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November 16, 2015

Tyler Boyd, Busier Than Ever

Filed under: Football,Numbers,Players — Chas @ 4:58 pm

One of the complaints about the Pitt passing game last year was throwing to Tyler Boyd to the seeming exclusion of all other receivers (especially the tight ends). Those complaints seem to have lessened this year as the tight ends have been much more involved and at least Dontez Ford sees a couple passes a game.

Funny thing, though…

Last year, Tyler Boyd accounted for 41.4% of all receptions (78 of 188). This year he is accounting for only 42.1% of all receptions (69 of 164). Wait. What?


February 22, 2015

Remember when Chris Jones was given a late scholarship after an excellent senior season of high school? A versatile player who was clearly going to be a development project. Along the lines of Brad Wanamaker and Lamar Patterson?

Well, it might be happening.

One game does not mean he’s arrived. But what Jones has been doing in the month of February has been a couple notches above his January. Which was better than his wretched December. In other words, he’s actually been developing and improving as the season has continued.

It’s been a theme for this squad, the entire season. Young players developing. From the leap Jamel Artis has made. To Sheldon Jeter coming into his own. Michael Young’s consistent work. Josh Newk — okay, there is an exception. Back to Jones.


February 13, 2015

Fun With Numbers: Close Losses

Filed under: Football,Numbers — Chas @ 8:22 am

Offseason football stuff means digging around the numbers.

Earlier in the week, writer David Hale started tweeting out some stuff about close losses. Surprise, Pitt was one of the hardest luck teams when it came to that.

The number is already engrained in the minds of every player at Pitt: 20.

That’s how many points separated the Panthers, who finished 6-7, from being 11-2 last season. It’s a number that defines their failures in 2014 and their motivation for 2015.

“Our new strength coach actually wrote it up on the board,” Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik said. “So we’re using that as fuel for the offseason. If we don’t finish a drill or finish team conditioning, we’re saying, ‘If you don’t finish a spring, you’re not finishing a game either.’ But there’s a level of frustration, too. We know we could’ve been a whole lot better, and we’re looking to change that.”

Pitt and VT both had five losses by seven or fewer points. No other team in the major conferences had that many. Pitt was 1-5 last year in games decided by seven points or less (thanks again, VT), culminating in the blown Armed Forces Bowl.


July 19, 2013

I would have hoped people would understand this after the last ten years of the Big East, but now I have to put on a condescending tone and talk down to people. Not really. No. Well… maybe a few.

Bowl games are meaningless. There are so many now that they have lost their meaning. They are just exhibition games. Unless it’s a playoff/BCS bowl, who cares. I think we all know old man complaints. But woe unto the coach that doesn’t get their team into a bowl game. And by god, it better be one in a good location. So, yes, bowl games have reproduced to absurd levels when over half the 1-A programs go bowling. Yet they still matter despite the contradictions and complaints. So be it.

Among the — now — 5 major conferences, it is not unreasonable to say that the ACC has the weakest bowl line-up. Here’s the reality. There is nothing the ACC can do about it.


July 12, 2013

Point of Tempo and Control

Filed under: Basketball,Numbers — Chas @ 7:54 am

Kind of teased this out during the week as I have been focused on tempo and pace. This past year, Pitt played at its slowest adjusted tempo since Jamie Dixon became the head coach.

Time to look at the numbers, history, memes and possibly a way too simple answer.

So let’s take a look at Pitt’s adjusted Tempo in the last 11 years (since that is as far as goes).

Year  —–   Pitt’s AdjT  ———  Rank  ——-  Highest AdjT   ———–   Lowest AdjT
2002-03        66.8      ———– 259/324 ——  78.7 – App. St.  ———-   55.2 – Air Force
2003-04        61.6   ————   313/326 ——  75.8 – Campbell  ———   53.7 – Air Force
2004-05        65.1   ————   250/330 ——  76.0 – Ga. Southern —— 54.2 – Princeton
2005-06        65.5  ————    230/334 ——  76.3 – Campbell ———-  54.3 – Princeton
2006-07        63.4  ————    292/336 ——  90.9 – VMI*  ————-   52.9 – Princeton
2007-08        65.4  ————    222/341  —— 80.1 – Texas St.  ———-  56.4 – Samford
2008-09        66.0   ————   186/344  —— 80.6 – VMI   ————-    57.4 – Denver
2009-10        62.6 ————–   321/347 ——  84.1 – VMI   ————-     57.7 – Samford
2010-11          63.1  ————–  313/345 ——  77.6 – Alcorn St.  ———- 57.9 – Denver
2011-12         63.1   ————-   297/345 ——-  76.0 – Seattle  ———–    58.0 – Wisconsin
2012-13        60.7   ————-   337/347 ——-  72.8 – Neb-Omaha  ——- 57.9 – Western Illinois

