Saturday, January 31, 2009


January 31, 2009

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish face their fifth straight ranked opponent on Saturday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in a Big East conference showdown. The Irish will look for better luck in this one as they have lost their previous four games and have slipped to 3-5 in the Big East.

Pittsburgh is coming off a loss of their own as the Panthers were beaten 67-57 at Villanova on Wednesday night, dropping Pitt to 6-2 in the Big East. Pitt was mired in foul trouble to several players, but the biggest one was DeJuan Blair being limited, much like their earlier loss at Louisville

Here are some pregame stories about the game:

Notre Dame’s Ayers in Slump, Along With Team (Chicago Tribune)
Brey: It is Time for Irish to Grow Up and Play (Courier Press)
Pitt’s Two Losses are Strikingly Similar (Post-Gazette)
Harangody Playing as Expected (Post Gazette)
Irish Enter Unfamiliar Territory (South Bend Tribune)
Ayers Remedies: Rest and Repitition (South Bend Tribune)

While Pitt’s two losses were very similar, it is unlikely to be the case that Notre Dame will be able to replicate the same defensive pressure that Louisville and Villanova are able to apply against opponents, especially on the road. The Irish are a team not know for their defense.

With their backs against the wall and desperate for a win after four losses, I expect the Irish defensive effort to be much improved, but in reality, it has not been their defense as much in their last two games as a struggling offense. Sure, Luke Harangody is still putting up monster numbers, over 25 points and 16 rebounds a game in their last four, but it is taking him a ton of shots to get those points while his teammates are all in a slump together.

Pittsburgh is not a team to face when your struggling offensively, especially from the perimeter where Jermaine Dixon is quickly becoming one of the most feared defenders in college basketball. Dixon will have the assignment of guarding Kyle McAlarney and as teams have found out lately, make Harangody work for his points, but accept he is going to get them, shut down McAlarney, and you should be in good shape.

For Pitt, they need to keep DeJuan Blair on the court. In the two losses, foul trouble limited his time on the court and saw Pitt give up double-digit first half leads once he was missing time because of fouls. With Blair on the bench, Pitt is not the same team and they give up more points, especially on the boards, and it allows the defense to set their pressure. While ND is unlikely to come with pressure, Blair’s ability to rebound and score is needed all game here.

Pitt is an 11 ½ -point favorite on their home floor. The Irish will be desperate, and I expect them to play tough on the defensive end, but the pressure of needing the win and the Pitt defense will continue to hold the Irish offense in check. Pitt wins comfortably, but maybe not quite with the ease expected with the line.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 74
Notre Dame 66


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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Talented Wing, Lamar Patterson Looking Forward To The Future

by Matt Whitfield

Lamar Patterson is one of the Garden State’s top seniors. He is a 6’5, 220 pound Small Forward who has committed to play next year for Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh.

Patterson is the younger brother of former Syracuse QB Perry Patterson, so it is no surprise that he choose to play basketball for a top school school in the Big East, rather than a well known school in another top conference such as the ACC or Big Ten, where he attracted a fair amount of interest, including scholarship offers from Michigan, Miami, Rutgers, and Penn State. However, according to Patterson he choose Pittsburgh because, “It was my style of play. [They're] real physical, [they] bring it up and down the court.”

Patterson transferred to nationally ranked powerhouse St. Benedict’s for his senior from Mccaskey High School in Lancaster (PA) with an eye on his future.

“I just wanted to get in shape to get ready for there [Pittsburgh].”

Playing on a team coached by Danny Hurley, and going up against talented teams such as Lincoln, St. Patrick's, Mater Dei, Whitney Young, and Rice will certainly do that for Patterson. Being in the Garden State also, Patterson indicated he connected with future Pittsburgh Panther, slashing Point Guard Isaiah Epps.

“The coaches up there were telling me to talk to him before he committed,” Patterson said. “It’s good we got a point guard like that.”

Patterson and Epps should be a tandem to be reckoned with in the future. But for now Patterson is known for being a tough, physical wing that pounds the glass and has a great work ethic.

Sure Patterson will have to improve some things but according to Patterson, Coach Dixon, “gets what he wants out of his players,” and thus, while not expecting to start right away next year, Patterson stated, “I [do] expect some playing time.”

Things for Patterson are certainly starting to get interesting as besides being a part of a good Panther recruiting class, Patterson stated, “I was always at Syracuse [visiting my older brother] so [now] we have a little family rivalry going on.”

Sibling rivalry or not, with the basketball pipeline flowing for both Pitt and SU, these schools should have great matchups for years to come in the Big East.

For more on Patterson, including his play at the recent Newark Invitational, visit the NBE Basketball Report to learn about everything on the Big East.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


January 28, 2009

A match-up of top 25 teams takes place in Philadelphia as Pittsburgh travels across the state to meet Villanova. The game will be the final basketball game played in the historic Spectrum which is scheduled to be razed late next summer.

Villanova is ranked #21 in the country, but they are still looking to get that win that will make pundits believe in their squad. The Wildcats have won three (SHU, USF & SJU) in Big East play and lost three (Marquette, Louisville & UConn). Their best win of the year was against Big 5 rival Temple in the out of conference schedule.

Pittsburgh comes to Philly as the hunted. The Panthers are ranked No. 3 in the country and, much like the Super Bowl participants from their city, rely on a physical style of defense that can intimidate other teams. This Pitt team also has an element of athletic ability offensively that allows them to strike quickly and put up a run of points that leaves the opponent wounded.

Here are some pregame stories and previews from the internet:

’Nova Memories Run the Spectrum (DelCo Times)
Spectrum Hosted Glorious College Games (Philly Daily News)
Villanova, Pitt Ready for Typical Big East Slugfest (Philly Daily News)
Pitt to Face Villanova With a New Twist (Tribune-Review)
Nova to Play in Landmark Spectrum Finale (Philly Inquirer)
Dixon’s Scoring Gives Pitt Shot in the Arm (Observer Reporter)

Pitt will bring a familiar look to the Spectrum that the Wildcats saw earlier this season in a game against Texas at Madison Square Garden. ‘Nova lost to the Longhorns, 67-58, while being hit hard on the boards. Texas outrebounded Jay Wright’s squad 55-38 and those second chance opportunities from the offensive rebounds made the biggest difference in the game.

Villanova will attempt to counter Pitt’s size and strength in the paint by extending their defense and trying to pressure the Panthers. In their lone loss of the season at Louisville, Pitt turned the ball over 20 times and was out of sync as UL wiped out a 10-point Pitt lead with a 19-3 run at the 8 minute mark of the second half.

Even though many point to the UL press that brought down the Panthers from their perch of a #1 ranking, it was foul trouble to DeJuan Blair that hurt Pitt the most. With Blair in the game, Pitt was able to score points on second-chance opportunities and they limited the Cards to one-shot, keeping the press from being able to set-up. Blair will be the key tonight, if he can stay on the floor, he can help Pitt control the game. If he is picking up little reach or bump fouls 25+ feet away from the basket and finds himself saddled to the bench with fouls, the dynamic of Pitt’s team changes.

Villanova is very guard-driven on offense, so Jermaine Dixon will be key once again for Pitt and the long and athletic, 6-foot-3 guard will be challenged with stopping Scottie Reynolds. What makes Pitt so tough is that Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown come off the bench and the defensive ability hardly misses a beat. Pitt can also go big with Sam Young as a small forward or slide him to the power forward spot and match-up with the smaller Wildcat line-up, but still hold a size and athletic advantage.

The Panthers are a pretty healthy 3 ½-point favorite on the road. Keeping in mind the Texas game from earlier this season, Pitt is a tough match-up for the Wildcats as they will be able to attack their weaknesses while not giving up an athletic advantage to the ‘Nova backcourt. Even though it is a ‘home’ game and will have a historical value being the final basketball game in the Spectrum, this is far from being the home court for Villanova. Look for Pitt to control this game and put it away with a couple impressive runs as long as DeJuan Blair is able to be on the floor.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 72
Villanova 65


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Monday, January 26, 2009


January 26, 2009

While the present of Pittsburgh basketball is mighty impressive, the future is not too shabby either and a big part of it was on display yesterday in the featured game in the Lehigh Valley Hoop Group Showcase. While St. Benedict's Proves It's Worth (Morning Call) in a 79-70 overtime win over Bishop McNamara, it was Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna putting on a show of the future of the Panthers.

Patterson was game MVP and finished with 21 points, going eight of 10 from the field and four of six from the foul line. Zanna, matched up against elite 2010 Texas-commit Tristan Thompson, matched Patterson's 21 points and added 14 rebounds, 4 steals and four thuderous jams. Zanna was nine of 16 from the field and three of five from the line.

