Tag:Pittsburgh
Posted on: March 7, 2012 5:52 pm
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Ashton Gibbs takes blame for Pitt's season

By Jeff Goodman

Ashton Gibbs was about as stand-up as it gets. 

"It's been a rough season from beginning to end," Pittsburgh's senior guard said after the Panthers were knocked out of the Big East tournament by Georgetown on Wednesday. "A lot of it has to do with me not living up to expectations." 

"I didn't live up to it," he added. "I did a bad job leading this year and it clearly showed." 

But let's be honest. It was far more than just Gibbs not performing up to his potential. 

"This team lost a lot," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "We've been able to overcome it in the past. We weren't able to do it this year." 

Three years ago, Dixon lost his top three players -- Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields. Pittsburgh wound up winning 25 games the next season and finished 13-5 in Big East play. 

The Panthers have been a rock in the Big East since Dixon followed his former boss, Ben Howland. No program has had more success in league play over the past 11 years. There's the 290-87 overall mark, the 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and the 20 Big East tournament victories. The Big East tourney titles in 2003 and 2008. 

That's why everyone penciled Pittsburgh into the league title race and handed the Panthers a spot in the Top 25 prior to the start of the season despite losing Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown. 

But this year's edition is now 17-16 overall and finished 5-13 in the Big East - likely headed to the NIT. 

"It's obviously something I didn't even think about," Gibbs said. "I wouldn't have believed it in a million years that we wouldn't make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season." 

"But we'll play in NIT if we get invited," he added. "If not, we'll move on."

Gibbs' leadership -- of lack thereof -- was a piece. So was the injury sustained to starting point guard Travon Woodall which kept him on the sidelines for 11 games. There was the transfer of highly touted big man Khem Birch after the first semester and also numerous injuries to senior Nasir Robinson, Gibbs and others. 

"It all started with me not being the senior leader," Gibbs said.

Noble, but not entirely accurate. 

Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:36 pm
 

Woodall's pain in the butt extends to opposition

By Jeff Goodman

Each game, just about 45 minutes prior to tip-off, Travon Woodall makes certain not to move as the needle is jabbed into his, well, buttocks. It'll happen around 6:15 p.m. tonight before Pittsburgh's junior point guard takes the floor against South Florida. 

"If I move," Pittsburgh's junior point guard laughs. "I have to do it again." 

Woodall isn't 100 percent recovered from the abdominal/groin injury he suffered way back on Nov. 30 and likely won't be full-strength for the remainder of the season. However, his return and presence as the Panthers floor leader has keyed the team's turnaround. 

"I'm nowhere near 100 percent," he said. "But with the needle, I don't feel any pain. The most pain is after the game when it wears off." 

Since he's come back, Jamie Dixon's team has reeled off four of its past five -- including a road win against West Virginia and a home victory over a ranked Georgetown club - to move from 0-7 in Big East play to 4-7. 

"One game at a time," said Woodall, who is honestly one of the best interviews I've done in a long time.

Woodall may not be completely healthy, but he couldn't take sitting and watching his teammates falter any longer. He tried it once, against Notre Dame in late-December, but he was completely ineffective and shut it down again for the next five games. 

With Woodall in the lineup, the Panthers are 10-3. Without him, they are 5-6. And in two of those games - losses against Notre Dame and Louisville, he wasn't even close to 100 percent. 

"Anyone who knows the game of basketball understands how important the point guard is to our team," Woodall said. "If you took Brad Wanamaker off our team last year, it wasn't have been nearly as good. Ashton (Gibbs) is a huge part of our team, but he isn't a true point guard. We needed a true point guard." 

"The point guard is like the quarterback," he added. "I know the Giants wouldn't have won the Super Bowl without Eli (Manning)." 

You've got to love a kid who compares himself (and he wasn't really comparing himself) to the Super Bowl MVP. 

