"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Know your Opponent: Pitt Panthers

OK, here's the Pitt preview courtesy of Chas Rich of the PittSportsBlather.

Also, pls see our MU preview on his site right here. Many, many thanks to Chas and Marquette92 for their time and effort on these previews.

1) Aaron Gray has continued his dominant play but might have tweaked an ankle against PC. What's his status?

He came back into the game after only a couple minutes off the court. All appears to be well.

2) In the second half of the first meeting between these two, the Panthers backcourt took over....how have Ramon and Krauser played of late?

Krauser has not been hitting his shots lately. Especially in the first half. It almost seems like he is pressing, which tends to make things worse until halftime. The shots start falling later in the game. The thing is, Krauser keeps playing the rest of the game. Against Providence he shot horribly in the first half, picked up 3 fouls and played only 9 minutes. In the second half, he shot better, but more importantly he had 6 of his 7 assists.

Ramon has just looked more confident further into the season. His stroke has gotten a lot more consistent and he is taking greater pride in the way he is playing defense.

3) Jamie Dixon is making a strong case for Big East coach of the year. What's the most impressive aspect of his work this season to date?

His use of the roster and a deep bench. Last year, he seemed stubborn for not using some of the freshmen and sophomores much. Keeping his rotation too short and it seemed hindering the development. It was looking like a huge flaw.

This year, he has been willing to go 10 deep even late in the conference schedule. He has managed to keep everyone happy and use players effectively. Against a depth-deprived Cinci team he used the the depth of his team to actually speed up the game to wear down the Bearcats rather than give them a chance late. With the notable exception of the Georgetown game, he has been very good this year with halftime adjustments.

4) Since the last time MU and Pitt played, have the Panthers improved or regressed. In which areas?

The one area Pitt has regressed has been in turnovers. There has just been some sloppy ball handling for stretches in the game. Points where it seems the entire team brainlocks. Sometimes it hurts (Georgetown) and sometimes they get away with it (Cinci).

Improvement has continued from the bench. Both Keith Benjamin and Sam Young have been playing smarter, better and more. Both are players that have nice short jumpers but also enjoy/relish attacking the basket. With them playing more it adds a new wrinkle beyond simply perimeter and dumping into Gray.

5) MU has nickname issues, and Pitt has flipflopped on names to a degree....what was the genesis of Pitt to Pittsburgh to Pitt?

The one great error of former AD Steve Pederson (well that and changing the colors). Pitt athletics, to be kind, were in the dumps for most of the 90s. Old, outdated facilities (charming, but old and decrepit) were part of the problem. Pederson decided that the colors were too -- well I don't know what -- but like the San Diego Chargers he went to a more corporate/bland blue and gold. I tend to call it an Indiana rip off -- Purdue gold and ND Blue.

He also decided that the moniker -- Pitt -- too often was being utilized to degrade the school. So he issued a decree/press release that it would be Pittsburgh not Pitt. I still have nightmares of when Sportscenter (with Patrick and Olbermann) in 95 read the press release with the appropriate levels of sarcasm in their voices. My roommate and classmates in law school gave me shit about that for days. To which I could only say, "it's Pitt. It always will be."

After nearly a decade of trying and failing to go with Pittsburgh, the Athletic department finally went back to Pitt, albeit with block letters. I am fairly sure that there has been a lightening of the blue this season, though not officially stated.

From what I understand, as to why the script Pitt is not used by the athletic department any longer is money. The school not the athletic department actually owns the script Pitt logo. So the school takes a cut from any script Pitt merchandise.

6) Other than Gray, who is playing above expectations for the Panthers right now?

The bench. Specifically Keith Benjamin, Sam Young and Levance Fields.

Benjamin is a sophomore who has really come on in the last couple of weeks as he finally looks comfortable playing defense. He has always been so eager on offense, but at Pitt it is defense first. It has finally sunk in, and his offense has actually flourished.

Young and Fields are Freshmen and while a lot was expected from them because of their reputation and talent, it has been the speed with which they have acclimated and fit right into the system.

7) What is the most encouraging trend for the Panthers since they last played MU......what is the most discouraging (backcourt defense? - McGrath had a nice game a few days ago)

The Offense has been looking even better in recent games -- not quite the slow start that Pitt had fallen into for a while. Defense has been steady.

Don't read too much into McGrath's game, regarding the backcourt D. Providence was setting a lot of well executed screens and picks to free up McGrath. He shot an excellent 10-16 (FG%=62.5; eFG%=81.25). The rest of the team was a pedestrian 15-38 (FG%=39.5; eFG%=42.1).

The most discouraging has been that turnovers have been on the high side the last few games. Really, though, for this game, the most discouraging thing has been that Pitt has shot the ball so poorly from 3-point range in away games versus at home. All other numbers tend to remain stable.

Chas, thanks once again!


Anonymous said...

I'm a Pitt grad/fan who was in army basic training during the early 70s. In my unit was a rabid Marquette fan/bartender featured in an SI article a few years later. He's probably around 60 years old. Can you help me with his name and how I might be able to contact him? Thanks. Steve. steveg5489@aol.com

NY Warrior said...

hi, we posted a plea at two message boards. good luck!



Gato78 said...

May have been Jon "Bingo" Berta who tended at the Gym Bar. Was he short guy, probably balding and a real live wire?

Anonymous said...

Fits the description but not the name, definitely Jack. And, pardon the ethnic-thing, a Polish last name. Thanks!