The Gray Bees prevailed in OT, 80-70.

Joining Patterson and Zanna in Pitt's highly touted class will be an elite 2009 forward prospect in Dante Taylor of the National Christian Academy program. Taylor is quite a success story as at the age of 14 he and his mother made the tough decision for him to leave home and enter the NCA program under Trevor Brown. Taylor's Taken a Long Road from Greenburgh (The Journal News), NY to where he is today, but it was worth it to his mother.


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Sunday, January 25, 2009


Pitt goes in Morgantown for rivalry victory

January 25, 2009

Sam Young made up for lost time. Saddled with foul trouble, Young had just six points in only nine minutes of action when he returned following the under 16 media timeout in the second half as the Panthers and West Virginia were locked in a tight Big East battle in Morgantown.

WVU led 45-43, but they had no answer for Young down the stretch who scored 16 of his game-high 22 points and helped ignite a 16-5 run that took just 4:48 for the Panthers to gain control of the game, 59-50. Pitt Pulls Away from West Virginia (Tribune-Review) from there as the run reached 28-10 less than four minutes later with Pitt leading 71-55 with 7:18 left on a Jermaine Dixon (1 points) three-pointer.

The Mountaineers Fall to Pitt (wvmetronews.com) in a battle of the top two defensive teams of the Big East as the Panthers shoot 55% (30-55) from the floor and register 18 assists to just 9 turnovers in the game.

Besides Young’s 22 points, sophomore DeJuan Blair posted another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Levance Fields added 13 points and 5 assists.

The Panthers return to action Wednesday when they travel to Villanova.


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January 25, 2009

It is the Backyard basketBrawl as Pittsburgh and West Virginia square off at 4 PM in Morgantown in a Big East conference match-up. The two bitter rivals will lock horns on the hardwood twice this season, Sunday is the first of those meetings.

West Virginia earned an impressive 75-58 road victory on Thursday night against Georgetown. Just when you were expecting the Mountaineers to possibly fade away in the Big East race, they showed us all they can not be counted out.

Pittsburgh is off to a 5-1 conference start and rebounded from their first loss of the season last Saturday at Louisville by pummeling Syracuse, 78-60, Monday night.

Brawl in Morgantown (WVmetroNews.com)
Pitt’s Blair Continues to Make Steady Progress (Tribune-Review)
No Rest for WVU (Register-Herald)
Panthers on Top of their Game (Register-Herald)
Everhart Thinks Pitt, WVU Will Duke it Out (Charleston Gazette)
WVU Expects to See Pitt at its Best (Martinsburg Journal)
Pitt’s Big Man a Fan of WVU Coach (Tribune-Review)
Tall Order for WVU (Charleston Gazette)
Pitt, West Virginia Clash in Morgantown (Tribune-Review)
WVU’s Butler Starting to heat Up (Post-Gazette)

Two teams that will get after it very hard on the defensive end of the floor will meet in Morgantown on Sunday. With this game being such a big rivalry, expect the atmosphere to be extra charged, especially with the lofty ranking attached to the Panthers.

Pitt has the experience and, although they are not much bigger than the Mountaineers, they certainly play bigger. That will likely hold true as long as star sophomore center DeJuan Blair stays out of foul trouble.

Limited to just 20 minutes at Louisville last Saturday, Blair still managed 9 points and 10 rebounds. When he was on the floor, Pitt seemed in control, but when he left the game with his fourth foul, Pitt’s undefeated season unraveled and they tasted defeat.

West Virginia will likely try to force Pitt to use their hedge defensive philosophy to see if they can pick up fouls on Blair away from the basket, if they are successful, it changes the whole dynamic of the game for Pitt.

On the WVU side, the play of freshman point guard Darryl Bryant will be tested. In a game with emotions likely charged, Bryant will need to be a calming influence beyond his years in the Mountaineer backcourt. You know Pitt’s Levance Fields will likely have a near flawless floor game, Bryant will need to keep his excitement under wraps and orchestrate the attack.

The rest of the line-ups are filled with athletes. The small forward match-up also could decide the game with either Sam Young or Da’Sean Butler tipping the game in their team’s favor.

West Virginia has had trouble scoring and some three’s from Alex Ruoff will be a huge lift to their team. Something tells me he will shake off some of his recent struggles in a big spot here for the senior.

WVU is a slight 1 ½-point favorite. This should be quite a game…but, the home team should be primed for the upset…in a thriller!

NBE Blogger Prediction:

West Virginia 67
Pittsburgh 66


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Thursday, January 22, 2009


One of the strengths of the Pittsburgh program in their run of success is they always seem to have good players willing to wait in the wings for their turn. When their turn is called, the are ready and they produce and when their roles increase, the cycle continues. On Monday, a Fresh Nasir Robinson Gave Pitt a Boost (Observer-Reporter) off the bench with an effective five minute run helped Pitt put away Syracuse.

Another player knowing his role and waiting his turn is redshirt sophomore Gilbert Brown. While injuries has dwarfed some of his progress and numbers, Harrisburg's Brown Has Embraced His Role as Pitt's Top Reserve (Patriot-News) and brings an impressive level of athletic ability and defense to the wing off the bench.

One drawback with Sam Young playing more on the wing is his lack of trips to the foul line, which have been noticeably absent in Big East play. Against Syracuse, the Panther's Young Ends Free-Throw Sabatical (Tribune Review) by getting to the line eight times, connecting on six. He actually made more in that game than he attempted in the previous five combined. A sign that he got back to taking the ball to the basket and finding more points in the paint rather than hunting perimeter jumpers.


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Monday, January 19, 2009

Panthers Back to Business in Win over Syracuse

By Anthony Jaskulski

The Panthers naysayers didn’t have long to gloat.

In a dominant fashion, No. 4 Pitt (17-1, 5-1) behind the hustle of their primetime player Sam Young, took a late surge and ran through No. 8 Syracuse in a 78-60 throbbing at the Petersen Events Center tonight.

The Panthers three stars, guard Levance Fields, center DeJuan Blair and forward Sam Young finished with a combined 57 of the 78 total points scored.

Young finished with a game-high 22 points, as well as corralling six rebounds and shooting a solid 6 of 8 on the night from the free throw line.

Pitt has now won 11 of 14 matchups with the Orange, including 6 of the last 7 home games.


“To come out and do what we did tonight really speaks volumes,” said Coach Jamie Dixon. “We did a very good job making them take tough shots, and finishing the battle on the boards. They were challenged about the rebounding numbers, and they responded tonight.”

After giving up 42 rebounds in Saturday’s loss at Louisville, the Panthers did indeed respond to the call, grabbing the 40-28 advantage tonight over the Orange.

Blair led the way for the Panthers on the boards, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds and dropping 20 points, including a monstrous slam-dunk late in the second half, erupting the Oakland Zoo and Panther fans in attendance.

“We played good and came out strong,” said Blair about bouncing back from the loss at Louisville. “Levance (Fields) did a good job getting our minds off the loss, and as soon as we got off the plane we forgot about it. Everybody is going to lose in the Big East, it’s going to happen. This game showed how we can bounce back from that game.”

Blair’s double-double gem of a game came at the expense of SU center Arinze Onuaku, who finished with just eight points, while securing nine rebounds for the Orange.

Blair and Onuaku’s epic collision in the paint went on all game, and surely proved as a preview for the two and their future heavyweight rumbles to come in the NBA.

“He is a good player,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “Blair is as good of a rebounder as I’ve seen in this league in a long time. He backed us down too much tonight, and we just didn’t do a good job against him defensively. He’s a really good player.”

Pitt outscored Syracuse as a team in the paint 44-26.

Defense became the strongpoint behind Pitt’s bounce back performance tonight.

The Panthers held the Orange to 23 of 55 (41.8%) from the field, and forced 14 turnovers, while only committing one in the second half themselves, after surrendering 20 turnovers in Saturday’s loss at Louisville.

Young’s dominant performance defensively helped set Pitt escape from a single-digit lead midway through the second half, to a grinding 30-20 run to end the game, including dropping two three-pointers in three straight possessions, answering the call of the Orange on the other end.

“I thought we worked on some things before Louisville and he played well in that game aside from a 6-8 minute stretch at the end,” said Dixon on Young. “Offensive rebounds are key, and he did a really good job tonight of going after the ball and finding ways to get in a good position to score.”

After an early first half surge from the Panthers, Syracuse answered the call thanks to the backcourt duo of Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins, who combined for 29 points on the night, including a 5 of 12 three-point performance from Rautins.

