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Tag:Pittsburgh
Posted on: March 8, 2009 12:13 am
Edited on: March 8, 2009 12:56 am
 

Revisiting BE predictions and tourney preview

Well, I previewd the Big East season what seems both like eons ago and yesterday.  So how did I do?  Am I an idot, a genius, or something in between?  In other words, should you take anything I say about the Big East tournament?  Well, it's time to grade myself!

 


 

What I said:

  1. Louisville (NCAA) They're my pick thanks to an easier schedule than the Huskies
  2. Connecticut (NCAA) They have the most talent, but a very rough road.
  3. Pittsburgh (NCAA) I pick them here largely because they get my next two teams at the Peterson Events Center, where they don't lose many games.
  4. Syracuse (NCAA) Someone will oust one of the "top four" and my pick is the Orange. I choose them because I believe they have the best combination of returning scorers and new talent from my "tier three" teams.
  5. Notre Dame (NCAA) I choose them to be bumped from the top four because I believe they are the least set up for the long haul. Their talent makes them capable of beating any team, but its concentration in two or three players makes them vulnerable.
  6. Villanova (NCAA) Experience wins my vote among some hard to separate squads.
  7. West Virginia (NCAA) The Mountaineers return more talent than most realize, and have an excellent recruiting class. They will have the best defense of several BE teams relying on forwards and no center up front.
  8. Marquette (NCAA) I hate to pick a team with this much talent this low, but teams 1-7 are that good.
  9. Providence (NCAA) They have the schedule to make something of a run, and more talent than you think.
  10. Georgetown (NIT) There. I did it. The Hoyas are reloading and I think it costs them. If they prove me wrong (higher than 8th place) I'll eat my crow.
  11. Seton Hall (NIT) I throw them up here largely because of Cincinnati's injuries, but also recognizing that here are some good pieces in place here.
  12. Cincinnati (CBI) They were going to be my surprise NCAA pick until they lost three players. Watch out for this team in 2009-2010
  13. Rutgers (none) They have enough players I like to keep them out of the bottom three.
  14. St. John's (none) Down at this level, experience is king, and they have grown together as a team and are well-coached.
  15. DePaul (none) I give them a slight edge over the Bulls.
  16. South Florida (none) I could really see a 1-17 conference record here, with a home win over DePaul.

Lovingly copied and pasted from my earlier entry.  Overall, not too shabby.

 


 

What happened, and my grades:

Final Big East standings

1. Louisville 16-2 (correct) [A+]      I think I nailed this one in every way.  Picked them, and for the right reason.  They were too good to not take advantage of a little more favorable schedule than the other frontrunners.

2. Pittsburgh 15-3 (plus one) [A-]    I don't penalize myself much because I was a game away from getting 2 and 3 right...I had the right two teams, in the right order, and I think assuming a split in games between top 5 teams is perfectly reasonable.

3. Connecticut 15-3 (minus one) [A-]     See above.

4. Villanova 13-5 (plus two) [B-]     I was pretty close on Nova, but dead wrong on Notre Dame...and so the grade for THIS team is still reasonably high.

5. Marquette 12-6 (plus three) [D]     I was wrong about what this team was capable of without any size.  They would have a double bye if James hadn't been hurt (I think they go 2-2 or even 3-1 down the stretch without him) and I cannot take any extra credit for being right that they'd struggle at the end sine they probably wouldn't have healthy.

6. Syracuse 11-7 (minus two) [B]    Well, I was basically at coin-flip status on whether Cuse or Nova would sneak into the top 4..and I picked the wrong one.  But, Cuse did finish in the top third to make me look like less of an idiot.

7. West Virginia 10-8 (correct) [A+]    I got another one right!  this one I take credit for, because I was one of few people I saw willing to pick the Mountaineers higher than the 9th or so most folks said.  They always exceed expectations, and this year they have more talent (though much of it is young) than most are aware.

8. Providence 10-8 (plus one) [A]     I think I deserve a lot of credit for picking Providence to finish ninth, even though they in fact finished eighth, because ninth was better than most gave them, and the only reason I had them at 8 instead of nine was a very reasonable assumption that Notre Dame would finish in the top half of the league.  I'm only penalizing myself for ND once.

9.  Cincinnati 8-10 (plus two)  [C]   I didn't think cincinnati could finish this high after all those injuries, and they were a couple of "shouldv'e hads" here at the end from serious NCAA tournament contention.  I give them a ton of credit, but me little credit since I thought their injuries were killer.

