Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Game 12: Pitt 71 St Francis 47 "I felt fired up on the layup line"

Okay this is going to be a rather short recap.  I had a lady friend with me so let's just say I was distracted, so the grades won't feature as much detail as they normally would.

St. Francis (the Pennsylvania version) stinks.  They have 3 wins.

After tip-off the scoreboard turned off (sounds familiar) so the PA guy had to announce the score after every basket (hilarious I might add).

Pitt played a high school team in the early going, pretty sure it was 27-4 (as announced by the pa guy) or something at one point.  It reminded me of one game I went to in my pre-Zoo days against Auburn where Pitt jumped out to a huge lead (like yesterday) and the Zoo started shouting "You have 4 points" with about 3 minutes to go in the first half.  Pitt eventually won that 70-40 or something like that.

Auburn sucks.

So does St. Francis.  Pitt was picking their pockets left and right.  After Pitt built the huge lead, St Francis got hot for a few minutes to cut it to 15 but that's really as close as they got.  Very balanced attack from Pitt.  Grades city:

Robinson - Quiet game from Robinson.  I only remember him missing 2 free throws at one point (second one was almost an air ball).  He only took 4 shots in 25 minutes.  Pretty sure he also hurt his knee at some point because he was grimacing and limping for a little bit.  He walked it off though, like a boss.
Grade B

Wright - Cam actually scored for once.  He hit a couple jumpers and made all 4 of his free throws.  A few times he could've dumped it down to the post, but oh well.
Grade B

Gibbs - Not a lot of shots taken tonight (only 3-9 from the field, 1-3 from 3).  He had a nice drive and finish in the first half, when Pitt was scoring at will early on.  He got some much needed rest (only 25 minutes), but still this was his first game this season in single digits.
Grade B-

Patterson - With Woodall out, he's clearly the best passer on the team.  He played a lot at the 2 tonight, which is something I'd love to see more of from Dixon.  Your typical Patterson stat line, 11 pt 4 ast 5 reb 3 steals and a block in 20 productive minutes.
Grade A

Taylor - Taylor was grabbing every offensive board tonight (6 total) on his way to a 14 point night.  Nice touch around the basket.
Grade A

J. Johnson - He's in a bit of a slump right now.  He missed all three of his shots and had 2 turnovers while not contributing in any positive stat line.  Could it be teams are figuring his game out, or is this just a minor bump in the up and down first season of major college basketball for him?  I vote the latter.  He'll get hot again.  Kid is too talented.
Grade C

Nwankwo, Rivers - They both got some time.  Rivers had a turnover and Nwankwo grabbed an offensive board and missed a putback then got a foul.  Grade:  Walkon

JJ Moore - My game ball goes to him.  He was explosive tonight.  In the first half he dunked over some 6'8" joke and it was #7 on sportscenter's top ten this morning.  Something may have clicked with him.  He played a little with Patterson tonight.  My boys over at Pitt Blather mentioned that Moore made a dumb foul at one point, and Dixon motioned to put Patterson in.  Moore walked over to the bench until he realized that Patterson was going in for someone else.  He spun around and had a huge smile on his face.  Unlimited confidence from him.
Quote City from Moore
"I felt fired up on the layup line"
Grade: A+

Epps - Played 13 minutes, had a couple nice passes and missed his only shot.  Meh.
Grade B-

Zanna - 6 points and 5 rebounds from Talib-Town.  I think he knocked down a baseline jumper in the first half, that was pretty nice.  He's got range to about 12 feet.  Nice touch.
Grade B

Gilbert - Without a doubt, he IS the new Gary McGhee.  Not in that he's a turnover and foul machine as a freshman.  No, Gilbert is already now in 2 games what Gary took 3 years to figure out.  Pitt doesn't ever pass it to him when he's in there, but man is he a stud on defense.  He doesn't have the highlight blocks that Birch did (though he had one tonight from behind) but his tree length just gives opponents fits.  They can't shoot over him.  He's just huge.  He's also one of the few players that visually gets pumped up by the Zoo.  He looked over us once and smiled because we were shouting for him.  Very likable guy.  In tonight's game he had another dunk.  (He's still shooting 100% for his Pitt career btw).  He had 2 blocks as well as 3 rebounds.
Grade B+

-Other things of note.  I caught a t-shirt from Roc.  Took me more than 70 games to finally snag a shirt, but I did.  It's about bloody time.

Pitt plays again against Wagner on Friday.  You may remember Wagner from their matchup in the 2003 first round as the #15 seed.  Pitt then smoked Indiana (don't think anyone wants to play them right now, Cody Zeller is a beast) before falling to T-Mobile spokesman Dwyane Wade and the pre-big east marquette golden eagles in the Sweet 16.

Khem update - This will probably provide unlimited motivation for Pitt this season.  I'm gonna let Chas over at Pitt Blather provide you with some analysis.
He Khem and went

It's a good read and he has some other links in the story as well.

Also, apparently Zanna would make Khem his bitch everyday in practice, and Khem wanted no part of the contact.
Zanna's a beast.

In my opinion, right now Pitt is a better team right now without him.  Gilbert is providing just as much of a defensive presence.  I really want to avoid using a cliche, but Khem could've been an x-factor later on in the year if he developed and got stronger.  Again, playing the potential card, but the talent will be missed.  Unfortunately the attitude won't be.  Khem was a loner, and Pitt bball is a very close-knit group, that's why you rarely get people here complaining about playing time.  They all come to Pitt realizing that they're going to have to work to get PT and pay their dues.  I don't know the full story, whether Khem himself believed he was being wronged by Dixon or whether some asshole "advisors" are telling him this, who knows.
Good luck kid.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Game 11: Enter Malcolm Gilbert. Pitt 69 South Carolina State 55

Khem Birch is gone.  No use dwelling on it.  Next year's Pitt frontline would've been incredibly crowded.  Where would the minutes have gone?  You'd have Taylor, Zanna, Khem, and of course mega-prospect Steven Adams all battling for minutes.  With a year of the college game, could Khem have developed an offensive game and played at the 3 with Patterson in a Wanamaker roll at the 2 and Tray running point.  With Adams at center and Taylor at the 4, that lineup would've been deadly.  I could've seen Birch in a Devin Ebanks role (who gave Pitt fits with his length).  But none of that matters.  Exit Birch.  Welcome to the party Malcolm. T. Gilbert (no idea what his middle name is, I like T)


Since this story never gets old:  After one of the preseason games, my friend went to the Zoo exit to slap hands with the players as they were leaving.  He yelled to Gilbert, "Gilbert my man!"  Gilbert turns around and gives a Fonz impression back to him (and thus a photoshop was born).