Two early technical’s on guard Paul Harris and forward Rick Jackson sprawled the Panthers with Fields missing all four free throws, and scoring no points on the ensuing possessions, allowing Syracuse to race to a 7-0 run during the stretch.

“I thought early in the game we had some opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them,” said Boehiem. “We had our opportunities and didn’t capitalize. They are a tremendous team at rebounding and limiting you to shot opportunities on offense.”

Fields contributed in helping usher Pitt back to the win column with yet another six assist night, and 15 points, going 7 of 11 from the field.

Pitt will be back on the road for their next meeting with conference rival West Virginia on Sunday.


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January 19, 2009

Syracuse rebounded in fine fashion from their first conference loss by blitzing Notre Dame Saturday, 93-74, at the Carrier Dome. Now, we will see how Pittsburgh can rebound from their first loss of the season as Big Monday arrives and the Panthers host the Orange at the Peterson Events Center.

Pittsburgh lost a 10-point lead and their undefeated season in the last 8 minutes at Louisville on Saturday in a 69-63 loss to the Cards. The Panthers turned the ball over a season-high 20 times against Louisville's full-court pressure. However, it was the foul trouble of DeJuan Blair that changed the game for good over the last 8 minutes.

Here are some pregame stories and previews found on the internet this morning:

Panthers Can Forget About Loss in Hurry (Post-Gazette)
Orange Braces for Pittsburgh Brutes (Syracuse Post-Standard)
Orange Scouting Report: SU vs. Pittsburgh (Post-Standard)
Pitt Looking for Quick Recovery (Tribune-Review)
Confident SU Ready to Take on Pitt (Rochester D&C)

Saturday's loss to Louisville drove home one major point about Pitt, DeJaun Blair is their Most Important Player. Arguements can be made for Sam Young (18.4 points, 5.5 rebounds a game) or Levance Fields (10.2 pts, 7.1 assists, 1.8 turnovers a game), but Blair's absence due to foul trouble in a game-turning 19-3 run by Louisville showed how important Blair is to the Panthers.

Blair scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but he played just 20 minutes because of fouls. While the 6-foot-7, 265 lb bear is incredibly nimble and quick with tremendous hands, which is evident in the fact he leads Pitt with 1.9 steals a game, Blair has a tendency to pick up two-three fouls a game reaching or riding a guard 25+ feet from the basket defending the high bal screen. Most of Blair's steals come inside as he uses his quickness against other big men in the conference, not stripping guards in the backcourt.

When Blair was on the bench, Louisville was able to get second chance scoring opportunities and convert them, allowing them to set-up their full court pressure. It also took away Pitt's second-chance opportunities which led to some transition points for the Cards who were able to leak out on the break with less of a fear of a Blair rebound and put-back...in a nutshell, the whole game was turned around.

Syracuse was at their high-flying best against Notre Dame on Saturday, torching the Irish with 39 fast-break points in a 93-74 win. SU has the big bodies to clog the lane against Blair in Arinze Onuaku, who has similar girth as Blair, and the long and athletic Rick Jackson who will attempt to alter Blair's shots inside. The SU zone will also force Pitt to rely more on their perimeter shooters, the most inconsistent part of their game.

Offensively, Syracuse can score with the best of them and it will make them dangerous against any opponent. The Orange have explosive point guard Jonny Flynn directing the attack and his play is rapidly improving this year with a deeper supporting cast. He will be tested tonight as the Pitt defense and rebounding prowess will likely prevent the free-flowing pace of a game that SU excelled against when facing the Irish.

Consistency on defense and on the boards is one of th ebiggest keys to winning on the road. Not sure if Syracuse is at the point yet in those two areas to get a win here tonight. Both teams are on a quick turnaround, but SU has it a little easier as they will travel from Syracuse to Pittsburgh following their noon home contest while Pitt is coming home from Louisville following a 6 PM game on Saturday. They will be looking for a lift from the home crowd, similar to the lift Louisville got to push them over the top on Saturday in handing Pitt their first loss. The Panthers are a pretty healthy 8 1/2-point favorite in tonight's contest, that number seems just a tad high to me in what should be a good game. If Blair can be on the floor for 30 minutes...I think Pitt wins. If he finds himself in foul trouble...this could go either way.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 72
Syracuse 66


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Saturday, January 17, 2009


January 17, 2009

The Big East has marquee match-ups nearly every single night it puts action on the court. Saturday is no exception as the 6 PM match-up in Freedom Hall between Pittsburgh and Louisville will certainly draw a lot of attention.

The Panthers once again will lace up their sneakers as the #1 ranked team in the country and be the most hunted team in the land. With that large target on their back, some believe Pitt has struggled a little with St. John’s and South Florida, but winning by an average of 18 points a game in two conference contests is a way more teams would like to ‘struggle.’

Panthers Like the View from the Top (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Louisville/Pitt Preview (Card Chronicle)
Pitino: Pitt Game Wont Be Pretty (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Cards Prepare to Host Top-Ranked Pitt (News Enterprise)
Ranked Teams Lined Up to Play Pitt (Post-Gazette)

Louisville seems to be finding their stride following the thrilling last-second win over rival Kentucky before entering conference play. The Cards have opened conference play with three consecutive wins, including a 61-60 escape against Villanova and the overtime win over Notre Dame in their last game.

Even with the 3-0 Big East start, this UL team seems to be missing something. The guard play still has not risen to the level needed to push the Cards to the top of this conference, but that was expected to an ongoing battle. Terrence Williams, Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels is a front-line filled with NBA potential and will see a match-up that will test them fully as Pitt will counter with Sam Young, Tyrell Biggs and DeJuan Blair.

The match-up of Blair and Samuels in the paint should be a doozy. The young Samuels is coming off a game of battling Luke Harangody and now sees another bruising force in the paint. Samuels will need to be ready to hit the boards early and often.

Pittsburgh, even against the extended Louisville pressure, will likely rely on a flawless floor game from Levance Fields. What Pitt will also need very much to come away with a road win is Sam Young to shake off a string of lackluster performances and be ‘on’, much like he was in Pitt’s Big East Tournament win over UL last season.

Winning in the road requires top notch rebounding and defense, Pitt is known for those traits and while many Pittsburghers are fixated on the NFL Odds of their beloved Steelers to make the Super Bowl, the city has a college basketball team that is mighty impressive, too.

If Louisville can find a way to get DeJuan Blair to pick up a couple early fouls, they should be able to establish the game in the style they would prefer. If Blair is able to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble, the defense and rebounding edge that Pitt brings to the table should have the Panthers grinding out another impressive win because of their consistency and acceptance of roles. I do not think the UL attack is geared to draw the cheap fouls on Blair and therefore he is on the floor enough to help control the game in Pitt’s favor.

Also, seeing that they are 2 ½-point underdogs should serve as more motivation for the Panthers, who despite the #1 ranking, believe they are still being disrespected by the nation.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 71
Louisville 65


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Friday, January 16, 2009

Lance Stephenson Clarification

Apparently, on various message boards, it was written that I wrote that Pitt is No. 1 on Stephenson's list. Just for the record, that wasn't me who wrote that. The only comment I made on Stephenson was that he has some interest in Pitt, Pitt has some interest in him, and that it will probably not go beyond that. Two days ago I asked somebody heavily involved with Stephenson's recruitment about Pitt's interest and he replied "luke warm". So, once again, it's a very long shot that Pitt and Stephenson will ever come together.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


January 14, 2009

The Pittsburgh Panthers begin their second week ranked as the nation's #1 team in America and will welcome in the South Florida Bulls. USF has a little momentum heading into this game coming off a stunningly easy 80-58 road win over DePaul on Saturday. It was just the Bulls' second conference road win in their 3+ years in the Big East.

Here are some of the pregame stories and previews found on the web today:

South Florida Guards to Test Panthers (Tribune-Review)
Pitt's Perfect Starts Set Pace for Season (Post-Gazette)
Bulls Excited About Playing #1 Panthers (Tampa Tribune)
Pitt's Dixon Moving up on Victory List, Notes (Tribune-Review)
USF Bulls' Guard Faces Friend Tonight in Pittsburgh (St. Pete Times)

Pitt is coming off a 90-67 home win over St. John's from Sunday afternoon. It was the first game for the Panthers in eight days and their first with their #1 ranking. Pitt started a bit slow as it looked as they had some rust from the layoff and felt some pressure with their new top-dog status. Once they got their feet under them, they rolled to an impressive win.