10. Notre Dame (minus five) [D-]     I don't give myself an "F" because I DID have them out of the top 4 and I said "they are capable of losing to (St. John's) or beating (Louisville) anyone.  I had no idea they'd wind up THIS bad with that much talent, though.

11. Seton Hall (correct) [A]     I remember when some Pirates fans called me out for picking them to finish outside the top ten in the league and being the last team from the league into the NIT...

12. Georgetown   (minus two) [A+]   OK, I didn't get the spot exactly right, because Cincy surprised me a little, but man was I right about this team.  I don't have to eat all that crow I was afraid I'd have to eat!  Go me!  (Really, I'm proud of this pick...I even called Gary Parrish out when he counted GTown as one of his favorites to win the National Title, saying "I'm not convinced they're even one of the top 8?[forget the number] teams in the Big East')

13. St. John's (plus one)  [C+]    I said the right things about them, but I'm mad at myself because I picked them to finish in this spot first but changed my mind before posting, instead giving the spot to Rutgers...

14. South Florida (plus two)  [C]   I was wrong, but not all that wrong.  Gilchrist was a bigger shot in the arm than I thought, and they were WAY better than DePaul.

15. Rutgers (minus two) [C+]    I'm surprised with this low a finish, because they had some pieces in place to be better than this.  Still, I wasn't that far off on my pick.

16. DePaul   (minus one)  [B]   I didn't pick them dead last like I should've, but that's as much due to my error in judging the Bulls.  Why is a team with Koshwal and Tucker this bad?

 

That gives me a GPA of (with + and - counting for a third) of 2.95...so it's a "B" minus.  Not great, but not too bad when predicting an 18-game leagu season with an unbalanced schedule.  I feel pretty smart, but not ingenious.  A genious would've broken the right way on Cincy, St. John's and been a little closer on Notre Dame.

Also, I picked:  9 teams NCAA, 2 teams NIT, and one team CBI.  I think instead we will see 8 teams NCAA (I think Provy sneaks in, and if not there's room for BE tourney damage from the next three) and 4 teams NIT (how can the NIT NOT take the BE leftovers...espcially with Seton Hall's season-ending win over cincy?).  So I had the right total (12) of postseason teams but drew the line in the wrong place.  Now that that new retardo tournament for the basketball impaired has been announced, I think there's a good chance St. John's lands there...but I couldn't have known about that silliness when I picked.

 


 

The next set of predictions:

Big East Tournament Opening Round


9 Cincinnati defeats 16 DePaul.  Do you see an 0-18 league team winnign one in the garden?  Not I.

10 Notre Dame defeats 15 Rutgers.  Notre Dame is desperate to get through this thing and frankly better than Rutgers.

11  Seton Hall defeats 14 South Florida.  The Pirates have more playmakers, and would probably like to play in the NIT over the CBI.

12. Georgetown defeats 13 St. John's.  Another desperate team facing an opponent with less talent.

 

Big East Tournament Second Round

9 Cincinnati defeats 8 Providence.  OK, I contradicted myself.  I said PC would get into the dance, and they probably won't if they lose this one.  Still, it's tough to beat a team thrice in a year.

10 Notre Dame defeats 7 West Virginia.  I struggled with this pick, but ultimately I take the team in more dire need.  ND is good when they play together.

6 Syracuse defeats 12 Seton Hall.  Boeheim has his players getting the most of their abilities now, and as such they will be too much for the Pirates.

5 Marquette defeats 12 Georgetown.  Even James-less The Eagles are pretty good.

 

Big East Tournament Quarterfinal Round

1 Louisville defeats 9 Cincinnati.  Despite claims otherwise, they are worthy of the top seed...Pitt and UConn are perhaps better, perhaps not, but U of L is Final Four caliber and Cincy is not on that level.

2 Pittsburgh defeats 10 Notre Dame.  I don't think the Irish have a win this big in them playing a rested Pitt team after playing two of their own.  I pick Pitt over WVU here if that happens too...though as I said, three wins against one team is hard.

6 Syracuse defeats 3 Connecticut.  I went against my better judgment on this one because Cuse does play well in the Garden.

4 Villanova defeats 5 Marquette.  These teams were evenly matched when James was healthy, so now I think the 'Cats have a big edge.

 

Big East Tournament Semifinal Round

2 Pittsburgh defeats 6 Syracuse.  Pitt is the only team who plays better here than the Orange, and they make it 8 of the last 9 championship games.