This game was closer than it should've been for two reasons.  SCST could not miss from 3 and Gibbs couldn't hit anything.  Grades.  (And a shout-out to one of my students who says he reads the blog, nicely done VC)

Malcolm Gilbert - He has replaced the Predator Gary McGhee as the big man you love to root for.  Hopefully he isn't an abomination like Gary was his frosh and sophomore years.  He played 5 minutes and managed to alter at least 4 shots from the Bulldogs.  What a weapon he is defensively.  He can alter shots without leaving his feet so there's never a threat of fouling.  He also had a putback dunk at the halftime buzzer.
Grade: A

Ashton Gibbs - Horrible shooting night for Gibbs.  He's been awful this season.  Dixon has been playing him way too many minutes and I think he's just exhausted.  That and jacking up 12 threes will take some out of you as well.  Since Pitt has had its fair share of struggles this NC season (and add Woodall's injury to that) Gibbs has had to play unlimited minutes.  The loss of Birch doesn't affect the backcourt, but with the Big East looming, it might help for Jamie to give Gibbs a bit of a rest these next 3 games.  I don't have a problem with Flipp running point for 10 minutes with Wright or Patterson at the 2.  I'd actually like to see Moore and Patterson on the floor together more anyway.
Grade C+

John Johnson - He ran the floor well and finished off 3 fast breaks for his only baskets.  He did miss both of his threes though.  Flipp has shot so well so far this season that I'm actually shocked when his shots touch something other than nylon.  He continues to get more and more comfortable every game.  He was trying to drive a lot more too.
Grade B+

Talib Zanna - His second double double of the season (12 points 14 boards).  Interesting stat of the day:  Both times Zanna has had double digit points this season, he's paired it with double digit rebounds.  That's not really a coincidence since Zanna only scores on putbacks anyway.  I'd give him an A, but he took a 19 foot baseline jumper, and had hands of stone down low (3 to's).
Grade B+

Nasir Robinson - I don't really remember much from Nasir except he hit an 18 footer.  It's not the prettiest jumpshot (think Shawn Marion-lite) but it got the job done.  He also took a tumble out of bounds into some camera people.  Am I the only one that holds my breath every time that happens?  I think we all remember Levance stumbling backwards out of bounds @Dayton in 07' and basically ruining our Big East season that year with the time he missed.
Grade B

Isaiah Epps - Token 2 minutes.  Made some passes around the perimeter.
Grade n/a

Cameron Wright - He didn't take a shot in 13 minutes, even though he had a lot of open looks.  He has no confidence in his jumpshot, always deferring to Gibbs for another contested 3.
Grade B-

Lamar Patterson - He led Pitt with 16 points and showed a compete offensive game.  He was hitting 3's and slashing (had 2 and 1's but couldn't sink the free throw both times)  His normal stat stuffing line: 16 pt 6 reb 3 ast 1 st 2 bl
Grade A

Dante Taylor - Quiet game from Taylor.  Outside of one huge facial he gave to some sap from SCST, he didn't score.
Grade: B-

JJ Moore - Scored 7 points in 14 minutes of action.  His nice alley oop finish, and a 3 he hit were pretty much the only things I remember from him this game.  Oh and he followed Zanna's ugly jump shot with a nice put-back.
Grade B

Pitt plays again on Tuesday night.  Zoo will again be infested with regular people who've purchased leftover seats.  Jokes.  Will probably be bringing a friend to her first game in the Zoo (family has season tix so she's been to games just not in Zoo) so that should be fun.

Shameless pimping of another blog of the week:
My friend just started this one, it should be pretty funny, since he's a funny guy.  Will feature a lot of rage face comics.

U mad?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Game 10: "Gottlieb! Quit staring at our Women!" Pitt 74 OK State 68

We all know that Pitt and Doug Gottlieb don't get along.  From ripping the zoo for not being loud (against Siena during winter break with 75% of the students home with their families-ass) to constantly taking shots at the team, Gottlieb is certainly an enemy.  Therefore in honor of Gottlieb's alma mater OK State, we will have a Gottlieb Joke Counter throughout the recap.

First of all, the title of the post and subsequent photoshop illustrates the funniest moment I've ever experienced in the zoo.  During that Siena game (I believe my sophomore year),  the cheerleaders/dance team were performing.  Gottlieb was watching.  And so one of the Zoo standing behind the announcer's table yelled at him "Gottlieb!  Quit starin' at our women."  He looked away.
Gottlieb Joke Counter: 1

Okay, since there may be a few more people reading these now, I'd just like to give a quick summary of myself.  I'm 22 and I've been a fan of Pitt sports since Vonteego Cummings and Pete Gonzalez.  Last year during my senior year of undergrad, I decided to start writing about them.  I posted notes to Facebook, but this year I felt the need to see if anyone outside of my friends wanted to read them.  I am by no means a good writer.  I never wrote for a school paper or took a journalism class.  I just love Pitt basketball.

Like most of you, I watched the game on TV.  Pitt jumped out to a typical huge lead, but we all knew that it would still end up close at the end.  We can look at box scores that tell us how many 3's Gibbs made, or how many blocks Khem had, but there are a lot of different stats that go unnoticed.  Decisions, good and bad, that define the outcome.  Therefore each game, I am going to make up a different stat and keep track of it.

Since I could be on my laptop this game and take some notes I have 3
Edit:  And that file is now nowhere to be found so going to be from memory now.

Great passes - Assists tell a pretty good story of how well a player passes, but there's no context behind them.  A player swinging the ball around the perimeter to a shooter who buries a 3 gets an assist in the same way a big man in close quarters down low flips it to a teammate for an easy dunk.  I'm looking for the latter here.

Bad passes - The exact opposite.  Turnovers do not count the times passes are deflected or require a great catch by the receiver.  Also in the bad pass category is any time someone makes a bounce pass to a big with 5 guys in the lane around him.

Defensive Blowbys - Any time someone gets beat off the dribble.  Whether or not they score is irrelevant and losing your guy because of a pick and a switch also don't count.  We're looking at pure one-on-one defense.

Having said all of this, it's time to grade:

Gibbs - (Great passes 1, Bad passes 0, Defensive Blowbys 0)  We like to give Gibbs crap for his defense and shot selection, but this was an okay game defensively for him.  He didn't get beat off the dribble that often.  He picked his spots also and there was only one instance of him dribbling at the top of the key with the shot clock running down waiting to get a pick to shoot a contested 3.  Another thing, the announcers (Raftery,  Van Gundy, and whoever the play-by-play guy was can't remember) made a claim about how Gibbs is always happy on the court or something.  Ummm, what the hell?  Gibbs is Mr. Pissy Pants on the floor.  He's always scowling or shaking his heads at teammates when they misplay one of his poor entry passes or fail to get open.  What an ass.  I like the competitive drive, Ashton, but seems like you're being more of a dick than a super-competitor.  Maybe, I'm wrong.  I don't know.  As far as Gibbs' passes are concerned, he's just not good at it.  He rarely takes risks or tries to make a great feed.  All of his passes are very high percentage (around the perimeter or entry passes with no help defense).  I'm not sure he trusts his teammates to make catches in traffic.  All things considered, the shot selection was so much better that I have to give him credit.
Grade: A-

Patterson (GP's 5 BP's 0 DB's 1)  Great game from Patterson.  In the first half, Lamar put on a passing clinic. I counted 5 great passes in total (not all resulting in points, Robinson missed a couple gimmes)  It was Chris Paul-esque.  He was a force on the boards as well registering his first career double double.  There were a couple shots he could've knocked down, but I can't complain, Patterson is making the typical Dixon-coached jump in his junior season.  Grade A+

Birch - (GP, BP, DB All 0) I'd really like Birch to get some more minutes in these games.  There weren't really any big moments for him this game.  As usual, the announcers had to mention his quick leaping ability.  Big time trolling of Van Gundy when one of his partners claimed that Alonzo Mourning had quite the vertical despite having a guy hanging on his leg (referencing the Heat-Knicks brawls in the late 90s)  He showed his ability to step out when he knocked down a J from the free throw line.  Grade B+

Robinson (GP 1 BP 0 DB 1)  Awful free throw shooting (1-5) but hey at least he's not Mason Plumlee (2-11 today jeez)  Again typical Nas performance down low and finishing.  The only thing preventing him from having a monster game was a few blown layups that he normally finishes.
Grade A-