DeJuan Blair led the way with an impressive 23-points, 15-rebound, 6-steal performance in the paint. Tonight, USF is going to have a very hard time keeping Blair off the glass and out of the lane as the young and thin Bulls frontcourt will be tested from start to finish.

Blair and Pitt's leading scorer Sam Young are very tough match-ups for most teams in the country and the Bulls are no exception as their size and strength advantage will be hard to overcome. Even if USF sags into a zone defense, the Panthers will bound the glass and turn defensive pressure into scoring opportunities as they are excellent at scoring in transition when the opportunity presents itself.

The Bulls will need to take care of the basketball and hope that Blair picks up a couple cheap fouls 30-feet from the basket, which he can be prone to do. Pressure from wing guards Dominique Jones and Jesus Verdejo offensively could cause Pitt some troubles, but there are are few teams as athletic and detail-oriented on defense as Pitt.

The latest college basketball odds have Pitt as a 20 1/2-point favorite. While there is little doubt that Pitt's inside strength and defensive prowess would have little trouble covering this number more often than not, look for the Bulls to stay within that number at the final horn. Pitt has a date with Louisville on Saturday evening and a game back home on Monday with top-10 Syracuse. Not only could they be looking ahead, but when they do reach a cruising altitude with their lead, look for some liberal substitutions from Jamie Dixon to get some players more time and for the Bulls to play this one out to the end.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 81
South Florida 64


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Monday, January 12, 2009

Pitt basketball Q&A

Obviously with things getting hot with Pitt's recent recruiting efforts, I received more emails with questions.

Q: Does Pitt have a shot with Lance Stephenson?

A: Well, that's the million dollar question, I guess. Pitt has been talking to Stephenson's camp off and on for months. I didn't report it for all that time because right now there's not much to say. Basically, Stephenson has interest in Pitt, and Pitt has a little bit of interest in Stephenson. It's true that Tom Herrion was at Stephenson's game the other night, but he was also there to check out some good young players in the game. So I wouldn't put too much stock into that. Coaches check out games all the time when they are free. They are always recruiting. Now, obviously this kid is a high school superstar, and I'm not using that term lightly. He may be the most talented high school senior in the country, but he also has baggage. For both those reasons Pitt is going to keep a toe in the water. But I wouldn't get too excited yet. There are a ton of variables in the recruitment of Stephenson and for the moment Pitt is just lurking around the periphery. Consider it a long shot for the time being. If they decide to get serious, I'll let you know. But right now they aren't.

Q: What's your thoughts on Isaiah Epps?


A: The kid is a big time talent. He is a combo guard that Pitt is going to try at the point. That's fine by Epps because he loves having the ball in his hands. He needs to get stronger, but he has the ability to be an elite Big East player because he is an excellent athlete and he can really light it up. And he has the right kind of cockiness to him, too, which is what you need to be a Big East point guard. He's the best point guard prospect Pitt has had since Vonteego Cummings, who was a top 20 prospect coming out of Georgia. Imagine what a talented kid like Cummings could have done with Dixon as his coach. Ralph Willard is great coaching the less talented kids, but he had no idea what to do with somebody like Cummings. But I digress.

Q: How does Epps feel about competing against his cousin, Travon Woodall?

A: Technically, it's his second cousin. And he feels fine about it. They are good friends. And Woodall welcomes the challenge.

Q: What does the commitment of Epps mean for Travon Woodall and Ashton Gibbs?

A: Woodall has been hurt all year so they are hoping to get a redshirt for him at the end of the season. They are hoping he can progress enough to be the starting point guard next season, but that will be a big jump since he hasn't been able to play much this season. If he can't do it, it will be Gibbs, who they feel has really progressed with his point guard skills. And as we know, he can flat out shoot.

Q: With the commitment of Epps, does that mean Pitt will no longer go after Sterling Gibbs?

A: It doesn't mean that at all. You can never have enough talented guards. If Sterling is good enough to wrestle the starting job away, then both Ashton and Epps can easily play the two. But Sterling is still a long way off. I know some Pitt fans have penciled him in already, but that's premature. He's not destined for Pitt. He will be a hot commodity.

Q: Will Pitt still have room for Will Barton now that Epps has committed?

A: I think I'm noticing a trend here. Let me make this easy. Pitt will not turn down an elite player that wants to sign with them- period. And Barton is an elite player who could be a star in the Big East.

Q: Is Pitt still recruiting Tom Droney?

A: They really like Droney as a player and as a person, and in past years they would have definitely taken him. But right now, they are so loaded and there doesn't appear to be room at the inn for him. If they thought that he had point guard skills, it would have been a different story.

Q: What do you think Pitt's chances are with Adreian Payne? And what kind of a player is he?

A: Too early to say what their chances are. Payne is known for being somebody who doesn't really talk much. And I'm talking literally one word answers for the most part. So getting anything out of him is difficult. His coach, on the other hand, was impressed with Brandin Knight and Jamie Dixon. What most got my attention was that the coach made a point to say that Pitt's system was ideal for Payne. And he's right. Pitt is trying hard to get him on campus and that's half the battle. If they can achieve that, then there odds go up.

As for what kind of a player he is, he is 6'9" and VERY long. Think of Blair's long arms on a kid a few inches taller. He's skinny, though, and certainly not a beast like Blair. And his offensive game is not there yet, though that's almost always the last thing for big men to get down. Dante Taylor was similar at this time last year, though he was a little better offensively then. But Payne is also highly athletic and as far as offensive rebounding and shot blocking, he is in the elite class for both.

Q: I guess most of us have heard that we are now after Barton, Stephenson, and Payne, but is there anybody else?

A: Like I wrote previously, Pitt is not "after" Stephenson at this point. Barton and Payne are major targets who they will take under any circumstances. They also liked Eric Atkins and Tyrone Garland at the point, but now that they have Epps, that will no longer be the case. And for the front court, they like 6'10" Massachusetts center Carson Desrosiers, and he could be an option if they fall out of it with Payne. Kyryl Natyazhko is still an option for '09, in case Blair leaves for the NBA, though that could muddy things with Payne if he didn't decide yet.

Q: Is it me or do we have two excellent recruiters as assistants?

A: It's not you. Herrion is a known commodity and is considered one of the very best in the business. Knight, I thought it would take a little longer, but being an assistant for the No.1 team in the country has opened more doors for him. Now, when I talk to kids, its not, "I like Pitt, but Kansas just offered me!" Now its, "Pitt's the No.1 team in the country and they just offered. That's pretty cool". Plus, Knight is really helped by the fact that he's close to the age of these kids, and by the fact that he was a very known college player not that long ago. It has to be pretty cool to have a guy who was the Player of the Year in the Big East just seven years ago walk into your house and tell you that he wants you to play in the same league, and that league just happens to be the best one in the country. It couldn't get better for Pitt right now and that's why the staff is in overdrive to load up while they still have the buzz.

Q: Do you think Pitt will over recruit Gary McGhee?

A: McGhee is an awesome young man and gives it his all constantly. So from a personal standpoint, I hope it doesn't happen, unless he wants it to happen. But he is pretty much at the level I predicted when he signed. I wasn't really high on his abilities as some may remember. At least not as a starting center, which is what Pitt desperately needed at the time with Aaron Gray graduating. And at the time it didn't seem ideal to put a 6'6" freshman at center, even if he was a beast man. But ultimately I think people are down on him now because, as I feared at the time, they saw Gray get turned from a plugger into an All-American, and people expected the same with McGhee. But McGhee was just meant to be a guy that is physical in the paint and gives the big guys a few minutes rest. Anything more than that would be considered a bonus. Contrary to popular belief, no team has, or even tries, to land 13 elite prospects. That's a recipe for disaster. The truth is, you need the Gary McGhees on your team as much as you need the DeJuan Blairs on your team. Now, if he starts all season, then you screwed up. But you screwed up by not replacing your highly talented center with another highly talented center, and not by getting McGhee earlier. Not everybody was destined to be an excellent Big East player. It just seems that way sometimes when you watch Pitt.


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by Chris Dokish

With the recent verbal commitment of 6'2" PG Isaiah Epps, a top 50 prospect from Plainfield (NJ) HS, the Pittsburgh basketball program has no current openings for the 2010 class. But, like all programs, the Panthers staff has not stopped recruiting, and they are still looking to add top talent.

Two 2009 recruits, top 25 prospect Dante Taylor, a 6'9" PF from National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, MD, and fast rising 6'9" C/F Talib Zanna of Bishop McNamara HS in Forestville, MD, are a strong start for a future excellent front line, but Jamie Dixon is aiming high again in 2010. This time Dixon is putting the full court pressure on 6'9" C/F Adreian Payne, a top 10 prospect from Jefferson HS in Dayton, OH.