1 Louisville defeats 4 Villanova.  As long as T-Will stays hot I think this is a safe pick.

 

Big East tournament Championship

2 Pittsburgh defeats 1 Louisville.  Homer?  Not really.  I just think Pitt was left with a sour taste in its mouth after losing a tight one at Freedom Hall, and they always come to play in the BE tournament.  And really, when was the last time Pitt didn't lose to U of L in the regular season only to avenge it in the conference tournament?  This time, it's for the championship.

 

Posted on: February 16, 2009 11:07 am
 

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

What a game scheduled for tonight.  Jerome Dyson's injury takes just a little bit off the luster of this game, but this is two teams deservedly in the top 5 full of players with superlatives going toe-to-toe for favorite status is one of the toughest leagues ever.  The winner probably gets a stranglehold on a 1 seed in March, and heck, the loser stays in line for one provided they can split the two games these teams will play.  So how will it turn out?  It's so close that a lot of things need to be considered.  Here's how the matchups work 1-5:


PG LeVance Fields versus AJ Price

I give the edge to Fields, because he leads the nation in Assist to Turnover ratio and is on an incredibly hot streak (56 assists to 6 TOs in the last 5 games) He has had 13 or more assists in three of those.  Price is a little bit better scorer, though, so it's not a really huge edge.

SG Jermaine Dixon versus Kemba Walker/Craig Austrie

This one's a push for me.  Dyson would've given a big edge to the Huskies, but without him Walker and Austire will need to step up.  They are capable, but Dixon has come on in Big East play and found his shot...and he's a second weapon to really drive in to the basket.

SF Sam Young versus Jeff Adrien

The fact that these two guys aren't the key matchup of the game shows just how good these teams are.  I give the edge to Young because both guys are averaging a double-double but Young has significantly more points, and he can get anyone to bite on that ball fake.  Like the previous positions, though, it's close.

PF Tyrell Biggs versus Stanley Robinson

This one goes to Robinson.  Biggs is a quality player, but inconsistent...so is Robinson, but his good is a little beter and his bad isn't as bad.  The game may hinge more on the play of these two guys than most realize.

C DeJuan Blair versus Hasheem Thabeet

This is the matchup everyone's been looking for (outside of either of these guys vs. Blake Griffin, maybe).  Both are the best in the nation at something (Blair at offensive rebounds, Thabeet at shot blocking).  I think Blair is the better scorer with better touch, but Thabeet's presence will certainly neutralize at least some of that.  Both kids are true athletes, and the matchup should be great to watch but is too close to call.  IF the game is called tightly, the edge here goes to UConn because they work the whistle better than any team in the country and Blair has noted problems with ticky-tacky fouls.  All else being equal, I'll give it to Thabeet.

So, among the starters 2 Pitt players and 2 Connecticut players have an edge in my opinion, but all 5 are very close battles...These teams are strong at the same positions but in different ways.  It makes this almost the perfect basketball matchup.


Moving to the bench, though, there are still some interesting matchups.  I'd have easily given the edge to the Huskies were Dyson still healthy, but now I'm not so sure.  In fact, it seems to swing the other way for me because it emasn that either Walker or Austrie will not be the sixth man.

Pittsburgh's bench features Gilbert Brown, who hasn't lived up to his potential thus far but is a very talented athlete who finally started making an impact recently, Brad Wannamaker who's a bit of a surprise of late, Ashton Gibbs who has the best 3-pt. percentage in the Big East (though he barely qualifies), Gary McGhee who will get destroyed by Thabeet but can hold his own against the Husky bench, and Nasir Robinson who may get some minutes if McGhee has it rough.

Connecticut's bench, however, features Kemba Walker (unless it's Austrie) who may be the best freshman guard in the league, Gavin Edwards, who has played some quality minutes and is something like Wannamaker in potential, Scottie Haralson who hasn't really been scoring, and a bunch of role-players averaging less than a point per game.  So the Dyson injury really hurts this team in terms of depth, and the bench edge now goes to Pitt.


Even though I have the starting 5 basically even and give the bench edge to Pitt, I can't pick my Panthers to win this tough road game.  The reason is that I'm not sure Connecticut will NEED many minutes from their bench because their starters are almost never in foul trouble.  Pitt, on the other hand, plays a very physical game that may land them in foul trouble, especially on the road against the team with the best FT differential in the league.  If it goes down that way, several minutes will be Pitt's reserves against Connecticut's starters...and Pitt's bench, while strong, is not nearly as good as UConn's fantastic starting lineup.  Final Pick:

Connecticut 75

Pittsburgh 69.