Wright -(GP 0 BP 4 DB 4)  Wow, horrible game from Cameron.  So many of his passes were deflected, and he was routinely beat off the dribble.  For a player who's only getting minutes for his hustle, this is not the type of game you like to see from him.  His offense is still a work in progress as well.  I did however notice that he had put his shorts on the right way.  Something Gottlieb struggles with.  Gottlieb can't dress himself  Grade D
Gottlieb Joke Counter - 2

J. Johnson - (GP 0 BP 2 DB 2-3).  His one three pointer was a heckuva play because it was off his back foot and looked to be a poor decision.  But it hung the friggin net.  What a stroke.  He did have four turnovers and still seems to have trouble staying with guards though.  And I'll also mention when he brought the ball back out when he didn't have numbers on the fast break because the announcers saw it and thought it was awesome because he made that decision as a freshmen.  I mean, it was a smart play, but just because the guy's a freshmen doesn't mean he hasn't been in that situation hundreds of times before in games.  If you don't have numbers, pull it back out.  Grade B

Zanna - (GP 1 BP 0 DB 3)  The box score says that Zanna did alright in his 11 minutes.  He had 4 boards, 0 turnovers, made his only shot.  But this was a poor game defensively for him.  He was beaten three times off the dribble.  Grade B-

Moore - Sophomore slump?  When Gil Brown was a freshmen and sophomore he would only get his points by driving and alley oops.  Later on, he developed a decent 3 point shot, but he still realized that his bread and butter was the fact he could jump over people.  Moore doesn't seem to realize this.  When he does, look out.  Grade B
Wait a minute my sister just texted me.  She's can't seem to find her credit card.  Gottlieb probably has it.
DGJC - 3

Epps - Played one minute.  Nothing really to say here.  Grade n/a

Taylor - Four big-time blocks from him.  He had a fantastic hook shot for a 3 point play.  There was also another moment when he tried to lead a fast break but blew the layup.  That's not your game big fella.  As skilled as you are offensively, ball-handling is not one of your strengths.  Grade B

Pitt is off for a week until they play South Carolina State.  I'll be back in the zoo, leading the charge.

Final Gottlieb Joke Counter - 3

Doug Gottlieb sucks (make that 4),

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Game 9 High Octane: Pitt 97 Virginia Military 70

This was probably Pitt's most complete game of the season.  Before I get into the game action, let's recap a little about what's gone on since my last recap.

Most importantly, Tray is out 5 weeks with a groin strain and abdominal tear.  He won't need surgery, just rest.  Obviously this is a huge blow because the injury will keep Tray out for the beginning of the Big East season.  It's time for the freshmen to step up.

Pitt got a tough road win on the weekend @ Tennessee.  Tennessee isn't particularly good, but beating any power conference team on the road can be considered a big win (unless that team is Depaul or something).  Final score 61-56.

So Virginia Military, the West Point of the South.  The only difference is that their students aren't required to serve upon graduation, so it's not really like West Point.  Anyway they're called the Keydets, which is known as 'Cadets' with a 'Southern Twang'.  So that's basically like some expansion football team wanting to call themselves the Stillers because it's Steelers with a southern twang.
Verdict:  Cadets > Keydets

VMI normally plays basketball how Todd Graham wants Pitt's offense to play, high octane.  Take a shot within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, they run and they gun.  Think Pitt against UConn this year.  There are over 300 division 1 basketball programs.  Only 11 score more than VMI.

Unfortunately, for them, they shot about as well as Tino plays quarterback in the fourth quarter, which is to say a lot of misses.  Pitt held them to 70.

Recap City:
First of all I missed the first 7 minutes of the game racing up to the Pete from my class at Posvar that ended at 7:05.  Big time hustling performance from me to only miss that much, since I had to change out of my shirt and tie and drop off those clothes in my car.

Khem - Not a whole lot from Khem this game.  There were really only 3 big plays he made.  He had a put-back dunk after embarrassing himself the possession before by getting stuffed by someone and being knocked to the ground, then as he was lying on the ground the ball came down and hit him as he was laying out of bounds to turn the ball over.  Then he had a block that went out of bounds.  Something that Birch will learn is that sometimes it's better to block the ball in play so your team can get the ball instead of smacking it into the 3rd row.  I feel that more than half of Khem's blocks this season have either gone right to the other team or out of bounds.  Sometimes it's important to make a statement with a huge swat that gets the zoo pumped up, but Khem will learn how to block the ball and tip it to his teammates instead of fans.  For a bit of basketball history, they say Bill Russell was an expert at this.  Show the kid some old film.  Grade B

Cam Wright - He's been getting mega minutes, but hasn't really shown much.  Against Tennesse he was 0-6 in 25 minutes, tonight he was 1-4 with a couple turnovers and no assists.  Going to need more from him to validate the PT he's getting.  Grade C-

Nasir Robinson - Game Ball goes to Nas, went 19 14 and 5 with 0 turnovers.  He was just making plays everywhere, shining glass.  What a player.  I could list all the plays he made, but I don't have enough time.  Grade A+

Patterson - Not a good shooting night from him (3-10) but he was a playmaker.  On two possessions in the first half he had a pair of incredible feeds down low for easy layups (one to Robinson, one to Taylor maybe)  he was threading the needle.  Tino, take notes.  Grade A-

Gibbs - With about 10 minutes left in the game, Gibbs had 5 points and had missed everything all game.  VMI was only down 15 and they felt like they could make a run.  Then Gibbs decided to take their lunch money.  There was like a 3 minute sequence when he couldn't miss.  4 of his 6 threes came during this span, and the life was sucked out of VMI.  At one point, the shot clock was running down and Gibbs had the ball at the top of the key.  Everyone in the building knows that Ashton was gonna try to get a pick and some separation so he could shoot the 3.  An assistant coach for VMI was standing up screaming at his players (most likely to watch the three).  Doesn't matter, Gibbs pulled up from 25 feet out and buried it, and the coach threw his arms up in frustration and sat down.  Probably the moment of the night.  Grade A-

John "Flipp" Johnson - He continues to impress.  Getting big time minutes now in Woodall's absence, he continues to shoot the rock with Nowitzki-like accuracy.  3-5 from the field (2-3 3pt), made all 5 of his free throws and dished out 5 assists against one turnover.  Back in their preview, the Pitt News said that Johnson was like Wanamaker (who by the way showed up at halftime to get his Big East Champs ring - to a really really loud ovation by the zoo, okay I get it Wanamaker was a nice player his past two years, but he really wasn't that good.  Blair didn't get that kind of ovation last time he was there and he was a 1st team all-american.  Plus he wore a Phillies shirt so he's a joke.  Wow longest rant ever)  But really Johnson is not like Wanamaker at all.  Brad was a 6'4 tank that played a lot of his career at point forward.  Flip is 6'1 if that.  I mean I get it, if they wanna make the toughness comparison, but Johnson isn't pulling down 8-9 rebounds anytime soon like you could come to expect from Wanamaker.  If anyone is Brad, it's Patterson.  They have the most similar skill sets.  Or even Wright since they're both big guards.  Anywho, grade for Flip:  A

Rivers/Nwankwo - They both played and missed a shot.  Nwankwo had a pair of rebounds.  Pitt was up by so much in the first half that Rivers actually got in before halftime.  Grade - n/a

Zanna - Typical Zanna performance 8 points 7 rebounds.  He benefited from some great entry passes from the guards.  Dixon said he injured his ankle or he would have gotten more minutes.  This was because Nas was in a bit of foul trouble.  So Dixon had to put Nas back in, and as you know he was a beast.  Grade B+