"Dixon came here a few days ago," says Jefferson head coach Art Winston. "It was a good visit. Pitt offered a long time ago and it was nice to see them come to see Adreian."

While the Panthers offered long ago, Dixon's visit marked the beginning of the push to land Payne.
"They wanted us to visit for their game Sunday against St. John's, but we played the night before and we couldn't drive the four hours there the next morning," says Winston. "But we are trying to get there by the end of the month".

"I definitely want to visit Pitt," says Payne, a man of very few words. "I'm going to go for an unofficial soon. It's nice to have them recruiting me."

Payne, who can play both center or forward in college, according to Winston, is an ultra athletic, ridiculously long big man with great rebounding and shot blocking skills. But he hasn't scratched the surface yet, according to Winston.

"Most kids play AAU ball from when they were very young, but Adreian didn't play until he was a freshman," says Winston. "Not only didn't he play much before then, he didn't even watch basketball. But we saw him when he was in 7th Grade and he was already 6'3" or 6"4", and he had a great feel for the game. So we knew then that he had a chance to be special."

As expected for such an elite prospect, Pittsburgh has a lot of competition for his services. Dayton, Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Xavier will do everything they can to keep him in state, and Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisville, Memphis, and West Virginia are just a few of the many who have either offered or have recruited Payne hard. But, according to Winston, Pitt has made a major impression on both himself and his star big man.

"(Pitt assistant coach) Brandin Knight came down to visit not long ago and he was really nice" says Winston.

"And he was a big time player in college, too, so he really made an impression on us. Dixon was very nice, too. They have been great and they showed what kind of a classy program they have there."

While recruiting as the head coach of the current No. 1 team in the country no doubt has its benefits, Winston said Pitt has something much better going for them.
"It's not even about them being No.1," says Winston.

"What we like so much about Pitt, besides how nice they've been, is there system. It's perfect for Adreian".

Winston says they were going to wait until the season was over before making a decision, but now it may come sooner. "We will probably do it before the season ends now," says Winston. "We will take a look at where he fits in best then do it".


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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Possible Redshirt for Woodall

By Chris Dokish

The Pittsburgh staff will look to obtain a redshirt for 5'11" freshman point guard Travon Woodall at the end of the season. While Woodall has already played in more games than is allowed to achieve the automatic redshirt, the Panthers can, and will, apply for a medical redshirt due to multiple injuries that Woodall has incurred. The staff thinks Woodall has a strong case to obtain the redshirt. With the impending graduation of Levance Fields, next season Woodall will be the only true point guard in the program.

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January 12, 2009

2010 Verbal Commitment Alert: Isaiah Epps, 6'2 (G) from Plainfield (NJ) High School.

Pittsburgh basketball and coach Jamie Dixon have found that being ranked No. 1 in the country has its privileges. Following last week's win over Georgetown, the Pitt head coach had been on the recruiting trail, including a stop at the Playaz New Year's Jump-off where he watched 2010 Jersey guard Isaiah Epps. Epps certainly noticed an ended his recruitment less than a week later as Pitt Lands the Jersey Guard (ZagsBlog.com) to get a head start on their 2010 class.


Senior: Jermaine Dixon (G)
Juniors: Gilbert Brown (SF/G), Bradley Wanamaker (G), Gary McGhee (C), DeJuan Blair (PF)
Sophomores: Travon Woodall (PG), Nasir Robinson (G/F), Ashton Gibbs (G)
2009 Commits: Lamar Patterson (SG), Dante Taylor (PF), J/J. Richardson (F), Talib Zanna (BF/C), , Dwight Miller* (PF)
2010 Commitment: Isaiah Epps

* Dwight Miller is expected to redshirt the 2008-2009 season and have freshman eligibility in the 2009-2010 season.


Nothing like striking while the iron is hot and the Panthers venture back into New Jersey, using assistant coach Brandin Knight's ties to the NJ Playaz AAU program, to land 6-foot-2 guard Isaiah Epps out of Plainfield High School to kick off their 2010 recruiting efforts. Epps is a combination guard that is projecting as a point guard in college, but is also a very capable scorer with range beyond the three-point arc.

His former high school coach, Pete Vasil, told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that Seton Hall and Rutgers both offered scholarships in the summer of 2007 and other schools under consideration included Maryland, Marquette and Kansas was also showing increased attention.

Epps has several ties to the Pitt program as current Panther frosh Travon Woodall is a second cousin and he knows Ashton Gibbs, another Jersey product, well. The familiarity and relationship he has built with Brandin Knight swayed Epps to commit early to the Panthers.

There is expected to be a limited amount of scholarships available in the class of 2010 as well (one on paper). Local guard Tom Droney had the Panther coach at a recent game this week, so Pitt is still showing interest in the local prospect. The other top target seems to be 6-foot-5 wing Will Barton out of Lake Clifton High School in Maryland. Also, coach Dixon made a trip out to the Dayton (OH) area this week to watch menacing 2010 post prospect Adreian Payne, a highly touted 6-foot-8 PF/C.

Here are our previous notes on Pitt's 4-player 2009 recruiting class:

Talib Zanna has impressed the NBE Basketball Report in the summer for the player he has become, but the player he could become has always had our staff very intrigued. Early in July at the Agent Zero to Hero event Zanna showed his ability to run the floor and improved willingness to battle in the post. At the Reebok Summer Championships Zanna displayed ability to face-up and attack off the dribble.

At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds Zanna has the size to compete in the Big East and the athletic ability that had college coaches watching this summer. One major college assistant watching Zanna this summer remarked he "Has Major upside! Very long and athletic. Rebounds very well." Zanna finished his summer playing for the Triple Threat AAU program after starting the AAU circuit with the DC Blue Devils. He will compete in his senior season with Bishop McNamara this season.

It was a very productive summer for J.J. Richardson playing with the Houston Elite AAU program. His blue-collar style and constant energy and effort in the paint caught the eye of the Pittsburgh coaching staff and they found a perfect fit for their program to continue the success they have enjoyed in recent years. A source close to Richardson and his recruitment believes Pitt got one of the biggest sleepers in the country as the 6-foot-7, strong and athletic forward is just beginning to put things together on the basketball court.

Despite modest stats on a loaded high school team last season at Hightower High School in Fort Bend (TX), the former state of Ohio native impressed this summer at events such as the Reebok All-American Camp and during his time in Vegas. He recently visited Pittsburgh and his commitment only seemed like a manner of time afterwards.

"I loved it," said Richardson of his visit. "The players were all very nice and they brought me in to everything they were doing. They're definitely number one right now. I almost committed, and I really thought about it, but I wanted to have someplace to compare it to first."

That 'someplace' was supposed to be Oklahoma State, another school that Richardson was offered a scholarship from, but he never made it to campus as the Cowboys' frontcourt scholarships seemed to be taken up with some recent commitments.

Richardson and Zanna join Dante Taylor, whose dominating summer AAU season got the attention of Memphis, UConn, Syracuse, and Kansas, among many others, as a trio of frontcourt players in the 2009 class. Taylor was targeted by Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion last year and Herrion put the full court press on Taylor ever since, and that made an impression on Taylor, who cites Pitt’s loyalty as one of the main reasons that he chose to be a Panther.

Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon landed his biggest commitment yet in his time as the Pittsburgh head coach when Taylor pulled the trigger and committed to the Panthers. The Pitt staff had made Taylor their priority in the class of 2009 at power forward nearly a year ago and their hard work paid off as the entire Pitt staff had been seen at many of Taylor's games this spring and summer, especially at the Reebok Summer Classic in New Jersey.

Taylor, Zanna and Richardson all fit in well at Pitt as strong and athletic forwards who are tremendous rebounders and will play strong and physical near the rim. Taylor has played his high school career for Trevor Brown at National Christian Academy and also plays for the NCA AAU team, which is also run by Brown as part of their high school program. Taylor has excelled at the NBA Top 100 camp and the Lebron James Skills Academy, solidifying his status of one of the top players in the class of 2009.

Rounding out the current Pitt class of 2009 of verbal commitments is Lamar Patterson, a guard/forward who will be attending St. Benedict's prep in Newark (NJ) this coming season. The Lancaster (PA) native committed to Pittsburgh last year during the high school season. Patterson is a versatile backcourt performer who offers very good size to the wing.


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January 11, 2009

The newly anointed #1 team in the country will play their first game EVER as the top dog in the country when the undefeated Pitt Panthers host the Redstorm of St. John’s on Sunday at the Peterson Events Center.

