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,

Guess who's back, back again. JO's back, tell a friend. Another fun and exciting season of JO covers Pitt basketball

Soon, the hunt will begin. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Just when you thought your facebook newsfeed was safe.  BAM!  I'm back!  It's time for another year of Pitt basketball.  As always I am your preeminent voice on all things Pitt Basketball.

Before I begin let's recap last year for those of you just joining us.  (And for those of you who weren't reading these last year, well why not hater?)  I decided that the Pitt News (in all their glory) wasn't fit to cover Pitt basketball.  None of this "panthers looking to continue to get excellent contributions from taylor"  Ummm, no Taylor was awful for a good portion of the year.  If you're looking for nice, kindergarten commentary about the state of your Panthers, go read the Pitt news (the grammar will probably be similar as well).  If you, much like Tom Cruise, want the truth, read these notes.  You also might learn something.  I tend to actually do a bit of research before typing these things.  There will also be jokes, and probably a photoshop or two as well.

(Before I begin I have to go chaperon a homecoming dance, God help me)

Chaperon recap:  My soul hurts...

On to the actual game,

Blue Team won 57-49, their roster consisted probably of these cats:

Ashton Gibbs - He led all scorers (naturally) with 26 (10-10 from the line).  The knock on Gibbs is he isn't a playmaker or he isn't fast enough to guard point guards in the nba.  He seems quicker this year.  He definitely worked on getting faster.  Grade A+

Talib Zanna - Zanna broke out a little last year.  I don't know why but he looked totally lost out there.  If he doesn't watch it, he'll get behind both incoming freshmen in the big man depth chart.  I'd recap what he did, but he didn't do anything.  Grade C-

Lamar Patterson - Right now the Panther starting line-up has 3 certainties.  Woodall at point, Gibbs at 2, and Robinson at 4.  Patterson is in a battle right now with JJ Moore for the starting 3 spot.  Right now, I have to give the edge to Moore and it's not even close.  Patterson hit a couple jump shots but other than that he was lame.  Pitt absolutely needs to find a #2 scorer after Gibbs.  They need a Gil Brown who's a threat to go for 20 every once in a while when they need it.  Patterson just isn't that type of player.  Pitt needs to find a Robin to Gibbs' Batman.  Moore is that guy.  It's a shame really, Patterson would've been a great fit in that role, if only because he's majoring in Administration of

Isiah Epps - Omar's little brother (I'm kidding...or am I?...yeah I'm kidding) played a solid game.  He redshirted last year and it appears he spent every day working on his jumper because it is smooth.  He's a lefty so it still looks awkward coming out of his hand to me, but it is pure.  Epps was talked up as the next Fields when he came in.  Look for Dixon to give him about 10-15 minutes a night this year to spell Woodall and Gibbs in the backcourt.  Grade A

Malcolm Gilbert - the first freshmen I will talk about
Vital Stats:
6'11 C - 133th ranked recruit in class of 2011 according to Rivals, 15th ranked Center
He's in the Gary mold, but thinner and more athletic.  I'm gonna make comparisons to the other freshmen center (mcdonald's all american khem birch) throughout the year so let's start off with what Gilbert does well.  He blocks/alters shots down low.  The gold team's guards were having a bit of trouble penetrating with him in the middle.  He also is not half bad offensively.  I don't remember any game highlights, but he did hit a three in warm-ups.  I'm not sure if he'll ever attempt any in a game (anyone remember Tyrell Biggs' 3 point shooting exploits?) but if he can hit one of those, it'll definitely help him get more pt.  He may have scored once or twice.  Grade B

Durand Johnson - 2nd frosh
6'6 sf - 120th national 27th position

I didn't notice much from him.  I'd really like to tell you what he did, but it was really hard trying to pay attention to all ten players on the court at once.  I don't even think he attempted a shot.  Grade: n/a

Nick Rivers - Rivers is a walkon.  I'm pretty sure he was a senior last year, but somehow he's back again to handle the role of pumper upper guy for the rest of the team before tip-off, and also to be the guy all the Zoo cheers to get in the game when we're thrashing some joke opponent in non-conference.
Having said that, Rivers buried the Gold team.  He hit back to back 3's that killed any hope Gold team had to rally in the last minute and a half.  Grade A for those two daggers.