Posted on: November 14, 2008 1:27 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2008 9:46 pm
 

Final thoughts on the upcoming Big East season

Now that every team has been previewed, it's time for me to collect my thoughts. This league is probably one of the toughest in history to predict, but I'm going to take a shot at it. First I'll arrange the teams by tiers, then I'll project the finish, and finally I'll have some thoughts on how the conference teams will do in the preseason tournaments. I had about 80% of this finished when my browser crashed before, so this is more hurried and probably has dropped in quality; apologies for that.

I believe that the nine-team-in projection is not at all far-fetched, and that as many as 12 might see some postseason play or other. It will all depend on nonconference performance and the new conference tourney format. I'm excited for the first Big East games tonight, starting at 7 PM, and can't wait for the season in general. Now, on to business...


Tiers of Teams

Stratifying the league even this way is difficult. There are four preseason title contenders, and I agree that they're the most likely winners, but I doubt they finish 1-4. The next groups of teams are hard to separate, with a lot of teams bearing hugely talented rosters and similar weak spots. Regardless, I think I have come up with a reasonable, though admittedly subjective, set of crieteria for differentiating what we've got. (Each tier is listed alphabetically)

Tier One:

Connecticut, Louisville

These teams have the best combination of talent, balance, and depth to be the clear-cut favorites. They aren't the only two who could win the league, but I'd be surprised if either finished outside the top 4.

Tier Two:

Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

These teams have a ton of returning talent, but lack either the balance (Pitt) or the depth (ND) to be favored over the above teams. The next group of teams could easily displace either of these, but I'd be surprised if either finished lower than sixth.

Tier Three:

Marquette, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia

Between tiers three and four is in my opinion the toughest place to draw a line. The distinction I drew is that these four teams I believe have the biggest chance to sneak into the top four, and would surprise me the most to finish out of the top half of the league.

Tier Four:

Georgetown, Providence

I believe one of these two teams will be left out of the Big Dance, and neither looks to me to have the talent to sneak into the top 4. Either one could surpass some of the teams in tier three, though, if things break the right way.

Tier Five:

Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall

These are the teams between NCAA rosters and terrible. I don't believe any is capable of squeezing into the top half of the league, but the one who puts together the best resume will probably land in the NIT. I think any of these could be competitive in some other conferences out there.

Tier Six:

DePaul, South Florida, St. John's

This is the dead weight. A 13th place finish would be a major victory for any of these three teams. I hate to be that harsh, but there's just no comparison between these rosters and most others in the Big East.



Projected Final Standings:

I'm not kidding when I say how hard this is. So before you flame me, homers, for having your team too low, remember that I've probably considered every legitimate argument your team has and decided that the others' have slightly more weight. Finishing tenth in this conference is not an insult...that team will be a very good one whether it's my pick or not. So before you say there's "no way" it could be your team, really consider the competition. I believe anyone but my top five could actually end up in the ten spot. OK, no more hedging, here's my order.

  1. Louisville (NCAA) They're my pick thanks to an easier schedule than the Huskies
  2. Connecticut (NCAA) They have the most talent, but a very rough road.
  3. Pittsburgh (NCAA) I pick them here largely because they get my next two teams at the Peterson Events Center, where they don't lose many games.
  4. Syracuse (NCAA) Someone will oust one of the "top four" and my pick is the Orange. I choose them because I believe they have the best combination of returning scorers and new talent from my "tier three" teams.
  5. Notre Dame (NCAA) I choose them to be bumped from the top four because I believe they are the least set up for the long haul. Their talent makes them capable of beating any team, but its concentration in two or three players makes them vulnerable.
  6. Villanova (NCAA) Experience wins my vote among some hard to separate squads.
  7. West Virginia (NCAA) The Mountaineers return more talent than most realize, and have an excellent recruiting class. They will have the best defense of several BE teams relying on forwards and no center up front.
  8. Marquette (NCAA) I hate to pick a team with this much talent this low, but teams 1-7 are that good.
  9. Providence (NCAA) They have the schedule to make something of a run, and more talent than you think.
  10. Georgetown (NIT) There. I did it. The Hoyas are reloading and I think it costs them. If they prove me wrong (higher than 8th place) I'll eat my crow.
  11. Seton Hall (NIT) I throw them up here largely because of Cincinnati's injuries, but also recognizing that here are some good pieces in place here.
  12. Cincinnati (CBI) They were going to be my surprise NCAA pick until they lost three players. Watch out for this team in 2009-2010
  13. Rutgers (none) They have enough players I like to keep them out of the bottom three.
  14. St. John's (none) Down at this level, experience is king, and they have grown together as a team and are well-coached.
  15. DePaul (none) I give them a slight edge over the Bulls.
  16. South Florida (none) I could really see a 1-17 conference record here, with a home win over DePaul.
So there it is. Teams 8 and 9, whether they are my picks or not, had better 1) excel in the ooc and 2) not flame out in the BE tournament. If that happens it will get the top 12 a chance to play in a postseason tournament. Of course, teams 9-12 had better win those opening round games, too...