This was supposed to be The Year for Woodall. He has waited his turn for the past three years to take the starting point guard role. He worked out relentlessly with former Pittsburgh floor leader Lavance Fields in the offseason, often three times a day, so he'd be prepared for this opportunity. This is the same guy who accepted his role coming off the bench as a senior for Bob Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony's in favor of Tyshawn Taylor, Mike Rosario, Jio Fontain and Dominic Cheek. 

"I've tried to play my role since I got here," Woodall said. "But this was finally my time." 

However, then came the defensive slide against Duquesne in which he suffered the lower abdominal and groin injury. Woodall sat out the next six games and then tried to come back following a shocking home loss against Wagner. 

"That was just me being frustrated," Woodall said. "I wasn't ready, but I just couldn't sit there and watch any more." 

But the loss to Wagner was just the start of the team's troubles. Pittsburgh dropped its first seven league games and was written off by just about everyone for an NCAA tourney berth. 

Then Woodall came back and everything changed. Next up is tonight's road contest against South Florida -- and a victory would inch the Panthers back into the hunt, especially if those on the NCAA Selection Committee understand the importance Woodall makes to this team. 

"One at a time," Woodall repeated.

Posted on: February 1, 2012 12:24 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 4:29 pm
 

Podcast: Which teams are running out of gas?

Could Jamie Dixon and Pitt wind up playing in the tournament after all? (AP)

By Matt Norlander


We've got a good Wednesday podcast for you. Goodman can't read a gas gauge and Parrish is getting free cars. Let's get to it.
 
Rundown:
  • From the beginning: How does one run out of gas more than 30 miles from home? Only Goodman has the answer. Apparently, Goodman's not afraid
  • 9:45: Not only is Goodman terrible at reading gas gauges, he doesn't understand geography.
  • 12:05: Michigan State, Draymond Green and the value/unique ability of Green.
  • 15:57: Which teams are running out of gas? Which teams have their honeymoon going sour?
  • 18:00: Kentucky, 22-1: a cut above now? Or should we wait two more weeks to judge?
  • 21:20: "I'm not going to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, brother." Ah, Conference USA talk!
  • 25:39: Pittsburgh is becoming an interesting case study. Goodman and Parrish believe they'll thickly be in the tournament discussion. I'm not there yet.
  • 33:06: Parrish is blind and receiving free cars.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast--whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.


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Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:06 am
 

Steven Adams will not be savior for Pitt

By Jeff Borzello

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Of all the top players at the Hoophall Classic over the weekend, the one player everyone wanted to see was Pittsburgh signee Steven Adams.

A 7-footer from New Zealand, Adams had only played basketball on U.S. soil a couple of times – and the reviews were outstanding. Many had him pegged as a top-five player in the class of 2012 and a future lottery pick.

On Sunday night, Adams went against New Hampton Prep and was, well, underwhelming. He only played five minutes in the first half after getting hit in the head, and finished with five points, four rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.

“It was a bad setting,” said DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony, who had seen Adams prior to the weekend. “He got off the plane about a week ago, he’s out of shape and he hasn’t really played in six months.”

Adams has dominated at Adidas Nations the past two years and also put up 23 points and 14 rebounds against Nerlens Noel, the No. 2 prospect in 2013, on Saturday. Those sorts of performances only heightened the hype for his arrival at Blake Arena.

“It was nothing I was used to,” Adams told reporters of the crowd and environment. “It was pretty scary.”

“He was very, very nervous,” Givony said. “He’s never played in an atmosphere like this, never played in an organized setting. The best competition he could find was going against 5-foot-11 guys in New Zealand.”

Adams did show flashes of his potential, though. He is very good on the defensive end, with a nose for the ball. Adams was active on the offensive glass, getting two baskets off of putbacks. He moves well and demonstrated some athleticism – although he also seemed stiff on other plays. Moreover, he didn’t seem like he had a ton of post moves in his repertoire, leading Givony to say that Adams needs guards around him who can create shots and open looks around the rim for him.