Taylor - 10 points and 7 rebounds from Dante.  He even shot his free throws a little better.  Dick Groat on the post game said he was impressed with how much harder Dante was working to get position down low.  I'll agree with him there.  Grade B+

Epps - Epps is so far in Dixon's doghouse right now, it's not even funny.  He's not making good decisions when he's in there.  He's been a mega disappointment so far.  He missed all three shots he took (all three's).  At one point, he took a ridiculously unnecessary contested 3 early in the shot clock because I think he tried to make a big shot cuz Pitt was hitting everything and he wanted in on the action.  It was a brick and Dixon yanked him so fast (insert analogy here).  Grade D

Moore - These are the types of nights JJ is gonna have to have if Pitt is gonna go anywhere.  He picked his spots and finished the night with 16.  I never felt like he forced anything, which can be the case with him sometimes.  Grade  A

Pitt plays Oklahoma State on Saturday

Over/under on Doug Gottlieb jokes is set conservatively at 14.5,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Game 7 Dante's Inferno: Pitt 80 Duquesne 69

Good morning,
I would have written this recap last night but it took me at least 9 and a half hours to get a bus back to Oakland from CEC to get my car to get home.  I'm kidding of course, the wait was really only an hour.  But anyway, I'm sitting in my classroom eating my pb and j lunch and talking about Pitt basketball.  Could I use this time to plan next week's lessons?  Nah, it's my lunch period I'm gonna enjoy it.  In lunch related news, I decided to bring a pop-tart also because I didn't get a chance to eat a normal breakfast this morning.  I don't know what flavor it is but it's damn that I think about it, it might be blueberry muffin.
Everyone go buy blueberry muffin poptarts.

Now basketball.

Pitt won 80-69.  Duquesne led early 10-5, but then Pitt went on a 10-0 run and never trailed the rest of the way.  Looking a this game three things stand out.
The Good:
Dante Taylor didn't miss a shot from the field or the line and finished with 15 and 11

The Bad:
Pitt turned it over 23 times (3rd most under Dixon)

The Ugly:
Pitt outrebounded Duquesne 39-15

It's really hard to get a feel for what this Pitt team can do.  Obviously the turnovers are a concern, but it seems that every game when one particular facet doesn't go well (e.g. Gibbs shooting poorly, turnovers, etc.)  There's always something else that bails the Panthers out (not including LBSU game, they were just outplayed in that one)  Robert Morris game.  Gibbs has a bad shooting night (6-17) but Zanna gets the epitome of a workman's double double with 10 and 15, and Wright has a career high 13 so Pitt wins.  The teams Pitt is playing right now, they can overcome multiple poor performances and still win.  In the Big East, if more than one or two things don't go the Panthers' way (bad shooting night from Tray or Ashton, turnovers, getting outrebounded, what have you) they'll lose.  And of course looking even farther down the road, they'll basically have to play perfect basketball if they want to get past the elite 8 because of the huge gap in talent from Duke Kentucky UNC Ohio State, Uconn to Pitt.  But for now we're playing teams like La Salle and Rider so getting wins is the only thing that matters.  I'm not even worried about this team right now.  Even the loss doesn't look that bad. Take a look at this article about the top 10 shockers so far this year.  Where does the Pitt loss rank?  2?  3?  Try 7th, so not as big a deal as some of the other events in cbb this year.

Onto the grades: (Wright didnt' play because he was suspended for violating team rules for one game)

Gibbs - After struggling from the field the past 4 games, Gibbs finally got back to form.  Gibbs is known as a 3 point shooter, but you can tell what kind of night it's going to be for him by his shot selection.  If he's shooting poorly, expect him to jack up a lot of threes and try to get points in a hurry.  He'll still get his points, but he'll take more shots to do it.  If instead he mixes in the occasional mid range j or drive, he'll keep defenses honest and get to the line more.  Tonight he took 9 threes and 4 two's, making 4 and 3 respectively. He's still gonna take more threes because that's his game, but he did just enough inside the arc to give the defense something else to think about.  On his 2 point shots he basically abused TJ McConnell (more on him later).  Grade A

Woodall - Gene Collier has a cute article about why they shouldn't play this game anymore because nobody cares and the teams don't hate each other.
He's basically saying that back in the day the City game would be filled with fist fights in the stands and on the court and if you weren't bleeding you weren't trying (actually my Dad will attest to that statement)  and now both teams are lovey-dovey and the Pitt and Duquesne students are arm in arm singing kumbaya during media timeouts.

I don't have a problem playing Duquesne every year.  Pitt plays like 18 nonconference games a year, they can afford to schedule Duquesne in December.  Does it matter that the Dukes might not ever beat Pitt under Dixon (they've lost 11 in a row for the record)?  No not really, because Pitt usually wins all its nonconference games because they're an elite program.  Pitt's dominance isn't a reason to stop the City Game.
As far as the other lack of hate thing, ummm whatever, Duquesne sucks.
Side note, the uniforms of the Duquesne cheerleaders and dance team made my soul hurt.  The Dance team basically performed without pants and the cheerleaders appear to have fastened the top parts of their uniforms out of a few wash cloths.  Say what you want about the Pitt DT and cheerleaders, but at least they dress classy and compared to other schools, modestly.  Props to them.

I'm still in favor of playing the City game every year, just keep it at the school sites.  Yeah I know they broke an attendance record at CEC but it was a pain in the ass for me to take a bus from Oakland and $10 is uber-expensive for a student ticket.  Actually, now that I'm no longer living in Oakland and/or parked there as was the case last night, go ahead and keep it at CEC, it'll make it easier for me to see the team play when I can no longer rely on student tickets.  (Already on the season ticket waiting list and have been for 2 years now - like a boss)

The whole point of that rant was to bring us back to Woodall who manage to get hurt on three separate occasions in the game.  First he took a ball to the face on an errant bounce pass from McConnell.  Then he got kneed in the groin on a drive.  And finally hurt his leg (an injury that removed him from the rest of the game as he had to be carried to the locker room)  No word yet on the severity of it, but I doubt he'll miss any time. He didn't appear to be in Ray Graham style agony when he was down.  If he misses Saturday's game against Tennessee oh well, Pitt will adjust.  As far as the game, Tray didn't play well.  He shot poorly and routinely allowed McConnell to step into his passing lanes for easy interceptions and fast breaks.