The Big East in preseason tournaments

Connecticut - Paradise Jam
They get an opening round matchup with La Salle that should be an easy win. Anything short of winning this tournament would be something of a failure, but Miami, San Diego, and Wisconsin are all very dangerous. I'd most like to see the SD - UCONN matchup in the final. I'll say UCONN wins it, but it won't be easy.

Georgetown - Old Spice Classic
There' a very winnable opening round game against Wichita State, followed by a matchup with Siena or Tennessee. That second round game could be tough for the Hoyas to win. I think they face Tennessee (though Siena could surprise some folks) and lose. That would put them in the 3rd/5th place game with either Gonzaga or Michigan State, both games I think they would lose. With its 5th place finish, I think we will learn that Georgetown isn't a top 25 team just yet.

Notre Dame - Maui Invitational
OK, I have said that I think Indiana could stun Notre Dame in this opening round game for a number of reasons. Understand that that only means I give them about a 10% chance. Notre Dame should win that game. If they avoid that crazy upset, I believe they will defeat Texas and face UNC in the title game. Anything could happen there with Hansbrough out, or even with him playing 80%. This is an opportunity for the Big East to really flex a muscle early.

Pittsburgh - Legends Classic
This almost doesn't deserve mention, but it is a preseason tournament...Pittsburgh first hosts Akron and Indiana (PA) (Fairleigh Dickinson, though in the tournament, doesn't count as part of the tournament in tonight's game @ Pitt). If Pitt loses either of those...OK, let's not think about that, but even if they do they meet Texas Tech in the semifinal and then either Mississippi State or Washinton State in the final. If Pittsburgh doesn't win the thing it will be a major failure.

Providence - Anaheim Classic
This is to me one of the more intriguing preseason tournaments, as it is loaded with teams trying to sneak into the national discussion but no clear powerhouses. There will be no easy games for the Friars, but I'm going to say they knock off Baylor, Arizona State, and Wake Forest consecutively to take home the title and secure one heck of an ooc resume. I realize I'm out on a limb, but Providence is better than the attention they're getting, and I look for them to prove it in a big way.

Seton Hall - Puerto Rico Season Tip Off
The Pirates will be without transfer Robert Mitchell for this tournament, and because of that I think they lose to USC with little contest. I do think they can win the loser's bracket and capture fourth place, though, with Chattanooga and Missouri as the likely opponents.

St. John's - NIT Season Tip Off
Cornell is a better team than St. John's, so I will say the Red storm likely go home early. However, if they pull that upset, the next round against Boston College or Loyola (MD) is easier. Again, I expect one-and-done, but if they win the first they might just win two. I see very little chance of further advance than that.

Syracuse - CBE Classic
This is the same format as the Legends Classic but less of a joke. Syracuse has all but assured wins in LeMoyne and Richmond to get things going, followed by a tough smeifinal against Florida. I say that Syracuse gets it done, beating Florida and then the defending champs. I think Florida will be the tougher of the two games, but this is the Orange's Chance to say "we're here."



Roundup: So, I see four preseason tournament champions (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Syracuse), one runner-up (Notre Dame) and two top half finishes (Georgetown, Seton Hall) for the Big East. The lone one-and-done I suspect will be St. John's. 

Note tournaments that I couldn't find brackets for include: West Virginia and DePaul in the Las Vegas Invitational, Cincinnati in the Global Sports Classic, Villanova in the Philly Classic, Marquette in the Chicago Invitational Challenge, and South Florida in the San Juan Shootout.  Of those, the most important game I'm aware of is a WV-Kentucky matchup, which I'll go ahead and pick the Mountaineers to win.


