season. The recruiting that takes place in the ACC is just bananas.

For the class of 2016, 7 different ACC teams had a top 50 recruit. There will be 25 top 100 freshman in the ACC this year (11 in the Big 12, 12 in the SEC, 14 in the Pac12, 12 in the B1G, in case you were wondering). And there’s already 12 committed for 2017. Brutal.

I think Stallings will be able to do a better job of getting better talent to Pittsburgh than Jamie Dixon did. But I doubt, though, that it will be enough to be in the conference championship discussion every year (or this year, I’m sorry to say). I hope I’m wrong. Maybe he’ll be like Roy Williams, 15 fruitless years and Kansas and then on to UNC. The good news is that a non-conference champs often go on to win it all.

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 10.31.16 @ 7:52 pm

and = at

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 10.31.16 @ 7:53 pm

Jackagain – you speak the truth.

Dixon was over-rated since 80% of his wins came against the sisters of the poor. His slog ball worked in the Big East but in the ACC with a different style of play and officiating, he failed in an epic way.

I want a fun and entertaining regular season against quality opponents. And then to go far come tourney time instead of choking.

Comment by TX Panther 10.31.16 @ 7:59 pm

Funny how Dixon landed a top Center & PG within weeks of landing at TCU. Maybe he wasn’t the problem. Kind of like the schedule, where it was Pederson who demanded a specific number of home games. Notice how they stopped playing better OOC opponents when Peterson came back.

Comment by Nick 10.31.16 @ 9:03 pm

Dixon has assistants that know how to recruit at TCU. The Big 12 will be a challenge for him. But recruiting grounds are fertile in Texas. I figure TCU fans will both love and hate him. He cant do much worse than the past 20 years of TCU basketball…the bar is set so low.

Comment by TX Panther 10.31.16 @ 9:49 pm

Cornhole and Dixon were best buds. Dixon had a huge say in the scheduling. He needed cupcakes to pad his wins. It did Pitt no favors once they moved to a stronger conference that emphasized athletes over thugs.

Comment by TX Panther 10.31.16 @ 9:51 pm

Guys, I am still not sure loosing Dixon will end up being good or bad for PITT. None of us know; regardless of what is written here or elsewhere.

Maybe Stallings will give us the answer, maybe not.

One thing was true under Dixon. RECRUITING had not been great as of late!!!!

The future is hope.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 10.31.16 @ 9:59 pm

Emel

I am with you.

I hope Stallings is willing to throw freshman in the fire. I hate coaches that don’t let freshman play. Dixon would let them play for the cupcake games then they disappear. They can’t get better unless they play against better competition. That applies for the non-conference games also. The better the competition the better the team gets.

Comment by notrocketscience 11.01.16 @ 7:54 am

@Jackagain…I can tell you that the Barnes move hasn’t helped ticket sales yet.. I had the biggest move to better seats this year than I ever had in my 13 years at the Pete.

Comment by milobloom 11.01.16 @ 12:31 pm

Dixon may have landed top talent in his new gig. What he does with them will tell the tale.

Comment by alcofan 11.01.16 @ 3:29 pm

Heard Stallings on the 93.7 the Fan this morning. He indicated that Kithcart has earned the back up point guard job. He’ll get a chance, the rest will be up to him.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 11.03.16 @ 1:26 pm

@Jacksgain–there won’t be many fannies in the seats if all we get is exciting play with lots of losses. Fans will take any win no martter how ugly over a high scoring loss every time. Now if you can couple exciting play with lots of wins that is a different story. I just think that is highly improbable for Pitt to do in the ACC.

Comment by Pitt1972 11.03.16 @ 5:37 pm

Stallings post scimmage 22 minute interview on official site was interesting. Young at the 5, Jeter the 4, Johnson the 3, Jones the 2 and Artis the point with Luther #1 off the bench. Other 3 in a 9 man rotation TBD with Kithcart and Manigault likely in the group. No mention of Clark or Wilson at all.

By the way I think it has been accurately reported that our incoming big in next year’s class (Brown) may be 6-10 1/2 250 vs 6-8. 225 as shown on some recruiting sites. Hope this is accurate info.

Comment by Pitt1972 11.03.16 @ 5:50 pm

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