This is the last thing Pittsburgh fans want to hear, especially after a seven-game losing streak and an 0-6 start in Big East play, but Adams will not be a savior next season.

“People need to temper their expectations of him,” Givony said. “He’ll be a 15-20-minute per game type of player. People expect him to come in and be a Jared Sullinger or an Anthony Davis. That’s not him.”

While Adams still might end up as a top-five pick due to his ceiling, it might be a couple of years before we see that on a consistent basis.

Photo: Adidas

Posted on: January 10, 2012 1:04 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 4:58 pm
 

How four teams went from the top 10 to unranked



By Gary Parrish


There are four schools -- Connecticut, Vanderbilt, Memphis and Pittsburgh -- that were ranked in the top 10 of our preseason Top 25 (and one) that are unranked in the latest Top 25 (and one). What went wrong? Can things be fixed? I spent part of this morning addressing those questions and more.

CONNECTICUT

Where were the Huskies ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 3

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with a 13-3 record.

What went wrong? The Huskies relied so heavily on Kemba Walker last season that it was foolish to think they wouldn't struggle on some level to adjust. They were baffled by UCF's zone in November, blew a big lead and lost. Then came last week's back-to-back losses at Seton Hall and Rutgers that dropped them out of the Top 25 (and one) while point guard Shabazz Napier expressed frustration with his teammates. "I try my best to be a leader even though guys don’t give me a chance to be that person," Napier told the New Haven Register. "It shows in the game, I can’t lie. When we have a tipped ball and big guys get the ball and I’m yelling for the ball back out, we’ve got a new shot clock and they go back up … that shows I’m not that much of a leader. When a play starts breaking down and I’m yelling, ‘Bring it out, bring it out,’ and Boat [Ryan Boatright] or Jeremy [Lamb] takes a shot, that just shows that I’m not a leader. It sucks, because we lose games like that."

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Alex Oriakhi is nothing more than a role player this season. He averaged 10 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes per game last season. He's averaging seven points and five rebounds in 19 minutes per game this season.
 
Can things be fixed? Of course. The roster is still loaded and capable of anything considering there are two likely lottery picks (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond) on it. Plus, the Huskies beat West Virginia on Monday while you were watching LSU not move the ball. Long as they win Saturday at Notre Dame, they'll be back in the Top 25 (and one) on Sunday night, 4-2 in the Big East and on their way to a better league record than they recorded last season when they subsequently won the NCAA tournament.

VANDERBILT

Where were the Commodores ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 7

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with an 11-4 record.

What went wrong? Festus Ezeli suffered a knee injury in the preseason. He's only played five games to date and hasn't played more than 22 minutes in any of them, meaning the Commodores have basically played the season without the services of their best rebounder and shotblocker. Three of their four losses have come with Ezeli in street clothes.

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Brad Tinsley's points and assists are slightly down, and his turnovers are slightly up. It's not that he's regressed, exactly, because he hasn't it. But there's not a lot of improvement from last year to this year, either.

Can things be fixed? Yes, I think so, because I believe a core of John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and (a healthy) Festus Ezeli is good enough to finish in the top four of the SEC and make a run in the NCAA tournament. Obviously, the Commodores will have their critics until they can quiet them in March. But they've won five straight games and seem to be playing better.

MEMPHIS

Where were the Tigers ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 9

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with a 10-5 record.

What went wrong? Josh Pastner scheduled aggressively and it backfired. The Tigers have had five opportunities to record a significant victory and fallen short each time. That -- along with inconsistent play at point guard and in the paint -- is why Memphis is no longer in the Top 25 (and one) or even getting votes in the AP or Coaches poll.

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Tarik Black was CBSSports.com's preseason Conference USA Player of the Year, but he wouldn't even make third-team all-conference if teams were selected today. The 6-foot-8 sophomore is merely averaging the same 9.1 points per game he averaged last season, and his rebounding numbers are actually down. He's only got 62 rebounds all season. He has 53 personal fouls.