So, there you have it, my complete opinion on Big East basketball '08-'09. Thanks to everyone who took the time to bother reading all this the last few weeks; I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together. Let me know what you think, even if you think I'm an idiot, because I want to hear it! Also, check out the Second Annual year-long Big East thread for constant discussion of all relevant Big East topics. Go Big East!
Posted on: October 30, 2008 7:50 pm
 

Big East Preview 8, Pittsburgh Panthers

Well, this is the one I've been waiting to do, certainly.  There are high expectations in Pittsburgh, with a great group of returning players.  Some think this might be Pitt's best chance to crack the Sweet Sixteen finally, but that's something Pitt fans have heard quite a lot the last few seasons.  I like what I see, but wild hope is mitigated in my eyes by a lot of unanswered questions.  Obviously my bias will show through here, but I have tried to be objective in applying the knowledge I have.
2007-2008
Results:

30-9 Overall, 10-8 Big East (7th)
Won Big East tournament
Eliminated second round NCAAs (Michigan State)

Roster:

Keith Benjamin      G/F
Tyrell Biggs              F
DeJuan Blair           C
Gilbert Brown         G/F
Mike Cook                F
Cassin Diggs        G/F
LeVance Fields       G
Tim Frye                   G
Gary McGhee           C
Maurice Polen        G/F
Ronald Ramon        G
Austin Wallace         C
Brad Wanamaker    G
Sam Young               F
2008-2009
Departures:

Benjamin, Cook, Ramon, Diggs, Wallace

A lot of activity here.  Cook missed most of the season, so he essentially was lost prior to this, but he appealed for a medical redshirt and was denied.  Ramon and Benjamin will be missed, but Ramon was not the shooter a lot of Pitt fans thought he was and Benjamin was really only great when Fields was out and he stepped into the vacuum.  Diggs was let go for scholarship room.  Wallace red shirted one year and was injured the next.  Pitt decided his injury ended his career.  I believe the greatest impact here may be on Pitt's defense, because I think the pieces are there to make up for the scoring.  Cook was an excellent defender, and Ramon really stepped up that part of his game, even while his shooting faded.  Benjamin was a very high energy guy.  I don't know if the new guys will be able to bring quite as much to the defense, especially outside.

Arrivals:

Ryan Tiesi    G  (transfer from Bellarmine College) I have to wonder what the reason for this move was...he doesn't appear to have contributed even at Bellarmine.
Jermain Dixon  G (JUCO transfer)  He is probably a better shooter than anyone Pitt has had in a few years.  Whether he can translate his other abilities well enough to D-I play is yet to be seen.

Dwight Miller          F
Ashton Gibbs        G
Travon Woodall    G
Nasir Robinson    F

The first three are three star recruits, and Robinson four.  It's not quite as impressive a class as some others in the conference, but it makes Pitt a reasonably deep team.  Robinson should have immediate impact, and Woodall will likely get some valuable experience early while Fields is still hurt...experience that will make Pitt's depth better when it is needed.

Jonathan Baldwin and/or Michael Shanahan?

I mention these two because they are football players rumored to have an interest in walking on to the basketball squad.  Baldwin was a 4 star recruit who had accepted a scholarship to play basketball but elected to play football instead.  Shanahan I believe was a three star recruit.  It seems Baldwin may have rejected the idea, but Shanahan has expressed interest.  Either would answer some questions of depth at SF and SG, but I can't factor them in to my expectations because I don't know the chances of their joining the team.

The Schedule:

Nonconference Games:  Fairleigh Dickenson, Miami (OH), Akron, Indiana (PA), Belmont, Texas Tech, Duquesne, Vermont, UMBC, Siena, Florida State, Robert Morris

That's a pretty weak ooc, and I believe Pitt is better than all of the above teams.  However, especially without Fields, the trip to Texas could be dangerous, as could the game against a Siena team that will be hungry for a signature win, given the preseason scuttlebutt they are garnering.

Two Time Opponents:  DePaul, Connecticut, West Virginia

That's a representative cross-section of the Big East.  Very fair.