* VMI was a real aberration. The #2 AdjT team in 2005-06 was Northwestern St. at 75.6. So, yeah.


July 11, 2013

On the football side of things, I don’t think anyone disputes that Pitt and Syracuse (and Louisville next year) are taking a step up in football competition. Or in the case of Syracuse and Pitt it is more akin to a restoration to the level of competition they faced at the start of the millennium.

The basketball side, however, is not the same deal. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has pushed a meme in recent weeks:

“I love what’s happening with our conference,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to be a 10-bid conference. We’re going to be the best conference in the history of the game. It’s exciting to be part of that.”

Since the words came from Krzyzewski, the mainstream acceptance has been predictable. There has been some small pushback from writers that use tempo-free stats more to at least say, “we’ll see about that.”

And finally, a little bit of a pushback against the whole “history of the game” thing.


June 13, 2013

Last week the ACC put out its match-ups for the next twelve years. Predictably there was some teeth-gnashing by fans of programs in the ACC over the infrequency of many of the opponents from the other division. It’s one thing to know that it would be like that with an 8-game schedule and 14 teams. It’s something else to see it laid out in an official release.

The Virginia Tech blog, The Key Play has a proposal on the scheduling that does away with fixed cross-over games in favor of priority partner scheduling.

A priority partner would be chosen for each team every two years, and result in a home-and-home series. Priority partners would be determined by closely matching teams according to total number of regular season ACC wins in the previous two years, while avoiding permanent crossover pairings. The following example uses 2011 and 2012 ACC wins to set the schedule in 2014-2015 (because 2013 games haven’t happened yet).

It’s an interesting idea because it is a bit like the approach taken in the Big East with basketball scheduling. Unbalanced schedules in Big East basketball set to maximize competition and make TV partners happy with marquee games.


February 12, 2013

Taking Care of the Ball By Three

Filed under: Basketball,Numbers — Chas @ 8:13 am

So the theme in today’s stories for Pitt basketball is sharing the ball and assists.

One time it was Pitt power forward Talib Zanna zipping it to a cutting Lamar Patterson from the right corner; the next, center Steven Adams was slipping a bounce pass to Zanna from the high post.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin called it inexcusable that Pitt players dunked on the Bearcats’ zone defense.

Jamie Dixon finds it inconceivable that the Panthers’ passing isn’t discussed more, given their propensity for finding open players and for those passes leading to points.

“We’re not tops in the country in assists for nothing,” Dixon said. “We do it year after year. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough, except for (Pitt radio color analyst) Dick Groat. He’s the only guy that seems to talk about our passing.”

The Panthers rank among the nation’s leaders in both assists (sixth, 17.2 a game) and assists-to-turnover ratio (second, 1.57). They have averaged at least 15 assists a game every season since Dixon became coach in 2003-04, ranking as high as fourth (17.4) in 2010-11 and sixth (18.0) in 2008-09.

Good team numbers.


August 3, 2012

A few basketball items to put out there before football becomes the primary.

Lists. Lists. Lists.

Okay, just one. Athlon follows up ranking the coaches in each conference with an overall list of top college basketball coaches. Coach Jamie Dixon ranks 13th on the list which is more than respectable. Izzo ranks first in case you were wondering who was #1.

Still no word on the final game for the non-conference schedule. And hence, no schedule announced from Pitt. As part of the trend, the only pre-season tournament that hasn’t announced its seedings is the one in which Pitt will participate.