Can things be fixed? Because of Conference USA, yes. The Tigers would be at risk of missing the NCAA tournament if they were starting a Big Ten or Big East schedule, but C-USA offers so few challenges. They're just going to physically overwhelm most of their opponents from here on out and probably get to 25 or 26 wins by Selection Sunday. Then it'll be up to Will Barton to carry them in the NCAA tournament. He's good enough to do it.

PITTSBURGH

Where were the Panthers ranked in the preseason Top 25 (and one)? No. 8

And now? Unranked in the Top 25 (and one) with an 11-5 record.

What went wrong? First came the loss to Long Beach State and most of us just kinda thought it was "one of those nights." But it wasn't. It was, rather, a sign of things to come because the Panthers now have five losses to unranked teams. They're surprisingly terrible defensively, and they don't get to the line enough offensively. It has been, simply put, a mess of a season made worse because the best recruit (Khem Birch) transferred out of the program at the semester.

Who's been the biggest disappointment? Ashton Gibbs is averaging the same 17 points per game he averaged last season, but he's shooting the ball way worse. The senior guard shot 47 percent from the field and 49 percent from 3-point range last season. This season he's shooting 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.

Can things be fixed? Honestly, I doubt it. Upcoming road games at Marquette and Syracuse mean the Panthers will probably be 1-5 in the Big East heading into a Jan. 21 game against Louisville, and you just can't recover from that in this league. Barring a huge surprise, Jamie Dixon is headed for his first NIT.

Photos: US Presswire
Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:17 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 8:36 pm
 

Khem Birch chooses UNLV over Florida

By Jeff Goodman

It’s only been three weeks, but the recruitment of Khem Birch has taken plenty of twists and turns since rumors first started that he was leaving Pittsburgh.

On Monday, it ended: Birch is headed to UNLV, a source told CBSSports.com.

The 6-foot-9 Canadian power forward chose the Runnin’ Rebels over Florida. Xavier, Gonzaga, New Mexico and others were also in the mix at one point.

Birch was the highest-ranked player to ever commit to the Panthers, but he left the program after 10 games. He said in late December that he didn’t bond well enough with his teammates at Pittsburgh, and also that the style of play wasn’t ideal for him.

He averaged 4.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks at Pittsburgh.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: January 6, 2012 11:35 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:44 am
 

Jay Wright, Jamie Dixon appear unlikely to dance

No Dixon, no Wright in the tournament? It's looking more likely, folks. (AP)

By Jeff Goodman

Jay Wright and Jamie Dixon were supposed to, at one time before Pittsburgh decided to bolt for the ACC, carry the torch for the Big East once senior citizens Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun left. 

Wright and Dixon have been two of the hottest coaches in America over the past few years. Both have spurned no shortage of big-time suitors and both have built their programs into national contenders. 

Both may be watching the NCAA tournament as spectators this season. 

Wright has led 'Nova to seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances - including an Elite Eight in 2006 and a Final Four in 2009. But this current group is just 7-8 after last night's home loss to South Florida. 

Dixon may not have led the Panthers to a Final Four, but he's been just as successful, going to the Big Dance in each of his eight seasons since taking the reigns from Ben Howland. Dixon actually had a chance to go to the Final Four, but lost to Wright in the Elite Eight in 2009. 

Now his team has lost four straight for the first time in the Dixon Era following last night's road setback to DePaul. The Panthers sit -- along with 'Nova and Providence -- at the bottom of the Big East with an 0-3 mark. 

Villanova, with a sub-.500 overall mark, has virtually no shot of getting to the NCAA tournament this season unless the Wildcats go on an insane run in the Big East. 

Pittsburgh has dug itself quite a hole with losses to two mid-tier Big East teams (Cincinnati and Notre Dame) as well as DePaul. The Panthers most impressive win to date? I'm not sure there is one. 