Remaining Roadies:  Rutgers, Georgetown, Louisville, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall

Home Games:   St. John's, South Florida, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Marquette

The BE schedule for Pitt overall is pretty favorable.  They play one of the other heavyweights twice, visit one, and host the last.  They avoid trips to Marquette and St. John's, where they often struggle (odd that they play so well at MSG unless it's to play St. John's), and they get Notre Dame at home...which makes a lot of difference.
The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     Fields, Young, and Blair don't miss a step, and Gilbert Brown plays to his considerable potential.  Jermaine Dixon becomes Pitt's most reliable outside shooter in some time.  Tyrell Biggs improves, and Nasir Robinson steps right in to make the frontcourt depth considerable, and even Gary McGhee puts in some quality minutes in that regard.  Wanamaker matures, and along with help from Woodall and Gibbs provides backup to the starting guards.  All of this gels to win them a BE regular season title, lose no nonconference games, and play in (win?) an eighth BE title game in nine seasons.  They finally get past the Sweet Sixteen, perhaps all the way to the Final Four.  This team does not look like a championship winner, though, so I don't think they'd cut down the nets in Detroit even with their best season.

Worst Case Scenario:
      Blair has trouble head-to-head against several of the other elite centers in the conference.  Fields isn't quite the same after getting back from the injured foot, and Woodall isn't ready to run things in reserve.  Dixon can't produce at quite the same level in D-1, and guys like Biggs, Wanamaker, and McGhee fail to step in and replace the old guard.  The Panthers get upset in as many s 3 ooc games, lose all 4 games against the other preseason conference favorites, and thus fail to improve on last year's 10-8 BE record or 7th place finish.  They do get a game or two in MSG, because of how well they play there, but fall flat in the NCAA tournament as they did last season.

My Take:
     Pitt has possibilities to win either or both BE crown(s), and to make a Final Four run.  They have too many unanswered questions, though, for me to project them to have that kind of season.  They are deserving of their preseason ranking, but will have to answer most of the following questions in the affirmative to deserve it. 1) Will Dixon's transition be fairly smooth, and can he produce in D-1?  2) Can Biggs, Wanamaker, and McGhee (or most of them) improve upon their play from last year?  Wanamaker in particular has disappointed so far, and needs to mature.  Biggs hasn't been quite as good as advertised, either.  3) Is their "depth" actually depth and not a smokescreen?  As usual, Pitt has *a lot* of "pretty good" players.  That needs to translate (it usually does) to a sum greater than the parts.  4) Does either Baldwin or Shanahan walk on to further augment the depth?  This could be the difference between "really good" and "Elite Eight or more" perhaps.  5) Will Fields be healthy?  6) Will the freshmen have a positive impact?  Anyway, hidden within those 6 questions are about a dozen factors, and I think between 8 and 10 of these will have to fall the Panthers way for them to be the top ten team predicted by many.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 27, 2008 9:52 pm
 

Phew!

As we've known all year, Big East wins don't come easy.  In a game that was a must-win for the Panthers, they managed to get it done.  It came down to the wire, though.  This just in: Ronald Ramon needs to start shooting well again.  When he clanks 'em (as he has been lately) Pitt struggles.  They are in general settling too much on ill-advised threes.

No time has it been more evident to me than now how tough it is to win games in the Big East.  Pitt this year suffered a home loss to the worst team in the league, a loss at Cincinnati who is now 13-14 overall, and a three-game losing streak to three ranked teams.  Only one of the ranked teams had an easy time with Pitt.  Tonight, Pitt struggled to keep ahead of  the Bearcats and could've easily lost to them for a second time.

The most frustrating thing is, four of the top five teams in the Big East could've fallen to Pitt easily, but only one did.  Pitt won against Georgetown, led by 7 at the half @Connecticut (and lost by seven but it only got that wide in the final 2 minutes), led by 11 late against Notre Dame (who then got absurdly hot in the final 6 or 8 minutes and won by 12), and got a bit hosed on their own court by Louisville (I don't complain about officiating that often, but this is one Pitt deserved).  Only Marquette beat Pitt convincingly, and kudos to them.  Tom Crean knows how to beat Pittsburgh.

I shouldn't complain much.  What it tells me is that after Cook and Fields got hurt (I know he's been back, but it isn't the same as having had him all season would be) it left Pitt as about the sixth best team in the league (1-4 against the top 5 says so to me).  They could easily climb back higher than that if they get used to playing this rotation again.  Then again, in a league this tough they could be destined for only 1 more win, an early out in the BE tourney, and an 8 or 9 seed in the NCAAs.  It's an interesting, but nerve-racking, season.
Posted on: February 22, 2008 7:02 am
Edited on: February 22, 2008 7:07 am
 

Pens, yinz!

OK, I can't stand the word "yinz," but I haven't been to Pittsburgh in too long.

Now to the topic at hand: I've been trying to get into hockey, and since I was at school in Pittsburgh for the previous five years I decided to follow the Penguins. It seems like I'm being a fair-weather fan, but I swear it had nothing to do with their success. My timing was just extremely lucky. Last year's winning sure made it easy to become an involved fan though, I won't dispute that.