Pitt has been off a week and basking in the glow of being the country’s top rated team, according to the AP and the coaches poll. In their last outing they hammered Georgetown, 70-54, at the Verizon Center.

St. John’s has also been itching to get back on the floor as the Redstorm stunned Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden in their last outing. SJU is 1-1 in Big East play and rebounded from a 21-point conference opening loss to Providence with the win over the Irish.

Here are some pregame stories and previews from the internet:

Panthers Repeat ‘Bye Week’ Routine (Post-Gazette)
Homecoming for former Schenley Star DJ Kennedy (Tribune-review)
Fields Unfazed by Ranking (FoxSports.com)
St. John’s Ready for Date With #1 Pittsburgh (NY Times)
Pitt Prepares for Life at the Top (Tribune Review)

The early college basketball betting lines have Pitt as a 19 ½-point favorite on Sunday. The Panther ripped SJU last season at Madison Square Garden despite a huge offensive outburst from Anthony Mason Jr. Mason is out for the season with a knee injury and point guard Malik Boothe is also out with injury. The Redstorm do not match up well with the Panthers and DeJuan Blair and Sam Young will be tough to handle inside for SJU.

Defensively, Pittsburgh is still very strong and Jermaine Dixon has quickly established a reputation of being another lock down defender for the Panthers. In addition, Pitt can bring Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown off the bench as well, both with potential to be elite defenders in the Pitt mold. The key to some of Pitt’s recent success is the upgraded offensive production from the pair as they both average 10 PPG in the two Big East contests to date played by the Panthers.

SJU got a career game from DJ Kennedy, who had 20 pts and 10 rebounds in the win over Notre Dame last week. Kennedy was a high school teammate of DeJuan Blair, so it is a homecoming for the 6’7 G/F. Kennedy could be pressing a little trying to show the hometown crowd what he has while going up against the No. 1 team in the country that he is so familiar with.

If there ever was a game to get used to being No. 1 in the Big East, this is likely the one for Pitt. They should have a very lively crowd ready to welcome the #1 Panthers as they have not played at the Peterson Events Center in 25 days (3-0 on the road since their 12/17/08 win over Siena). This is a game they should win comfortably, although the oddsmakers seem to have put a rather large number on this one for two teams more than willing to play a slower pace.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 76
St. John’s 58


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Friday, January 09, 2009


by Chris Dokish

The Big East boasts the No.1 team in the land, but this time it's not Connecticut, Georgetown or Syracuse. Instead, after nearly a decade of excellence, the program on top of the heap is the University of Pittsburgh. And to the victors goes the spoils.

For the Class of 2009 the Panthers have inked an excellent class of four, led by Top 50 prospect Dante Taylor and quickly rising 6'9" center Talib Zanna. But looking to strike while the iron is hot, Jamie Dixon and his staff are looking to continue their recruiting success in 2010, with two perimeter players especially in their sites.

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Senior point guard Levance Fields is down to his last few months as a Panther and 5'11" freshman Travon Woodall will be the only true point guard remaining on the roster next season. That's why the Panthers are targeting the position for 2010, and why they are zeroing in on 6'2" Isaiah Epps of Plainfield (NJ) HS.

Epps currently holds offers from Pittsburgh, Maryland, Seton Hall and Rutgers, while also receiving a lot of interest from Kansas, Marquette, and Houston. With the two New Jersey schools close, Epps has visited both unofficially, while he has visited Pittsburgh and Maryland.

"I loved both my visits to Pitt and Maryland a lot," says Epps, who was reached in the locker room last night after he scored 11 points in a 59-49 win.

There has been much speculation that Pittsburgh and Maryland are the current frontrunners for Epps, but Epps says he is in no hurry to make a decision. "I'm just focusing on this season, to be honest with you," says Epps.

But one thing that Epps is thinking about is the possible future of Maryland head coach Gary Williams. It's not a secret that Williams and Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow do not see eye to eye, and with the recent teams of Williams not faring well, including a recent loss at home to Morgan State, there is growing speculation that Williams will not make it to next season.

"I've heard that Williams may be in trouble," says Epps. "He told me he'll be there, but I don't know. To tell you the truth, I'm kind of confused."

That may open the door for Pittsburgh, who is looking to bring the combo guard in as a point guard, a position that Epps covets. "I love the thought of playing the point," says Epps, getting excited. "I want the ball in my hands at all times."

If Epps does end up at Pitt, he would battle Woodall, who just happens to be Epps' second cousin. Would that bother Epps to battle a relative? "Not at all," replies Epps. "He's always trying to get me there to Pitt".

Woodall has played very little this season and has not cracked the ten man rotation for the Panthers, but his lack of early progress may help the Panthers in landing Epps. When asked what was the main thing he was looking for when making a decision, he answered, "I want to play a lot from the get go".

As of now, the Panthers only have one scholarship open for 2010, but they are also looking to upgrade the shooting guard position, and the player they are pursuing the hardest at the position is 6'4" Will Barton of Lake Clifton HS in Baltimore, MD. But they aren't alone. Besides the Pittsburgh offer, Barton also holds official offers from Georgetown, Maryland, Central Florida, South Florida, Providence, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Villanova, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Xavier, James Madison, and UNC-Charlotte. If that wasn't enough, he is also receiving heavy interest from Connecticut, Memphis, Louisville and Florida.

While the competition for Barton's services is extreme, the Panthers ace in the hole may be their current top 50 signee, Taylor, the best friend, as well as teammate of Barton last season at National Christian Academy. Barton has said that he would love to play with Taylor again, this time in college.

"It does help Pitt that Dante is there," says Barton. "Pitt is recruiting me very hard, they are No. 1, and Dante is always trying to get me there."

But Barton is not in any hurry to commit. "I could happen any time," says Barton, "but right now I am wide open. I haven't even made any visits yet and I would at least like to make some visits first."

Barton does know what he's looking for, at least, saying, "I am looking at academics, a program that is family oriented, somebody that will push me to the next level, and someplace that I can make an immediate impact".

Barton's offer list should only grow and the competition should get tougher. Lake Clifton is currently 8-0 and Barton says he is currently averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game. But only one college team is currently No. 1, which is why Jamie Dixon and his staff have been seen all around the country since they were deemed the best in the land.

Both Epps and Barton are top 50 prospects, something Dixon has only had four of since he has become Pitt's coach. The first, Chris Taft, was a star before leaving for the NBA after his sophomore season. The others, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, are All-American candidates this year and will be first round draft picks. The other is Taylor, who should start at power forward next season and is considered a future NBA player.

All of this shows that Dixon is more than just a coach that can take a slew of good prospects and make them a team that wins a ton of games. He has proven that he can also develop elite prospects into elite college players, who also end up in the NBA. All he needs is a Top 50 prospect or two and he can be No. 1, as he is currently proving. Now all eyes will be on Pitt to see if Dixon can turn the program into one of the handful that will always have the players to be a national title contender. And for the Class of 2010 that starts with Epps and Barton.


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Monday, January 05, 2009

Number One Doesn’t Change Pitt’s Attitude

January 5, 2009

By Anthony Jaskulski

Not much has changed for the Pitt Panthers men’s basketball team.

Practice is still the same, the attitudes are as humble as they are eager, and the hunger for another win is still the main focus.

But according to history and the newest AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, something has drastically altered. The Panthers, for the first time in school history, has taken over both rankings as the new No.1 team in the country.

The change came when last weeks No.1 team, North Carolina, dropped an 85-78 conference battle to Boston College at Chapel Hill.

Pitt also joins just Wake Forest (13-0) and Clemson (14-0) as the only other undefeated teams in both men’s Top 25 rankings.

“I’m not going to say it’s a bad thing, it’s a good thing,” said Coach Jamie Dixon. “It’s good for our university, for our fans and our city. We talked about having distractions all year, but I think our guys will use it as motivation. Especially our seniors and how they have handled everything all year. I think they’ll take this as motivation more than anything.”

Read More...Click 'Read More' Below!!!


The Panthers history making day saw 70 first-place votes in the AP poll, and 30 votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Just three total votes in both polls combined had North Carolina picked No. 1.

“It’s an honor,” said forward Sam Young. “I didn’t even watch the North Carolina game, but I got the text, and was told we were No.1 right after. I’ve just been cheesing ever since.”

Pitt earned their way to the top ranking after a stunning 70-54 white-wash over Georgetown last Saturday in Washington D.C.

With their No.1 spot, the Panthers are also now the top spot in the RPI rankings, according to www.realtimerpi.com, with a No. 3 strength of schedule.