TJ McConnell is a player.  Long story short.  McConnell is a local kid, played for his Dad at Chartiers Valley, scored unlimited points (34.5 per game to be exact) and his aunt is a women's basketball legend.  So as is the case with all coach's sons, they know the game extremely well and can shoot the lights out.  TJ is no exception, he was Duquesne's best player all night (even though some other joke led them in scoring).  He's not quick on defense as evidenced by the slow-footed Gibbs  beating him off the dribble but his anticipation was incredible and Tray just kept playing into his strengths with lazy passes.  Grade for Tray  B-

Patterson - He returned to the starting lineup after the 2 game suspension and promptly fouled out in 20 minutes.  Add in the four turnovers and this was a very poor game from Lamar.  In fact, Gibbs Woodall Patterson and Robinson combined for 20 of Pitt's 23 turnovers, the only starter not to give it away at least once was Birch.  Grade C+

Robinson - the 6 turnovers jump out at you.  After averaging 18 the previous 4 games, Nas only manged 3 and 7 against RMU and Duquesne.  But he did manage to record my play of the game:

Play of the game:  Sometime in the second half, Nas got the ball down low.  What followed was an insane combination of fakes, spins, jukes that had his defender all over the place until Nas finished with the left hand and was fouled.  He was doing his best Olajuwon impersonation.  Video below, basically what Nas did.
Grade B

Dante Taylor - He returned to action and may have just won back his starting job.
6-6 from the field 3-3 from the line 15 pts 11 reb 3 ast 0 turnovers and only one foul in 27 minutes.  He more or less played the perfect game.  He was crashing the boards (of course so was everyone else on Pitt cuz Duquesne is a very short team) but this was the most aggressive I've seen him play so far this season.  Great to see.  Grade A+

Birch - Birch started but he didn't do much of anything.  He got beat down low in the first half a few times but this was Taylor's night.  Grade B-

Epps - Epps played the last minute after Woodall was hurt but he didn't do anything.  He's clearly behind Wright and Johnson in the backcourt so don't expect much from him this season as this was the first game in a while he's seen playing time and it was only because Patterson had fouled out, Woodall was hurt and the game as at hand.  Grade: n/a

Zanna - After a dominant rebounding performance from Zanna in the previous game, he was pretty quiet tonight.  Only played about 13 minutes, didn't do anything that really stood out.  Grade B

Moore - Same thing, quiet game from Moore, 1-6 from the field and nothing that I really remember about his night.  Grade B-

J Johnson - If all DJ Khaled does is win win win, then all [D.]J. Johnson does is hit threes hit threes and hit threes. What an asset he is right now.  He's still a little nervous bringing the ball up when he's out there, but for now he's doing his best to help the team.  When he gets an open look he's burying it.  He's 8-12 from three this season.  He's been the surprise of the season so far.  Grade A

That's it.  As a final note, some of the ref calls were jokes, when Pitt was inbounding after a made basket.  Woodall bumped a Dukes player running down the court and was called for a foul giving the ball back to Duquesne.  Then a little while later, there was some type of issue with who would inbound the ball for Pitt, and Gibbs had it, then gave it to Moore, but Gibbs was out of bounds but then stepped in bounds, but because he was out of bounds when he...I really don't know, it was on the other end of the court and I didn't have the benefit of hearing an explanation from the ref or the announcers, just know that Pitt turned the ball over on some joke call the refs decided to enforce cuz they were Duquesne homers.

Pitt goes to Tennessee on Saturday.  You may remember them from the ass-whupping they put on as at CEC last season.  Don't expect the same result.  UT played out of their minds in that game and the two biggest contributors to that (Scotty Hopson who went for 30 I think and Tobias Harris) both left early for the pros (Tobias selected 19th overall and Hopson undrafted).

Until Saturday then,
And perfect timing too because a class is about to come in,
Mr. Opperman

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Game 6: Pitt 81 Robert Morris 71

This game wasn't as close as the final score.  Pitt thoroughly dominated in perhaps their most complete game since the season opener against Albany.
Robert Morris from the NEC is no slouch, they've dominated that conference for the past four years (and earned a few NCAA bids under former Pitt assistant Mike Rice Jr).  Unfortunately for them Rice is beginning his 2nd year as Rutgers' coach.  Their new coach's name is Andrew Toole, who's 31 and the youngest coach in D1.
Pitt is 30-0 against RMU and 67-0 all-time against that conference, so they weren't losing tonight.
Last year, they gave Pitt all kinds of trouble with pressure defense, they pressed all day.  Tonight, they barely did.  I'm not sure if the pressure D was because of Rice (makes sense) and that the new coach doesn't like to do it as much, or they just graduated a few good players (also possible), but their D was meh this game.

Side note, Pitt won @ the Palestra against Penn 78-58 on Friday.

Onto the grades (we're gonna do this quickly because the Steelers are about to kick off).

Gibbs - He found a way to get 21 points, but he really didn't have a good night.  Didn't shoot well, forced some threes.  Grade B+

Woodall - He had some garbage points at the end, but he really didn't have to do much all game because of the performances of some other guys (See Wright, Cameron).  But he's been a double double machine this year.  Grade B+

Birch - He earned his second straight start because Taylor's been sidelined with migraines.  Against Penn he went for 15 and 10, and tonight he blocked everything.  6 in total on the evening or one off the panther record, which happens to be held by?...GARY MCGHEE.  GAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRYYYYYYY!!! Yeah, that record is gonna fall this year.  He also chipped in 8 points and hit a nice 17 foot jumper.  Grade A+

Robinson - Meh game from Robinson, he only took one shot, missed 3 free throws in a row on 2 straight possessions in the first half and that's really all I remember from him.  Grade C

Moore - Moore hit a couple of threes but generally didn't do much this game.  Still waiting for him to break out.  Grade B

Patterson, Taylor - Both didn't play the past two games, Patterson was suspended for two games for violating team rules, and obviously I mentioned Taylor with the migraines.

J. Johnson - played 12 minutes, didn't turn the  ball over and hit the two open 3's he was given.  You can't ask for more than that from him at this point.  Grade A

Zanna- NIGEEEEEEERIIIIIIIIIAAAAAA!  WHAT A BEAST!  He had 10 points, but only one of those points came when he was given the ball.  The other 4 buckets were pure hustle offensive rebound putbacks (one on a missed free throw which is always difficult)  15 boards on the night for him (7 offensive!)  My co-mvp of this game.  Grade A+

Wright - My other MVP,  Wright was everywhere tonight.  He had two straight steals in the first half for easy buckets.  The second one he dunked and got called for a technical for hanging on the rim, which was total bullshit because the rules say that if you're hanging on the rim to avoid injury (i.e. there's someone directly underneath you) then there's no technical.  Wright dunked, then hung on to avoid ending the life of the poor RMU player underneath him.  Refs didn't see it that way.  What a joke.  But basically, Wright hustled his butt off, he drew a charge, made a 3, and was all over the place.  Grade A+

City Game against Duquesne @ Consol on Wednesday Night.

Do it.  Hail to Pitt.

p.s. Mewelde Moore is a joke.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Game 4: Cause for concern? Pitt Chrome Panthers 73 La Salle Internet Explorers 69

Pitt's 3-1.  That's all I'm gonna say.  They won.  There are some things that went well (huge rebounding margin +18) and some things that were awful.  They struggled a ton against the press (21 turnovers).  I missed the first half for class (joke city).

Due to some comments from some people where I work (aka a student), I've decided to be more sure of stuff when I report it...even though you know, it's a friggin blog, not USA Today.  So no more will I say things like, "I don't know, [insert event here] probably happened.  If I remember it, you'll hear about it.  If not, then you won't read about it.

You know what.  Never mind.  I'm not changing a thing.  Let it ride.  I should go grade this jobber's quiz.

100%...touche kid...touche.  I give all the credit to me being an awesome teacher obviously.

Back to the game,
La Salle is one of the Big 5 schools in Philadelphia (along with Villanova, St Joseph's, Penn and Temple).  La Salle and Penn get beat on by the other Big Three on a regular basis when they have the Big 5 tournament.  For the record, the Big 5 are just 5 schools in Philly and they all play each other in a round robin around the beginning of the year in non-conference (La Salle Temple and St Joe's in A10, Penn in Ivy, Nova in Big East).
Let's go back to 1954.

Final Four = La Salle over Penn State, Bradley over USC
Final = La Salle over Bradley led by Final Four MOP and future 5x NBA All-Star Tom Gola.  Also fun fact, Gola is the all-time leading rebounder in NCAA history with 2,201.  Enough La Salle history.