This season, though, coincided with my moving on from the Pittsburgh area. Couple that with the Pen's moderate start and the NHL's terrible TV contracts, and it was hard to keep following at first. I still counted myself as a fan, just not a very good one. Then an amazing chain of events happened, albeit rooted in disappointing injuries. First Marc-Andre Fleury went down. But wait! Ty Conklin stepped in and protected the net like it was his child. Crosby and Malkin turned it on too, and all of a sudden the Pens bolted into first place in a VERY tough division.

Cue the next bad news: almost as soon as the Pens grabbed the division lead, wunderkid Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a broken leg. It looked like the Penguins were sure to fade, but if only they could play about even without him and keep their heads above water they could make another run when he got back. They looked a little shaky without him at first, being shut out in the game in which he was injured and then going 1-1-1 in the next 3. Evgeni Malkin stepped it up, though, and the Penguins' scoring didn't really suffer. In fact, since the injury (not counting the game in which he was hurt and played for a period) they are 9-4-2, notching 20 points (behind 49 goals) in 15 games. They're also 7-2-1 in their last 10, tied for 3rd-best in the NHL over that span. Only New Jersey and Dallas have better marks in that category. That's also been enough to keep them tied with the Devils for first place in the Atlantic.

Good teams respond well to injury. Great teams shrug them off sometimes and keep on succeeding. Which are the Penguins? It's hard to say thus far, but if they keep it up for another couple of weeks and get to the stretch at full health, watch out. The rest of the league should pay close attention to this team (as I'm sure they are). The way this team has plugged huge holes and rallied around their new (temporary?) leaders could be the greatest NHL story in years.
Posted on: February 16, 2008 9:20 am
 

Sigh, Marquette

I hate Marquette so much.  Not really, because they are well coached and a great program etc. etc.  Nothing seems to make us capable of beating them, though, no matter the circumstances.  I am so TIRED of losing to this team.  Ever since that sweet 16 with Dwayne Wade (such an impressive athlete and classy guy, but boy do I wish he'd played his college ball elsewhere).  In fact, Pitt hasn't won at Marquette since 1930.  Say what again?

OK, so everyone is panning Fields because he had a bad first game back.  Guess what, he JUST HAD A BROKEN FOOT.  He looked like he was fine in terms of health and shape, but he couldn't hold onto the ball or find his shot.  That will change.  Wouldn't anyone be rusty after a 12-game absence from the lineup?

Man does Pitt need to win.  The next to are @ ND and home vs. Louisville.  If they don't at least split they could be in serious trouble.  After that they have two tough road games at WVU and Syracuse, though there's a home contest with cincinnati first.  They close the regular season at home vs. DePaul.  I will be satisfied with 3 wins out of that slate, because it's so tough.  That would be a little disappointing, though, after we showed how good we can be in our first 11 games.
Posted on: February 14, 2008 6:57 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2008 6:58 pm
 

LeVance Fields!

Fields is back! Reportedly, anyway. This is huge for the Panthers, especially against a Marquette team that always seems to have our number. More importantly, they are one spot behind us in the Big East standings, and if we beat them it puts us in very good position to grab one of the coveted Big East tournament first-round byes. I mean, even with 4 conference losses we sit in 5th place, and the next three ahead of us have 3 losses.

Another thing about Friday's game is that it's the first half of a brutal road trip to Marquette and Notre Dame. As much as I want Pitt to be the team to break the Irish's home winning streak, if we win the front half of the trip there's not as much pressure to do so. In fact, it puts the pressure on ND because we'd have just beaten Marquette at home - a place where they were blown out. A win tomorrow night also gets us 20 again (well, if Houston Baptist counts). Even if the non-D I game doesn't count, with three home games left, 2 against Cincinnati and DePaul, something is wrong if we don't win another game.

Will Fields make the difference? I'm not sure, but he certainly will make everyone else better as they all get the chance to 1) return to their natural roles and 2) get a little bit of rest. I like seeing our young guys get minutes to help in the future, but Wanamaker and McGhee aren't really ready to contribute on a consistent basis.

Dating back to the start of last baseball season, my teams have taken some nasty injuries (I mean, seriously it's nuts, and I'm working on a complete list to throw up in another blog entry). Maybe now will begin some of the readjusting sports karma after such staggering losses.
 
 
 
 
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