Wait. Pitt’s favored in this game?
I suppose when a team has only 2 wins away from home the entire season, there is reason to be skeptical. But against Pitt? Pitt has 4 wins outside the Pete, but only one in conference — against BC. Someone has to win.
Still, for Pitt this does not feel like a game they care that much about. Everything seems to be about moving on from this season.
Whether it is about the purpose of the 10 minute benching of Artis and Young — which even Coach Kevin Stallings seems to be hinting is about setting a tone more for the future.
“My job is to uphold the integrity of the process of coaching this team,” Stallings said.
Senior Sheldon Jeter said he agreed with Stallings making his teammates accountable for their actions.
Asked if his coach acted appropriately, Jeter said, “I think so. I think so. He’s been doing it all year, really, as far as punishing guys when they don’t do what they’re supposed to. It’s nothing new. He just wants to show there’s no exceptions to it.”
Stallings said he has spoken to Young and Artis “probably more than anyone about the life lessons aspect of coaching them and being successful as a human being and when basketball is over.
“Whether it’s being on time or how you interface with other people, because I would like to think that what I’m doing is more than just coaching basketball. I hope the impact I’m having on these kids’ lives is bigger and better than just coaching the game and helping them achieve wins or losses.”
“They were fine at practice,” he said. “I certainly didn’t take the time to ask them (how they handled being benched). It’s pretty clear-cut.
“We let the guys know where they stand relative to what the expectations of the program are. I don’t think either one of them was surprised, maybe they were, but I didn’t ask them. I just did what I’m supposed to do.”
Or looking back on the season, overall.
“I think we’ve continued to play hard, but I think there’s a difference between playing hard and really preparing to win,” he said. “In those instances where we haven’t played well, I wouldn’t say that we’ve been preparing to win. I think we go out and play reasonably hard in the game, but our preparation sort of affects what we’re able to do on the court because you can’t be one thing in practice and something completely different in the game on a consistent basis.”
The result is a 4-14 ACC record — the fewest conference victories by a Pitt team in 40 years — and what Stallings admits is a decrease in the players’ overall level of confidence.
“Losing is de-motivating. That takes away some of your spirit,” he said.
Stallings acknowledged he made mistakes this season and he would make some minor changes, if given a second chance.
“But not that many, surprisingly for me,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with the record. I’m not satisfied with some of the dysfunction, maybe, that we’ve had.
“But I’m satisfied with how I’ve tried to coach and educate and lead these guys.”
Heck, on the eve of the ACC Tourney plans for next year’s visit to Barclay’s in the non-con were announced.
The University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball team along with Oklahoma State, Penn State and Texas A&M highlight the field for the 2017 Legends Classic, which culminates with the Championship Rounds at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Nov. 20-21.
Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Thursday at noon for the Championship Rounds of the 11th annual Legends Classic men’s basketball tournament, and may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or through Ticketmaster.com. Tickets are also available at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.
All four games of the Championship Rounds will be televised on ESPN networks.
Pittsburgh, Penn State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will each host a pair of regional round games on campus in addition to facing off at Barclays Center in the Championship Round on Nov. 20-21. The four regional round hosts combine for 75 NCAA Tournament appearances and eight Final Fours.
Joining Pittsburgh, Penn State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the 2017 Legends Classic are Pepperdine, Montana, Oral Roberts, and UC-Santa Barbara.
Well, at least now we know where and when Pitt will play Penn State next season. Technically the pairings haven’t been announced yet, but come on. Pitt-Penn State and old Big 12 opponents facing each other. The pairings are too obvious. It also means Pitt won’t get stuck with PSU in the B1G-ACC match-up.
But seriously, back to the game today. Sort of.
I can’t believe the team being tired is actually being discussed.
A thin team that’s down to 10 healthy scholarship players — not including guard Zach Smith, who began the season as a walk-on — and has had to rely overwhelmingly on its five starters the past seven weeks faces the arduous task of trying to win five games in as many days, one that begins Tuesday with a matchup against Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. How the Panthers fare with that challenge won’t define their season, but it will dictate how much longer it continues.
“It will be difficult, certainly,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “That’s why we’re just trying to focus on the one tomorrow night. You hope you can win and then have enough rest to come back and play and play well enough to win again. We’ll worry about the fatigue factor when the fatigue factor becomes an issue. We would have to win at least one game, maybe two, before the fatigue would become an issue.”
This season, Pitt’s top five players in total minutes — Michael Young, Jamel Artis, Cameron Johnson, Sheldon Jeter and Chris Jones — have accounted for 78.3 percent of the team’s minutes played, the highest such percentage of any ACC team. With the exception of three games — each of which saw Jeter foul out — each of the five starters hasn’t played fewer than 25 minutes in a game since conference play began Dec. 31.
IF — and, oh, is that a big “if” — the Panthers beat GT, sure fatigue will come into play. Though, Virginia — the team awaiting the winner — might be the bigger issue. The idea that the players will be worn out physically for the opening game? No. Not physically. Mentally. That I can buy.