Truth be told, I don't really remember much from this game.  One reason being I missed the first half, the second being, it was one of those games I knew Pitt would win, but it was still frustrating to watch.

Side note - Pitt 3-0 with me, 0-1 without me.  Coincidence?  Nope.

Gibbs was awful.  He couldn't get anything to fall.  He was still scoreless when I showed up with 3 min left in the half.  Pitt will get bounced early in the tourney if Gibbs shoots anywhere near as bad as he did tonight.  However Pitt was saved by the strong play of Nasir Robinson, who is quickly becoming the leader of this team.  He's just so solid.  And now a few specific points I'd like to bring up.

Tray Woodall's block - With about 20 seconds left in the game, Pitt was up by 3 with the ball, but the shot clock would expire with about 10 seconds so Pitt would have to shoot and La Salle didn't have to foul.  Flashback to the Butler game when Pitt was up by 1 but would have to shoot with about 10 seconds left.  They pissed around and Gibbs threw up a 27 footer from the top of the key that missed, Butler scored to take the lead and that that weird shit started happening, but we all know that story.

Anyway, similar thing happened with La Salle, someone's three point attempt was blocked or stolen but whatever La Salle on the fast break with 10 seconds left.  Tray, the only man back, one-on-one.  The La Salle player (a 6'2ish guard) goes for the quick two. HUUUUUUUUGE STUFF by Tray.  I swear he had a ladder to block the shot.  He was up up and away, the elevator man baby! (Sorry for the Dicky V reference).  Anyway, Taylor gathered the rebound, was fouled, missed the first, made the second to ice it and that was the game.

Some strong defensive play from Khem Birch.  Without a doubt Birch's best game so far. 6 rebounds and 3 huge blocks (Tray also had 3 blocks and his 3rd double double with 12 and 10).  Fun story, when I was leaving Quaker Steak a bunch of the players were entering and about a half block down the road was Khem. Now I normally don't say stuff to players when I see them around campus, whatever, I mean they're just students.  But then I thought, well maybe I'll say "Nice game Khem" in passing.  But then I thought about it...they beat friggin La Salle by four.  Now I sound like a sarcastic asshole.  So I went with "Hey Khem." and he turned and said hey back, clearly confused cuz he has no idea who I am.  Doesn't matter, I was halfway down the street already.

So as a whole, Pitt won despite turning the ball over 21 times and Gibbs shooting 3-15.  Those two numbers should spell doom for Pitt in almost any game, so the fact that they still won is kinda nice.  Pitt's turnover counts in the first 3 games (7, 9, 12-loss)  So if they stay around their average, it probably changes the score to Pitt winning by about 15.  Add in a normal shooting night from Gibbs and we're looking at an easy 25 point win by Pitt.  So in conclusion, Pitt's freshmen still need to grow up some more, we need more from Taylor, their defense needs to get better, but they're still going to be fine.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Game 3 Growing Pains: Pitt 76 Long Beach State 86

Well, Pitt lost.  That undefeated season will now be 39-1, oh well.  I was not in attendance tonight (probably why they lost) because I had to teach CCD until 8:15.  I was however able to make it home in plenty of time to watch it on tv.  Unfortunately, watching a game on tv does not allow for as much in depth analysis since it is much harder to watch all five guys and tell what they're doing away from the ball.  So for this recap I won't talk about players individually but the team as a whole.

Following this game, there were two groups of people.  Those who claim, "Aww Long Beach State is good brah, but Pitt will right the ship" and "Pitt sucks, they're just choking in November instead of March."  For the record, the members in the second group are also the same people that if you ask them if they want to buy chocolate that will make them seem smart, they'll say, "I'll take twenty!" (If you didn't get the Spongebob reference, joke's on you.)  

I'll start off by saying this, Long Beach State is indeed a good team.  Sure this win was their first over a ranked team since the 8th grade picnic but they're a veteran team.  It's too early to say now, but the Dirtbags have all the makings of a possible cinderella in March.  What is always characteristic of the George Masons and VCU's is that they have a ton of seniors who have seen every type of moment on a basketball court and know how to react.  They killed everyone in the Big West Conference last year and won 22 games overall but just choked in the tournament final against UCSB.  They would've been a 13 or 14 seed in last year's tournament and they returned almost everyone including reigning BW Player of the year Casper Ware.  They also played UNC last year in Chapel Hill and only lost by 5.  This is basically the same exact UNC team that's currently ranked #1 in the country.  

They also have an excellent coach in Dan Monson.  You know Gonzaga, how they always seem to be ranked now under coach Mark Few.  Well Monson started it all.  He was coach when the Zags made their first deep NCAA tourney run (to the elite 8 as a 10th seed before losing to Rip Hamilton, that assclown Khalid El-Amin and the rest of the eventual champion uconn huskies)  By the way, my  hatred of El-Amin is a story for another day.  After that tourney he left to become coach of the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, where he had minimal success but he's been working some old magic with the 49ers.  Also side note, the term Dirtbags was a nickname given to the LBSU baseball team in the early 90s because they worked hard and got their uniforms dirty and whatnot.  It's been extended to other sports teams as well but for the most part it is only their baseball team that gets this nickname.

Enough LBSU history, the actual game, well if you watched the game you knew what happened.  Pitt was just incredibly lazy with their passes, letting LB jump into passing lanes constantly and fast break them to death.  Woodall had unlimited turnovers.  Gibbs was ice cold (9-21 from the field), and the entire Panther bench was a combined 0-6 from the field.

Tray had a good shooting night 5-6, but he was too busy fouling out with 5 minutes left to do any more damage.  Gibbs was awful form inside the arc, nothing was falling.

The rebounding was atrocious, particularly the one possession when the 49ers had about 8 second chance opportunities and still didn't score.

Pitt is currently ranked #9 in the country.  I think we can all agree right now that they're not the 9th best team out there.  Right now I'd put them around the 14-18 rank (or around a 4 or 5 seed).  Which means that a possible rematch with LBSU (probably a future 12 or 13 seed) is very possible.  When you're filling out your bracket, you always pick a 12 to beat a 5 cuz you just figure it'll happen.  Then when it does no one bats an eye.  But if that same matchup happens early in the season, and the 5 seed loses it's like the end of the world. Yeah it stings that the non-conference home winning streak is over, but the longer that streak got, the worse it was gonna feel when it finally ended.  What if that streak got to something absurd like 300 or something and it was ended while your son was in the Zoo.  I bet he'd feel pretty shitty.  Oh well, new streak starts next game.

People say if Pitt was truly elite they wouldn't lose this game.  Yeah, I know.  Because Pitt isn't elite right now.  Their freshmen need a ton of work.  We're not like Kentucky and the one-and-done factory that Calipari is running there.  Our freshmen come in and need some time to develop.  Blair was the anomaly.  Another big factor is the apparent sophomore slump of JJ Moore.  Everyone had him on their most improved player watch list for the big east, and he's done shit so far.

So enough ranting, is Pitt good enough to make a deep tournament run?  Absolutely.  And the reasons are Ashton Gibbs and Tray Woodall.  Guard play dominates the tournament and the Panthers have it.  The problem is that if one of their big guys doesn't develop in a hurry, this team will struggle in the Big East and have a very tough road when the brackets come out on Selection Sunday.

