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.
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 espn.com 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 http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07314/832847-175.stm (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: http://nbadraft.net/2013mock_draft 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,