“We’re obviously really excited,” Guard Levance Fields said. “When everybody found out about it, everybody was excited, we were smiling. We think we deserve it, we’ve been working hard, but obviously, it’s only January. By no means necessary are we going to act like we don’t care, and just overlook it.”

With a current 14-0 record, Pitt stands alone in the Big East standings as the only undefeated team, as well as holding a 2-0 conference record, joining Syracuse, Marquette and Providence.

But despite the accolades and accomplishment of a No.1 ranking, Pitt is still running with the basics, and taking nothing for granted.

“We’re not trying to win anything in January,” said Dixon. “This says to us that we need to continue to improve, and that’s not going to change.”

Pitt will have a week long layover, not playing again until Sunday, when they host St. Johns (10-4). It’s a seven day period—according to Coach Dixon—where the team can get plenty of work, and useful scrimmages in to keep the team loose and prepared.

“What we’ve done in the past, and in the last couple years, we broke it up and tried to fit a game situation into the week,” said Dixon about the week-long schedule of practice for the team. “We’ll bring in referees on Wednesday and split the teams up. We had a very competitive game last week, in preparation for Rutgers, and I thought it was really good for our players, and our guys to get into that situation.”

The Panthers dedication to practice, and staying humble, has helped push them in the top-five in the Big East in every offensive and defensive category, including rebounding margin, where Pitt is +10.5, just two away from the conference leaders Cincinnati.

“It’s conference play now, and you have to come out and play every night,” said Young. “Nobody is a cakewalk anymore. You have to come and play everyday, because somebody is always out there ready to bring you down.”

And instead of soaking up the North Carolina loss, which bolted their way to the top, the members of the Pitt basketball team hit the gym right after, to work a little more on their game.

“After we saw the North Carolina loss, a lot of us went to the gym late last night, and early this morning,” said forward Tyrell Biggs. “We’re trying to make this a motivation thing.”

With a long week of mental and physical preparation ahead for Pitt, when the hard work is over for the night, they can always glance at this week’s polls, to see them selves still at the top…for the next seven days anyway.


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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Gilbert Brown and Dante Taylor

By Chris Dokish

According to sources at Pitt, Gilbert Brown, who injured his shoulder late in Pitt's 70-54 win at Georgetown Saturday is expected to have no lingering effects of the injury and is expected to be healthy when the Panthers host St. John's on January 11th. In his last two games, Brown has come on to average 10 ppg and 5 rpg off the bench. Combined mostly with sophomore wing Brad Wanamaker, Brown has helped Pitt's once unproven bench to outscore their opponents 45-11 over their last two contests.

Panthers associate head coach Tom Herrion did not travel back with the rest of the team on Saturday, instead staying behind to watch the progress of 2009 star recruit Dante Taylor. The 6'9" Taylor did not disappoint his new coach as he went off for 31 points and 21 rebounds. It was the best performance of the year for Taylor, who is averaging 20.9 ppg.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009


January 3, 2009

The marquee Big East game of the day gets off to an early start as Pittsburgh travels to meet Georgetown for a noon tip-off. Pittsburgh is the lone undefeated Big East team left and the third-ranked Panthers will be putting that mark on the line against the 8th-rated Hoyas on Saturday.

Here are some of the game stories and previews found on the web this morning:

Pitt's Wanamaker Makes His Move (Tribune-Review)
Whole at the Center (Washington Post)
Jury (well, Me) Still Out on Pitt (FoxSports.com)
The Court Gets Heats when Pitt Plays Rival Georgetown (Post-Gazette)
Pitt’s Young Hopes to Finally Win at ‘Home’ (Tribune-Review)
Early Big East Edge at Stake (Washington Times)
Monroe Making it Look Easy (Wash. Times)

Pittsburgh will be playing their third consecutive road game on Saturday, following wins at Florida State (56-48) and at Rutgers (78-72), which opened Big East play for the Panthers.

The win over the Scarlet Knights was a true team effort as Pitt got a career high from Brad Wanamaker (15 points) as the Panther bench picked up the slack with DeJuan Blair having an off game. Blair averages 13.7 points a game and 12.1 rebounds, even after the game with Rutgers in which he played just 8 minutes.

Seniors Sam Young and Levance Fields have been through the Big East battles over the years and were key performers in Pitt’s Big East Tournament championship run last season that included a win over Georgetown in the finals. Young had 18 in the win over RU and leads the Panthers in scoring at near 20 a game in his senior season. Fields is still rounding into top shape following a foot injury that kept him out of the entire preseason. He is also on the verge of a personal milestone, entering the game with 996 career points.

The Hoyas are in the midst of a brutal stretch of games that began with Monday’s impressive defeat of Connecticut in Hartford. The Hoyas led from start to finish with freshman Greg Monroe completely neutralizing 7’3 Hasheem Thabeet.

After their game with Pittsburgh, Georgetown will meet Notre Dame on Monday night, completing a run of three top-10 match-ups in a week’s time.

In the win over UConn, DaJuan Summers had a team-high 18 points and Monroe and Chris Wright each added an efficient 16 a piece. The Hoyas have lost just once this season, on a neutral floor against Tennessee and have some revenge on their mind for the two losses they suffered to Pitt last year, including the Big East finale.

It is a heavyweight match-up to kick start your Saturday of hoops with two teams certain to be in your March Madness betting pools. The Hoyas are a 3 1/2-point favorite in this contest.


Georgetown 68
Pittsburgh 65


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Clarification on Football Article

By Chris Dokish

I received a few emails since my post on Friday, so let's look at this further, since there is a lot of evidence to back up just where the Pitt program is.

With Dave Wannstedt, Pitt has good talent and there's no reason to think that, when healthy, he shouldn't be able to produce anywhere from 7-9 wins. That's not me piling on or being negative. That's just being realistic. It's a fact that Pitt, under Wannstedt, has gone 25-23. It's a fact that they are 17-20 against BCS teams. And it's a fact that they are 14-14 in the Big East. In Wannstedt's first four years, the average record is 6-6, so saying he will win 7-9 games annually is actually giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The bottom line is, even if they win 9 or 10 teams in the Big East, that does not make them an elite team. It means they are the best of a bad conference. Winning the Big East doesn't mean you are guaranteed to have a team that can't compete, and if West Virginia could have played for the National Championship when Rich Rodriguez was there, they may have won it all. But, on the other hand, Cincinnati won the conference this year and couldn't even beat Virginia Tech, who has not had an elite team in years. And does anybody really think that won't be the case, more often than not? Is the winner of the Big East going to be a National Championship contender?

Let's compare Pitt's starters this year with the starters of Penn State, an excellent team that is borderline top 10. The capitalized team has the advantage.

QB- Bill Stull or Daryl Clark. PENN STATE
HB- LeSean McCoy or Evan Roster. PITTSBURGH
WR-Oderick Turner/Derek Kinder or Derrick Williams/Deon Butler/Jordan Norwood. PENN STATE
TE- Nate Byham or Mickey Shuler. PITTSBURGH
OG- John Malecki/CJ Davis or Rich Ohrnberger/Stefen Wisniewski. PENN STATE
OT- Jason Pinkston/Joe Thomas or Gerald Cadogan/Dennis Landolt. PENN STATE
C- Robb Houser or A.Q. Shipley. PENN STATE

DE- Greg Romeus/Jabaal Sheard or Aaron Maybin/Josh Gaines. EVEN
DT- Rashaad Duncan/Mick Williams or Jared Odrick/Abe Koroma. EVEN
OLB- Greg Williams/Austin Ransom or Navorro Bowman/Tyrell Sales. PENN STATE
MLB- Scott McKillop or Josh Hull. PITTSBURGH
CB- Aaron Berry/Jovani Chappel or Tony Davis/Lydell Sargeant. PENN STATE
S- Eric Thatcher/Dom DeCicco or Mark Rubin/Anthony Scirotto. PENN STATE
PK- Conor Lee or Kevin Kelly. EVEN
P- Dave Brytus of Jeremy Boone. PENN STATE

Final total: PITTSBURGH 3

Now let's look at how well Pitt did in the Big East statistically:

Scoring Offense 1st (only first place the team had)
Total Offense 6th
Passing Efficiency 5th
Passing Offense 4th
Rushing Offense 6th
Scoring Defense 6th
Total Defense 4th
Pass defensive Efficiency 5th
Rushing Defense 4th
Passing Defense 4th
Turnover Margin 5th
Sacks 3rd
Tackles For Loss 4th
Passes Intercepted 4th
Kickoff Returns 7th
Punt Returns 6th
Net Punting 4th

Not exactly dominating an eight team conference that isn't even that great, huh? Again, this doesn't mean Pitt won't be competitive. It just means that there is absolutely no proof that this program is suddenly going to produce a top 10 team. I know, like usually happens at this time of year, there will be Pitt fans who cavalierly predict Pitt to win the Big East and win 10 or 11 games next year. I'd like them to look at all of these facts and become more rational. If a fan really wants what's best for their program they will have some perspective on the limitation of the program they profess to love. Predicting big things for this program is only going to bring ill well when they don't come close to those expectations.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Will Pitt Football Ever Become a Power?