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Game 2: Taylor says "Not in my house!" Pitt 86 Rider 78

Second game of the season.  It was a trap.  Pitt played a joke of a team in the Rider Broncs of the MAAC.  Then again Rider has done something Pitt hasn't, and that is have a player drafted in the lottery in the last 10 years. (Jason Thompson 12th overall to the Kings in 2008).   Coming off a 26 point shellacking at the hands of the power house Robert Morris Colonials, Rider didn't appear to offer Pitt much of a challenge.  That and they only dressed 9 players.  Pitt would roll.

But that's why they play the game.

Pitt jumped out to an early 17-5 lead.  Gibbs and Woodall were both 2-2 from 3.  And Robinson had the other 5 with an And 1 (Robinson had a monster game).  5 minutes into the game, I thought Woodall might go for the first half.  He was on fire.  Then his game turned to ice and so did Pitt's for the next 30 minutes.  Rider led by 6 late in the second half and held its last lead 73-72 before Pitt finally shut them down and escaped embarrassment.  I can't say the same about Vanderbilt, which lost to Cleveland State today.  So Pitt should move up 1 in the rankings.


Gibbs - All the nba moves we saw from Gibbs in the first game seemed to disappear and he was back to a 3 point specialist.  He went 6-14 from 3 and 1-1 from 2.  He wasn't a playmaker either registering only 1 assist.  One of his 3's was the dagger for Pitt though that put the game out of reach for Rider.  Grade A-

Woodall - Woodall continued his hot shooting from Friday in the first 5 minutes of tonight's game, but then the shots just stopped falling for him and he started making bad decisions.  He recovered and stopped trying to do too much in the second half.  His overall stat line is still very solid. 17 pt team high 7 reb, team high 10 assists.  Grade A-

Patterson - Patterson is playing well and is clearly deserving of the starting position over Moore.  Yes he only shot 1-4 (all 3's) but he grabbed 8 boards and had 5 assists, a steal and a block and no turnovers in 20 minutes.  Patterson is a glue guy.  Grade B+

Robinson - Monster game from Nasir. 9-10 fg 4-4 ft, 22 points 6 reb 4 ast.  Pitt would be wise to try and get him more touches down low.  One of these games, Woodall and Gibbs will go ice cold from the perimeter and they'll need points somehow.  He also blocked a three point attempt late in the second half that was huge.   Grade A+

Taylor - Taylor was nonexistant for the first 35 minutes of the game, but then he had a few putbacks on offense and a game-changing block in the second half that prompted Taylor to do the Mutombo finger wag as he was running down the court.  Incredible moment.  Taylor's having fun out there, and that's great to see.  Grade B+

Zanna - Zanna is a worker.  With DeJuan Blair in attendance (and several other Pitt bball greats) the Nigerian gave his best Blair impersonation with 6 offensive boards.  I'm not sure how many of those  boards resulted in 2nd chance points for Pitt, but it was probably a few.  Grade B

Moore - Moore isn't playing well right now.  His shot isn't falling and he lacks confidence, which is something I never thought I'd see from him.  He was 1-4 and only played 9 minutes.  Grade C

Wright - Minimal contribution from Cam in 13, made 1 free throw and zeros for every stat.  Grade C-

Birch - Khem finally made a basket (a dunk), had 3 offensive rebounds and registered the first block of his Pitt career.  He's still got a long way to go, he needs to put on some weight.  Grade B-

J. Johnson - Flip played 6 minutes in the second half when Pitt was trailing.  He hit a monster 3 from the left corner to cut into the Rider lead.  Grade B

Epps, D. Johnson, Gilbert - Didn't play.

Pitt was awful defensively in this game.  Rider had way too many open looks.  At one point in the second half they were shooting over 60% for the game.  Taylor bit on 1300 shot fakes in this game.  They're lucky to escape, but good teams find a way to avoid upsets.

Next game is Wednesday night.

Hit like if you read it, and say also if you want to be tagged in these so you can read them.

Hail to Pitt,

Game 1 Pitt 89 Albany 56

pitt fan tested. math teacher approved.

Okay, first game of the season, a friday night tilt against the Albany Great Danes of the American Eastern Conference.
Um, I don't really know anything about them.  They wear purple, enough said.

Before the game I stumbled upon a copy of the Pitt News' basketball preview issue.  It was on the ground.  Makes sense.  But I was feeling optimistic so I read it...

So they had a paragraph for each player on the team.  I managed to find the template they used to write each of these.

[Insert player's name] had a [strong season/ didn't play / was at his hs prom] last season and he's looking to contribute more to the Panthers this season.  Coach Dixon said, "[insert player's first name] worked really hard in the offseason.  [Insert Player's name] is aggressive and strong defensively, a staple of Panther basketball.

Enough Pitt News bashing...for now...onto the game.

The game went the way of most non-conference games early in the year with Pitt just destroying teams.  To quote the great Harry Doyle from major league, "They say you can tell a lot about a team's season by the first hitter."  So I'm going to do that with the first basket.  Nasir Robinson missed a shot in the paint and Dante Taylor dunked the putback.  So whatever that means for the Panther season I don't know.  

Grade Time:

Side note, JJ Moore did not play in tonight's game because he was suspended for one game for playing in some unauthorized pickup game in the summer.  No big deal.  Patterson got the start instead.

Gibbs - Typical Gibbs stat line - 21 points 3-7 from three point land, but the big kicker is a career high 7 assists.  One highlight for me was Gibbs finding Taylor I think inside and letting him do his thing to get the bucket.  Gibbs got him the ball right where he needed it to make his move.  One thing however I noticed with Gibbs in the first half is that it seemed like he tried to show off all the new things he added to his game all at once.  Pro scouts criticized Gibbs for just being a catch and shoot guy and not being able to create off the dribble.  Basically ally of his shots in the first half were off dribble drives and pull-ups.  He clearly worked on it.  Should be fun.  Grade A+

Taylor - Decent game from Taylor.  He had the one dunk to start the game and a he hit a few jump hooks.  7 points 8 boards.  A gary-esque performance.  Can we expect more from Taylor than what we got tonight?  Hopefully, but when the guards are playing as well as they did tonight, there's no need for Taylor to put up gaudy numbers.  Grade B+

Patterson - He got the start.  His only two baskets were both three's (Pitt was 13-22 as a team from treyland)   Keeping with the comparisons to last year's team.  Patterson put in a very Wanamakerian stat line of 6 pt 7 reb and 6 ast.  I still think Moore should start over him at the three, but he's making the decision a lot more difficult.  Grade A

Robinson - This was Robinson's first game action since the Butler debacle.  He didn't really do much, it might've been his knee, but he seemed to be holding back.  Only 2 boards in 23 minutes to go along with 8 points.  Meh.  Grade B

Travon Freaking Woodall - Umm, yeah.  When I set out to write this note, I considered just talking about Tra's performance in this game and nothing else.  It was legendary (yes it was Albany but whatever)
Stat Line: 25 points, 6 rebounds 10 assists, 9-13 from the field, 5-7 from three, 2-2 from line, 2 steals and a block.

Woodall is now offically the Player of the Year (Wooden or Naismith) award in college basketball.  Somebody alert Dicky V.  Oh side note, on preseason all-american team Gibbs was put on the second team.  A breakdown of the voters revealed Vitale as the only person who had Gibbs as a first teamer.  The rest either 2nd team or not on the ballot.  This makes me smile.  It's awesome baby!