Onto the Gold team 

Travon Woodall -  With the graduation of Brad Wanamaker, Woodall has been given the reins as the team's playmaker.  Although technically Gibbs was at the 1 and Brad the 2 last year, we all knew Brad was the facilitator.  When Gibbs hurt his knee and missed three games in February last year, Tra filled in admirably as the starting pg.  We're gonna get a whole year of him in the starting line-up.  If he can develop a consistent three point shot this year (he was very streaky last season) it will be huge for Pitt.  Someone besides Gibbs has to hit a three.  As far as the game is concerned, he may have had 8 or 10 points.  Grade A-

Dante Taylor - The big man finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds and showed some pretty deft moves around the basket.  Is this the year Taylor lives up to his all-american potential?  Judging from Pitt's recent history of having players take a huge leap their junior years (Sam Young, Aaron Gray, Brad Wanamaker, Gaaaaaarrryyy to name a few) it could be Taylor's turn.  And it damn sure better be, because I'm tired of waiting for it.  Grade A

JJ Moore - Crowd favorite.  Simply put, Moore wants the ball.  He scored a team-high 18.  He can hit the outside shot and he's super athletic.  Known as Gil Brown's twin last year for their almost identical skill set, it makes sense that Moore would be the right person to replace Gil in the starting lineup.  Grade A+
He also won the "Throwdown Showdown" after the game, though the whole contest was pretty weak (featured a lot of misses - but that's what you get when you have big men enter the contest)

Throwdown showdown video (taken by yours truly)
celebrity judges: julius page, curtis aiken (played in 80s) and sam clancy (played in 70s and had a long nfl career)

Cameron Wright - He's built like Wanamaker and has a similar skill set.  He redshirted last year so we'll see how he does in game action this year.  He can't shoot, but neither could Wanamaker when he first started.  He'll probably see 5-10 minutes a night to keep the other guards fresh.  Grade B

John Johnson - 3rd frosh
6'1 pg, not ranked in top 150
Umm, this guy is nicknamed peewee apparently.  Umm, he stinks and shouldn't see any action this year.  Redshirt city.  Grade D

Aron Nwankwo - He actually might've been on the blue team, I don't really remember.  He's a walk-on so he'll see nothing but a garbage minute on occasion.  But he's got a full academic scholarship for pre-med so he'll probably cure cancer or something.
Grade A if he cures cancer, B+ if he cures something else instead

Last but not least
Khem Birch
6'8 pf 9th national, 4th positional
First of all, he has a gold streak in his hair, it's kinda weird looking.
Moving on.
Birch needs a lot of work on the offensive end.  We won't discuss it in detail, we'll just move on to the fun stuff.

His.  Awesome.  Defense.
Wow, what a shot-blocker!  He hasn't played a game yet and he might be the best swat-artist Pitt has ever had (no question he's the best in my time as a fan-which dates back to 1996).  He blocked like 7 shots and had 3 goaltending violations too.  He might be the best weak-side shot blocker in college basketball already.  Pitt's interior defense will be scary good this year.  All of their big men get after it and alter shots.  Nobody could penetrate at all today.  I'd like to think that speaks volumes for Pitt's defense and not the offensive play of the guards.  He's rail thin though and needs to put on some weight and his offense needs a ton of work, but damn is he fun to watch on the defensive end.  Incredible timing.  When I think of a comparison to another player I'll let you know.  He had a subpar showing in the throwdown showdown, but at 6'8 spectacular dunks aren't his game.
One upside to his offensive skill set.  He can dunk in traffic.  Now, Gil or JJ or Sam could drive and then dunk on you.  It is in my opinion much more difficult to grab an offensive board, and with guys all around you, elevate straight up and slam it.  Most of the dunks done by our big guys Taylor and McGhee were of the alley-oop/putback/ nobody is near them variety.  Today Khem picked a loose ball off the floor right underneath the basket, and elevated for the dunk over the 6'11 gilbert who was in his mouth.  He also had a put-back dunk, which I believe was his first basket in a panther uniform.
Grade B+

Well that's all I have for now.  In the next note, I'll do a little bit more analysis of the team as a whole, give some predictions etc.

Soon the hunt will begin,