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April 16, 2014

It’s not the same, I know.

Tyrone Haughton signed his letter of intent today, to become a member of the Pitt’s 2014 recruiting class. Haughton is a 6-9 C-F who came from the JUCO ranks.

Originally he was a 3-4 star recruit who signed to play with South Carolina. After Darrin Horn was fired and Frank Martin came in, things changed. Martin had a verbal from another big man at K-State. The player switched to South Carolina. Suddenly, the scholarship numbers weren’t right and it seems that South Carolina suddenly had a problem with Haughton’s grades.

Oh, but SC and Martin didn’t want Haughton to completely go away. Just go to prep school for a year and see how things look next year. Haughton said no thanks and went to junior college. Isn’t recruiting just a lovely thing?

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April 14, 2014

It seems assistant basketball coach Barry Rohrssen has been the rumored target to replace Orlando Antigua on John Calipari’s Kentucky bench. Granted it has been a slow week-long rumble, but everyone is presuming it will happen (and thank you KSR comment kids for demonstrating that Kentucky fans have little basketball knowledge outside their own team).

For Rohrssen it is almost a no-brainer. Kentucky is a blue-blood job with huge exposure. No, John Calipari assistants haven’t had the greatest success rates, but they get opportunities. Rohrssen obviously wants another crack at being a head coach. His odds increase being on a staff like Kentucky  This may shock some, but the money may have very little to do with it.

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April 11, 2014

Is there anything more absurd than posting a top-25 list for the next season within minutes or hours of the final game of the season? Yes. Compiling a list of the rankings to see where your team fits. I’m nothing if not ridiculous so here are the ones to date.

Gary Parrish at CBS Sports had his out minutes after the UConn-Kentucky game ended. Pitt got slotted in there despite the departures of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna at #23.

After that Pitt tends to get lumped in with others who may crack the polls but not ready to be ranked before the season begins.

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April 2, 2014

Basketball Notes, 4/2

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 7:12 am

Congrats to former Pitt player and assistant coach Orlando Antigua on his first head coaching job. It’s a suicide mission tough road with USF, but everyone will be watching with interest. Obviously for Pitt fans, there is our own biased angle.

He mentioned the characteristics that made it possible: Hard work. Determination. Focus. Vision. An unrelenting thirst for excellence.

They were qualities he learned at Pitt, where he played from 1991-95, then later served under Jamie Dixon for five seasons (2003-07) as he learned the coaching profession.

Antigua, 40, was born in the Dominican Republic. He grew up in the Bronx section of New York. He’s most associated with Kentucky, where he has helped John Calipari’s Wildcats assemble five consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting classes, where he finishes his UK run this weekend during the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.

But make no mistake, Antigua considers himself a Pittsburgh guy.

“It’s the foundation of who I am,” said Antigua, who was presented with a five-year USF contract and an annual salary of $900,000, which will escalate by $25,000 each season. “I’m a Pitt man. I’m so grateful for everything I learned there.

“Just the blue-collar mentality, the tenacity, everything that town stands for. It’s still who I am.”

If you want to read one of the better pieces on Antigua, this one from ESPN magazine, November 2013 stands out.

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March 24, 2014

The End Is Always Abrupt

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 7:42 am

Oh, the loss was obvious for at least the last 10 minutes of the game. Pitt just could not get their outside shot to fall. Another guard named Scottie was just too fast and too on to stop.

Still when the game ended. The realization starts to hit. No more games for Pitt this year. The season is over. It’s cliche to say that there’s only one team that is happy at the end of the season. There’s plenty of truth in it, though. Every game watched over the weekend you could see it in the looks, covered faces and tears on the losing end.

When the game ended, and they started doing the post-game interviews and studio work, I quickly paid my tab at the bar. The bartender said sorry. The other bartender who before the game had happily told me how about he used to party in Oakland while attending the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Sciences glanced at me and said, “Dude…”

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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.

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March 21, 2014

Intimidation?

Filed under: Basketball,Media,NCAA Tourney — Chas @ 7:39 am

I actually want to thank the reporter that asked this.

“Is there any intimidation level for you guys facing a No. 1 team?” a reporter asked of the matchup Saturday with top overall seed Florida.

“Intimidation?” Patterson said as he did a double-take. “Do you know anything about Pittsburgh basketball? No, we are never intimidated.”

The question was asked of Patterson and several other players in the locker room after Pitt’s 77-48 win against Colorado Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament — and this was before the hometown favorite and No. 1 seed even took the court to play its game.

That’s a great response by Patterson. Just the WTF response that it deserves.

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March 20, 2014

You know why this beatdown has to really hurt Colorado? Pitt announced what they were going to do on defense a couple days before the game happened. They were going to double-team the Buffs. Especially in the paint. Make Colorado pass out of it and see if turnovers could be created. That was exactly what Pitt did from the opening possession. And Colorado had no answer.

“We knew they were going to double the post,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We didn’t handle the doubles out of the post. It wasn’t just Josh, it was all of our guys.”

Scott finished with 14 points and six rebounds, but had just five points at halftime, as Pitt made him a non-factor when it mattered most.

“It’s something I’ve had to work on all year, and they were a good defensive team and they rotated out of it,” Scott said. “They covered a lot of space. So credit to them.”

In the early minutes of the game, CU tried to go inside, but couldn’t get anything going in the paint. The Buffs had four turnovers in the first few minutes and it took 6 minutes, 19 seconds for them to get their first shot attempt inside the 3-point arc.

“We really wanted to guard the ball screens, we really wanted to take away their post offense and we did that early, and I think that was evident,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

Just a little.

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No games in front of Pitt, so barring a power outage the game should start on time.

1:40 pm on TBS.