The Atlantis Bracket announcement Thursday leaves just one major tournament to be completely unveiled: the 16-team NIT Season Tip-Off Nov. 21-23. The four hosts are Kansas State, Pitt, Virginia and Michigan. If you were to seed this event then it would probably go 1. Michigan. 2. Kansas State. 3. Pitt 4. Virginia. Virginia and Pitt probably have the most to gain. Michigan and Kansas State play in power-rating rich conferences and are playing strong schedules. Pitt is in the Big East, which will provide plenty of RPI pop and quality wins, but has a soft nonconference slate, putting even more pressure on this event.

No matter what, Pitt will get hammered by the punditry for its non-con this year.


March 2, 2012

Measuring Taylor

Filed under: Basketball,Numbers,Players — Chas @ 11:21 am

God I love revisionism.

The comments about how Coach Dixon has wasted Taylor. Played him out of position and stunted his development are hilarious. Just because of the stars he had as a recruit, and the “All-American” designation. Or the comments from 2009, by his high school coach. An argument that entirely ignores Taylor’s poor defense, generally, and the potential nightmare of him trying to actually stay with power forwards moving around the court and dragging Taylor behind them.

For three years, we have seen Dante Taylor make incremental progress from his freshman year to the present. The opinion generally has been that he has been a bust. Call it semantics if you wish, but I think he’s been disappointing, not a bust. He still has another year, and I think he’s been weighed down by being designated as a McDonald’s All-American. It now is used against him as a pejorative

Still, maybe one side has a point over the other. Both sides believes Taylor should be better. The issue is, should he be better because the coaching staff failed him, and Dixon played him at center rather than power forward? Or is it that Taylor just isn’t as good as everyone thought and never was?


January 2, 2012

Can’t Anyone Make a 3?

Filed under: Basketball,Numbers — Chas @ 11:59 am

Or hold on to the ball?

Ashton Gibbs has been really bad at 3-point shooting since having to take over point guard duties. That has become glaringly noticeable during this three game slide. He is a dismal 3-16 (18.75%) in the past three games. Sadly enough, no one else is helping. The rest of the team is shooting 5-32 (15.63%). In fact all but one of those 3s came from Lamar Patterson — and he had three of his four last night. Wright, Moore and Johnson have combined to be 1-14 during this losing streak.

Just as maddening as the missed 3s, though, are the turnovers. It isn’t exactly a huge leap of faith to suggest that Pitt would have won two of these past three games — regardless of the piss-poor 3-point shooting — if Pitt could have done somewhere approaching average against pressing defenses of Wagner and Cinci.

Heck, if they could have done either at a tolerable clip, Pitt wins both of those games. Maybe not with ease, but without the drama that accompanies this losing streak.


June 21, 2011

Fun With Numbers…Pitt vs. Penn State

Filed under: Football,Numbers — Fear the Stache @ 4:52 pm

It has been 7 days since it was announced that Pitt and Penn State will renew their rivalry for 2 years in 2016 and 2017.  We’ve had 7 days to ponder the arrogance of Penn State AD Tim Curley’s comments on 93.7 The Fan and 7 days to discuss the reasons the series won’t last longer than 2 seasons.  We’ve heard Pitt needs Penn State to fill Heinz Field, Penn State needs a true rival, Penn State can’t do home-home series because it is in a tight “financial” situation (which doesn’t happen if you promote something other than Women’s Volleyball as your #2 sport), Pitt isn’t a worthy opponent for Penn State, JoePa refuses to play Pitt, along with many others tall tales.  Fellow babysitters, The Incline Blog Staff, even their take on this the other day right here at Pitt Blather.

But that is not why we are here today.  Today, we’ll look beyond these issues and examine the finer details surrounding the rivalry since it last took place on September 16, 2000. (more…)

June 15, 2011

If you are like me, you really haven’t given too much thought to Father’s Day too much thought. Then it is upon you, and you realize that you didn’t get anything. Time to scramble and figure out that last minute gift.

This is my suggestion if your dad likes sports and to think a little (or you get it for yourself): Scorecasting by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim. Full disclosure, I was sent a free copy of the book to review.

Scorecasting is a kind of Freakonomics for sports. Tobias Moskowitz is a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, and L. Jon Wertheim is a veteran Sports Illustrated writer. They put together a good read exploring some of the myths in sports and applied economic principles to explain and understand them. .


