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,

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