Dixon needs Travon Woodall back. He has missed eight games due to injury -- including the losses to Wagner, Cincinnati and Depaul. He played 18 minutes in the setback against Cincinnati, but was ineffective and has missed two games since. 

With Woodall, the Panthers can still make a run. However, he needs to come back healthy soon. Next up is a home game against Rutgers, but then comes the key stretch whether Pittsburgh can jump back into the NCAA tournament equation. Four of its next five come against ranked teams - including road games at Marquette and Syracuse to start. 

Just about everyone has down years. It happened to Kentucky in the Billy Clyde Gillispie Era, Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams were in the NIT not all that long ago. 

But few saw this coming with both Dixon and Wright. 


Posted on: January 2, 2012 2:36 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 2:53 pm
 

The Poll Attacks

By Gary Parrish

You think adopting a cute dog will keep you out of the Poll Attacks?

Think again, Toni.

Think again.

Let's go!

Associated Press poll: Pittsburgh is 11-4 overall and 0-2 in the Big East.

And yet the Panthers are still getting points in the AP poll.

Seriously.

The good news is that all four of Pitt's points came from the same voter, which means 64 of the AP's 65 voters understand the Panthers belong nowhere close to a Top 25 ballot. The bad news is that one voter isn't quite as tuned in. Her name is Toni Ginnetti, and this might be the first time I've ever Poll Attacked a woman. (Insert joke here.) Honestly, it makes me a little uncomfortable. But how can she have Pitt ranked 22nd?

Pittsburgh has no good wins and four bad losses (on the road at Notre Dame and at home to Long Beach State, Wagner and Cincinnati), which means the Panthers are in the running for the nation's most disappointing team considering they were ranked 10th in the preseason. And yet Toni has them ranked 22nd. Which is silly. She also has Xavier ranked 18th. Which is also silly considering the Musketeers have dropped four of their past five games, including Saturday's home game to a Gonzaga team that is now 11-2 and ranked 25th but somehow unranked on Toni's ballot.

In summary, Toni is the only person giving Pitt and Xavier votes.

So she's smarter than everybody or completely unaware of what's happened the past two weeks.

The latter seems more likely.

But, either way, let's end this on a good note. Seems Toni just adopted the cutest dog in the world. I'm for stuff like that. So because she's so generous I promise to never Poll Attack her again ... as long as she gets Jamie Dixon's underachieving Panthers off her ballot by next Monday.

Coaches poll: Jeff Goodman and I ranked Indiana seventh in the Top 25 (and one).

Now for the question you're asking ...

Do we really believe there are just six teams better than Tom Crean's Hoosiers?

Answer: No.

But what do you do with a team that's 13-1 with no bad losses and wins over Kentucky and Ohio State? At some point you have to throw away what you think you know and just rely on the body of work, and IU's body of work is among the nation's best. Again, the Hoosiers are 13-1. The only loss is a loss at Michigan State, and Indiana actually led that game with less than nine minutes remaining. (Michigan State, by the way, is 13-2 with losses only to North Carolina and Duke. So, like I said, IU's loss at Michigan State is not a bad loss.) Meantime, the Hoosiers have wins over Kentucky, Ohio State and Butler. That's really good at this point in the season and why I can't understand the coaches ranking IU 12th.

Let's compare the Hoosiers' body of work to one team ranked ahead of them -- Louisville.

The Cards are 12-2.

They have zero wins over teams currently ranked.

They have a loss to the Kentucky team that IU has already topped.

And, if you're into this sort of thing, the Cards are nine spots behind Indiana at KenPom.com.

So how is Louisville ranked ahead of Indiana? And why is Indiana still outside of the top 10? If the Hoosiers are fraudelant, we'll find out soon enough and adjust accordingly. But for now, they probably belong in the top 10, and they definitely belong ahead of Louisville.
 
 
 
 
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