April 29, 2011

The Costs of Weak Non-Con Basketball

Filed under: Basketball,Numbers — Chas @ 11:36 am

The NCAA released 2010 attendance figures this week (PDF). Pitt was 36th nationally in attendance with an average attendance of 10,843 per game.

As far as the Big East goes here’s how the schools ranked:

Syracuse (#2) — 22,312

Louisville (#3) — 21,832

Marquette (#11) — 15,586

Georgetown (#25) — 12,675

Connecticut (#32) — 11,569

West Virginia (#33) — 11,529

Pitt (#36) — 10,843

Villanova (#38) — 10,511

St. John’s (#57) — 8431

Seton Hall (#62) — 7937

Notre Dame (#64) — 7785

DePaul (#67) — 7676

Cincinnati (#71) — 7344

Providence (#76) — 7043

Rutgers  (#97) — 5602

USF — 4230


February 5, 2011

Well another National Letter of Intent day has come and gone. We’ve made our snap reactions on 17 years olds who we’ve never watched play, we’ve successfully ignored the moralists telling us how it’s a disgrace that we give these kids so much attention at such a young age and we’ve talked ourselves into the fact that the previously mentioned 17 year olds will fit our system perfectly. Now its time to turn our attention back to the hardwood.

Welcome back to Pitt by Numbers; the tempo-free statistical post that spent the last month and a half blaming itself for the Tennessee loss.

Lets talk about points per weighted shot. To put it simply, this stat measures how many points a player takes per field goal attempt (PPWS = Points/(FGA + .0475FTA)). I also included field goal rate which measures the percentage of offensive possessions a player plays that involve him taking a shot from the field.

(Note: My original chart had more categories but wouldn’t fit in the post horizontally. You probably need to maximize your browser to view everything that I was able to fit.)






% Shots        

























McGhee   157        



































Much has been made about Pitt’s nation leading offensive efficiency and with good reason, the Panthers have done an unbelievable job at putting points on the board while controlling the tempo of the game. Most seem to attribute this mainly to Pitt’s phenomenal offensive rebounding ability coupled with the Panther’s team-wide ability to find the open man and these two factors are undeniably important.

But there is also something to be said for simply making sure that the best shooters are taking the lion’s share of the shots. Gibbs, Wannamaker and Brown are shooting more often than any of the other regulars and for good reason. They’re probably the three best shooters.

This graph is a solid statistical illustration of how good Jamie Dixon is at his job because with the possible exception of JJ Moore, nobody is shooting more frequently than they should be. It’s also a credit to the team for buying into the greater good since it appears everyone is self-aware enough to know their limitations and simply do what is asked of them.

Here some other quick thoughts on these numbers:

1) Gilbert Brown really doesn’t attack the rim enough. I know this isn‘t breaking news but its good to know the numbers back up what we‘ve been watching. His .41:1 FTA to FGA is below the team average of .425:1 and just above the national average of .38:1. There is no excuse for Brown to be shooting less than one free throw for every two field goal attempts.

2) I have no idea what to make of Dante Taylor’s shooting numbers. It’s obvious that McGee starts over Taylor for defensive purposes but I didn’t expect there to be a large gap between Taylor and McGee’s numbers here. When I saw Taylor’s PPWS my first thought was “that’s what happens when you don’t have a post move and get all your points on dunks that happen all too infrequently” but his FG frequency dispels that myth a bit. The only thing that makes sense is that Dante had some mammoth games against cupcakes early in the year that skew his numbers but even that doesn’t seem like enough to make Taylor’s numbers what they are. Could we possibly be underrating Taylor’s offensive abilities?

3) JJ Moore and Lamar Patterson have been in direct competition for playing time all year and JJ Moore shooting the ball in over 27% of his offensive possessions could provide some insight as to why he hasn’t seen meaningful minutes in a long time (Even if Moore was making shots at a decent rate). But if Lamar Patterson doesn’t start making more buckets it wouldn’t be surprising to see Moore get some of those minutes back.

I know when I posted the first Pitt by Numbers back in December I said it would be a regular thing, this time I mean it. Unfortunately it’s hard to come up with too many opinions on this team other than “Pitt is really good” so if you have any topics you would like me to explore in future posts please leave them in the comments section for me and I’ll see what I can do with them.

Until next time…Hail to Pitt.

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