I’m either DVR delayed or secretly watching the game at a bar while technically at work. Either way, that means you won’t be hearing much from me.

I do expect a close one. I wish the Buffs was more hateable. I like Colorado and their coach, Tad Boyle. He’s done an amazing job at a place where there has been even less historical success than at Pitt. This is the first time they have ever made the NCAA Tournament three straight years. It was 50 years ago from the last time they went in consecutive years.

Both teams will be emphasizing defense and rebounds. Similar philosophies and all.

The issue for Colorado is offensive efficiency. They turn the ball over a good deal. For Pitt, it usually comes down to the shooting. Not just from outside but are the shots going when they get close to the basket.

And hopefully doesn’t come to an abrupt end.

Going primarily links today, because time is precious. Not to mention I’m already kind of jittery for the game this afternoon. Going to be a long 5 hours or more.

Let’s start with a football note of sorts. We are all worried about the lack of depth at QB for Pitt. Well, Colorado had 6 QBs leave in the last year and are bringing in a member of their equipment staff to take snaps in spring practices.

Sheldon Jeter is in community college in Florida, so he is on hand to take in the game.

Injuries changed both teams. More so for Colorado, who had guys have to alter their roles significantly.

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March 19, 2014

Everybody Is The Underdog

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA Tourney — Chas @ 7:40 am

Pitt has staked the early claim to being the underdog against Colorado.

“We have been preaching since the start of the ACC tournament that we are the underdog,” Dixon said. “That was our mentality, that was our thinking and we wanted to play that way.

“But we also talked about playing on the road or playing in neutral court games. We have had great success.”

He pointed out that the Panthers’ 7-2 road record in conference play was the best in the ACC (tied with Virginia).

“We seem to play well on the road. … The key is we have had good focus on the road trips, good preparation and pretty good practices the times we’ve had them.”

It should be easy enough to claim. Colorado is seeded higher than Pitt. Even if it is only 9 vs. 8. The team seems to be buying into it a bit.

But, wait. Colorado isn’t going to let that underdog claim go to Pitt that easy.

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March 16, 2014

Brackets get announced at roughly 6pm on CBS. ESPN gets to take control of the conversation at 7pm.

It seems like there are two deserving #1 seeds (Florida and Wichita State) and then flawed #2 (and #3) seeds that will see  two of them in 1 seed spot to be prime targets for derision (Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Villanova, Wisconsin, Louisville, Iowa State and Syracuse).

Still don’t see the ACC getting more than 5 bids. T.J. Warren is the best player in the conference, and I look forward to him going pro. But I don’t see his NC State squad making the field when they took that long to realize they needed to let Warren score while the rest of the team does everything else.

Pitt will be a 9 or 10 seed by just about any projection. But then again, we know how those things have worked for Pitt before.

I’m kind of hoping Pitt is a 10 seed rather than a 9. I just think this group will respond a lot better with more of a sense of disrespect.

How You View Reality

Filed under: Basketball,Fishwrap,Media — Chas @ 2:00 pm

I’m not fixated on the no-call on James Robinson’s score with 11 seconds left. Really. I am merely interested in how the moment is viewed.

Pittsburgh media:

Robinson scored despite drawing contact from Virginia forward Akil Mitchell that knocked Robinson to the floor to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to one point with 10 seconds left. To the protest of Pitt fans, whose chorus of boos echoed in Greensboro Coliseum, officials didn’t call a foul.

“What can you do? What can you do?” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Everybody saw it.”

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Ehh

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 9:51 am

Pitt didn’t win its first Big East Tournament game until 1987 (their fifth year in the conference). The Panthers didn’t win more than one BET game until 2001. So, from that standpoint, Pitt is light years ahead of where they were when starting in the Big East. And man is that a reminder of just how badly those Paul Evans teams underachieved. The failures of the late-80s Pitt team, with the talent they had… Yeesh. Still boggles my mind when I look back on them.

Intellectually, I know better.

I understand that nothing I do has any real impact on what Pitt does. Most of the time I try to be very, very rational. Sometimes to the point of taking all emotion out of things. But there are moments. Times when I give in to the whims of superstition and the idea of streaks.

So, when I found myself so locked up with work I couldn’t even get a chance to throw up a weak open thread effort at the Wake-Pitt game in the ACC Tournament, I kind of talked myself into being too busy on Friday not to do the same with Pitt-UNC. (Did I sneak out of work and find myself in a bar for the second half of both games? No comment.) Next thing I know, Pitt is in the Semis of the ACC Tournament and faced with the heart and mind conflict.

It’s what made that damn Bud Light “Superstition” ad campaign during NFL games so effective. It may have been annoying and a little much — as most ads are — but there was just that element of truth to it. Where we all have those little quirks, habits and rituals we feel must be done we don’t want to mess with a streak.

I opted to keep the silence. Not to post. Not to go on Twitter during the games. Basically, being an internet mute.

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March 11, 2014

What Comes Next

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 7:39 am

Yes, the power is back.

You know, at the end of last season with Steven Adams leaving for the NBA. Trey Zeigler transferring. J.J. Moore’s slow decision to transfer. Missing out on remaining recruits like Lennard Freeman and Jon Severe. The fact that Dietrick Mostella couldn’t get his academics in order — for the entire spring and summer. If you just went from that point, this hasn’t been a bad season, given the expectations and losses.

Pitt finished 5th in the ACC. An 11-7 record and heading back to the NCAA Tournament. About what was expected. A little better than the 6th place finish predicted, but in all honesty that was due more ND being much worse than expected than Pitt being a bit better.

But of course we aren’t just skipping ahead months at a time. We went through each game. Each half. The individual plays, decisions and shots. Every disappointment and frustration magnified. Just as the encouraging signs and hope got blown to bigger proportion than they should have been.

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