Back to Woodall, he was the total package tonight.  Something I did notice about him is he likes to drive, stop and pull up for the short jump shot off the glass.  You know who is a master of that move, Dwyane Wade.  Obviously Woodall lacks Wade's size, strength, nba championship ring, and successful t-mobile ad campaign, but whatever.  Haters gonna hate.  Grade A++

Zanna - Zanna didn't really do much.  He played 14 minutes, made both of his shots.  Meh.  Grade B

Birch - All-American's stat line in his debut. 17 minutes 0-1 from the field 2-2 from line, 3 rebounds, no assists steals or blocks.  Not the most exciting or productive debuts from a player who's supposed to be a game-changer.  But we knew this would be the case with Birch.  He is very raw offensively.  I expected that, but I figured he might get a block or two since that's what his strength is.  Then again, every Pitt frosh can't have a debut like this (coincidentally it was my debut in the zoo...and it was on a friday night as well)
That's why you gotta realize that Blair was one of those rare once in a blue moon players.  Damn shame he left after two seasons, but he had to get the pro money before his knees and lack of acl's derail his career.  Put Blair as a senior on last year's team?  They probably win it all.  Anyway back to Birch.  Grade C

Wright - Not much action from Cam.  He hustled as always, and made his only shot in 15 minutes of action.  Grade B-

Epps - Only played 6 minutes.  Very strange.  Made some shot.  Grade C

Rivers and Nwankwo - Got in for garbage time, Rivers made a three.  Grade Walkons

John Johnson - This kid is getting minutes this year.  He's quick as hell, can knock down the three and can drive.  Haven't seen much from him in the way of passing skills yet, but they'll come.  He had 8 points, made both his threes and seemed to be everywhere for a  5 minute spurt in the first half.  Now the question is, he played a lot more tonight (13 minutes) than Epps (6).  Now is this because Johnson has already passed him on the depth chart or is it because Dixon is trying to get him as much playing time early before redshirting him or because it's against crappy competition. My say is that Flip is outplaying Epps at the moment.  So right now are three backup guards are looking like Johnson, Epps and Wright.  I don't envision seeing too many times during the year when neither Gibbs nor Woodall would be in the game, but when that does happen.  I could see a Johnson Wright backcourt or an Epps Wright  for a few minutes.  I wouldn't wanna see Epps and Johnson on the floor together because I think they'd be too small, they're both under 6'2".  And I know you'r probably like well "Gibbs is 6 2 and woodall is 5 10 and they play together."  Yeah well shut up.
Grade for Flip B+

Dance Team Grade:  A - I love me some Dance Team.

Next game is in 8 minutes.  Aka Sunday at 6 pm.

Fun Link of the Day: It's from a website that does mock drafts.  This is their look into the future in the 2013 draft.  Look at picks #2 and #12 overall.  Yep that's right two Pitt guys.  Steven Adams (a 7'0" center from New Zealand who'll come to campus next year and is an absolute beast and then Birch at #12)  Obviously since it's two years from now, they have to guess at who's gonna come out this year, stay for another year and factor in the current hs seniors as well (like Adams)  but it's awesome to think that next year's team could feature two projected lottery picks.  And for the record, that site has Gibbs at #50 overall in the 2012 draft.

Worst Writeup Ever,

Pitt 101 Laroche College 33 "Giiiiiilbeeeert! My man!

Okay first time of the year we played against someone else.

Gilbert! My man!

First a quick word on La Roche.  They're D3 and not very good.  Last year, their longtime coach of fourteen years, Scott Lang passed away at age 41.  The zoo wore stickers with a red S.L. on them.  I thought it was a nice touch.

Onto the game.

Pitt dominated.  Not a whole lot really to say so we'll grade rather quickly.  Well that and I'm watching Jaws on Encore and it's getting good.

Ashton Gibbs - Normal solid game from Gibbs.  He had his normal array of jumpers but also had a couple nice drives as well.  This is good to see because sometimes Gibbs would go several games without any points in the paint.  Grade A

Travon Woodall - Most of the shots Woodall took last year were off the dribble.  This year it seems he's learned how to play off the ball a lot better.  He hit 3/4 from 3 point range in this game and all of them involved him going to a spot on the court and waiting for the pass.  It's obviously something he can't do all the time since his main job is to distribute, but nonetheless it's great to see him progressing into a complete offensive player.  Grade A

JJ Moore - Another strong offensive output from more.  He had 12.  He has a sweet stroke.  Again, he's still my pick to start this year at the 3.  Grade B+

Dante Taylor - Not a whole lot from Taylor in this game.  He had a few dunks and some post moves, but nothing really stood out.  Grade B+

Talib Zanna - Zanna seems content on developing a 8-10 foot baseline jumper.  It's the only shot he's taken in the first two games.  He's hit a couple, but it definitely needs more work.  Definitely more bricks than swishes at this point.  While it's great that he's doing that, he needs to get back to getting rebounds, which is what he does best.  Grade B

Cameron Wright - Wright's been in my doghouse so far in his career (which really only play in preseaso games the past two years) but he seems to be turning a corner.  He still has no jumpshot, but the hustle plays he makes are becoming too difficult to ignore.  I don't think anyone on this team hustles like Cam.  He also had an awesome entry pass to Dante in the first half that Taylor didn't convert, but still it was sick.  Grade A-

Isaiah Epps - He was outplayed by Cam tonight.  The two of them are in a battle right now for the first backup guard position.  The  Blue-Gold scrimmage gave the edge to Epps but Cam was definitely the better player tonight.  I really don't remember a whole lot from Epps tonight, I don't think he played much either.  Grade B

Khem Birch - He had 16 points on 7-7 shooting.  Most of them were awesome dunks and he even stepped out and hit a jumper from the free throw line.  Granted, 14 of his 16 points came in the second half when La Roche very clearly gave up and was letting Pitt dunk it on just about every possession, but still 7-7 can't be ignored.  Grade A+

John Johnson - As Ben Wachsman has pointed out on several occasions, Flip can play.  He showed more of what he can do tonight.  He hit a few jump shots and made some passes.  In the race to not get a red shirt this season, Flip has now surpassed both Durand and Malcolm.  He looked a lot more confident today.  Grade B+

Durand Johnson - Peewee really didn't  show anything in this game.  He's looking at a redshirt.  He's going to be good, but Pitt is chalk full of wings right now.  Grade C+

Malcolm Gilbert - The most important thing Gilbert did in this game was become Mitch's new best friend.  At the end of the game, Mitch, Joe and I went down to the Zoo exit and Mitch decided to give high fives to the Players.  When Malcolm passed him, Mitch yells "Giiiiiiiilbeeert!!!  My man!!!"  Gilbert heard this, turned around and did the best fonz impression I've ever seen from a 6'11" black guy back at Mitch.  Highlight of the evening for sure.  BFF city.  Grade A+ for the fonz, Grade B+ for the game.  His only two highlights were back to back blocks in the first half.

Lamar Patterson - He had a couple nice drives, maybe an and 1 somewhere in there, but nothing too flashy.  He's the typical solid Dixon player. He's still behind Moore for the starting position.

Tonight's starting lineup was
1. Tra 2. Gibbs 3. Moore 4. Zanna and 5. Taylor

I fully expect this to be the starting lineup when they open Nov. 11 against Albany.  They're saing Nasir Robinson will be healthy in time for this, if he is then he takes Zanna's spot.  Final tune-up is Monday Nov. 7 against some other joke school.  I have class until 8:30 that night so there won't be a recap sadly.

Right now here is where I see the rotation being after the five starters.
6. Patterson
7. Zanna
8. Birch
9. Epps
10. Wright
11. J. Johnson
12. Gilbert
13. Rivers
14. Nwankwo
15. D. Johnson

Shout-out to Mitch Kaeler and Joseph Petrich for being at the game with me.

Hail to Pitt,