By Chris Dokish

Dave Wannstedt's fourth season as head coach at Pittsburgh has come to an end and there is no question that it was his most successful yet at his alma mater. But was it good enough, and just as importantly, is it the start of something bigger for the program? Let's dissect the situation closely to see if we can get some hint of where Pitt is, and where they can go.

The Fallacies of Being a National Power

Some observers of Pitt, especially locally, question whether Pitt could be a national power. The answer to this, of course, is yes they can. Most BCS conference programs are capable of being a national power, with the only few exceptions being those who are hampered by extremely high academic standards.

Every so-called requirement for elite status has been disproved by somebody. Recruiting area? Just how many great players from the state of West Virginia did Rich Rodriquez have when he was in the top 5 for a few years? Do you know how many in-state players Oregon had this season? Eleven- including walk-ons. That's about 10% of the roster. Ohio has good players, but the stars go to Ohio State, not Cincinnati. Yet in all three cases, because of great coaches who adapted by creating offensive powerhouses, they won big anyway.

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Conference affiliation? That didn't stop West Virginia under Rodriquez or Brian Kelly at Cincinnati this season, despite people continually downplaying the Big East. And it didn't stop Utah, Boise State, or TCU. In fact, playing in the Big East can actually be beneficial, especially if you start the season highly ranked.

Tradition? Does Cincinnati even have one? The only tradition Rutgers had was a losing one before Greg Schiano arrived. Kansas State before Bill Snyder had the tradition of being the worst program in the country. Missouri was never a big power, either, before Gary Pinkel arrived. And that's just some of the examples.

So even though other schools went against all odds to become a power, Pitt doesn't even have to do that. The Big East winner automatically goes to the BCS, they still are in a strong recruiting area, and they have a strong tradition that includes current college or NFL stars LeSean McCoy, Darrelle Revis, Jeff Otah, and Larry Fitzgerald.

So What Does Make a Program Great?

The answer, quite simply, is the head coach. It is, by far, the single biggest indicator of how good, how mediocre, or how bad your program will be. Not recruiting area, not tradition, and not conference affiliation.

Who are considered the long running elite programs in the country? USC? Of course. Tradition, great recruiting area, famous conference, etc. How can you not win there, right? Well, Paul Hackett didn't. Oklahoma? Tell that to John Blake. Nebraska? Ever hear of Bill Callahan? Florida gave us Ron Zook. For Miami it was Larry Coker. Georgia had Ray Goff, who managed only three winning seasons out of seven, and Alabama had Mike Shula. Don't even get me started on Notre Dame's coaches in recent history. The point is, bad coaching trumps any advantage a program has.

The reason that the top programs have more success is because they make sure they keep the excellent coaches when they have them, and in the rare cases when they lose them, they make sure the next coach is excellent, either by noticing a future star already on staff or by paying an outside star big money. USC's Pete Carroll, Florida's Urban Meyer, and Oklahoma's Bill Stoops are paid handsomely. As are Texas's Mack Brown, Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Georgia's Mark Richt, Alabama's Nick Saban, and LSU's Les Miles. These programs know that you have to pay for the best, and did so immediately. Then once they proved they were worth their initial high salary, they got even more money to stay. You get what you pay for. And these programs know that they can't just put any coach there and still be successful, no matter how big time their program is. They all had it proven to them firsthand before quickly remedying the situation.

Great coaching can also help the programs that are not traditional powerhouses. West Virginia was a power up until this season because of Rich Rodriguez. It wasn't because of tradition, fertile recruiting area, or even a superstar player in Pat White. If it were those things, the Mountaineers would have gone 12-1 again this season instead of 9-4. No, they arrived at that record because Bill Stewart is not Rodriguez. Cincinnati was not a power before Brian Kelly arrived. And the same can be said of Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, Gray Pinkel at Missouri, and Jeff Tedford at California. In past years, you can even go further and say Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, Jim Grobe at Wake Forest, Bill McCartney at Colorado, Bill Snyder at Kansas State, Dan McCarney at Iowa State, Greg Schiano at Rutgers, Bobby Petrino at Louisville, Hayden Frye at Iowa, Urban Meyer at Utah, Gary Patterson at TCU, Rich Brooks at Oregon, Mike Price at Washington State, and Don James at Washington.

The preceding list of coaches had some things in common, namely that they were extremely successful despite not having a great recruiting area or a great tradition. They were successful for one reason and one reason only- the man in charge made them successful. Kansas State, Iowa State, Louisville, Washington State, and Washington have all gone downhill since their elite coach left and the jury is still out on Bret Bielema at Wisconsin. The only programs who didn't go downhill after their elite coach left was because they followed the elite coach with another elite coach- Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Kyle Whittingham at Utah, and Mike Bellotti at Oregon.

Is Wannstedt an Elite Coach?

This, of course, is the million dollar question, but the answer seems obvious when you look at the facts. And the answer is no. Before the Wannstedt fans jump off the bridge, I'm not calling him a bad head coach. Just not an elite one.

Why? Well, elite coaches aren't 25-22 in their first four years, especially when they took over a program where the previous coach had a record of 32-18 in his last four years. Wannstedt did not take over a team whose cupboard was bare, and he did not install a drastically different system. In fact, both his offensive and defensive systems were simpler than those of his predecessor, Walt Harris, and he even employed the same defensive coordinator.

In addition, included in that 25-22 record is a 17-20 record against BCS teams, which was an even worse 10-17 before this season. Also included in that were losses to Ohio and Bowling Green, an 0-3 start with a preseason Top 25 team at the start of his regime, 451 rushing yards by West Virginia in 2005, and five straight losses to end the 2006 season when only one more win would have given the team a bowl bid. Included in that losing streak was an embarrassing 46-45 loss to UConn, who started eleven unheralded freshmen in the game, and another loss to West Virginia, who this time ran for 437 yards. The 2007 season was Wannstedt's worst yet as far as his record is concerned, and it came complete with a four game losing streak, which included giving up 126 total points to Virginia, UConn, and Navy, three teams that will never be called juggernauts. The final result was a 5-7 record. Only a shocking season finale win at West Virginia softened a highly suspect first three years.

This year, Wannstedt led the Panthers to a 9-4 record, which was much improved from his three previous teams, but it's questionable just how good this team was. Better than average, yes, but not excellent. Excellent teams don't lose often, and when they do, they rarely do it an embarrassing fashion. But three of Pitt's four losses this season were just that. Pitt entered the season with their highest hopes yet, but failed immediately by losing at home to a Bowling Green team that ended up 6-6, including 4-4 in the MAC. A loss at home against Rutgers was also embarrassing, this time because a quality defense gave up six touchdown passes to Mike Teel. The final embarrassment came in the Sun Bowl, the first bowl in Wannstedt's four years, when they did their best to set football back fifty years in a pathetic 3-0 loss to Oregon State, who was missing their best player by far in running back Jacquizz Rogers.

Simply put, elite coaches don't let multiple embarrassing losses happen year after year. And, despite the most optimistic Wannstedt supporters claiming that it takes many years to build a team into an elite program, the facts show otherwise.

Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer won the National Championship in their second seasons at Oklahoma and Florida, respectively. Nick Saban turned around Alabama in his first season. In took Jeff Tedford three years to go 10-2 in the Pac 10. It took Bill Snyder just three years to have a winning record at Kansas State, until then perhaps the worst major conference program in the country. Miami was horrible when Howard Shnellenberger arrived and it took him two years to win nine names and five to win a National Championship. And these are just some of the many examples over the years.

In just the Big East, Brian Kelly is 21-6 in his two seasons at Cincinnati and Rodriquez was a combined 25-13 in years two through four, then led the Mountaineers to a Top 5 ranking in his fifth. Sure, there have been coaches who took longer than four years to turn around a program, but coaches like Schiano at Rutgers, McCarney at Iowa State, McCartney at Colorado, and Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, were at programs that were nothing when they took over. They had never won big and they were not only nobodies nationally, they were even nobodies in their own conference. That was not the case at Pittsburgh, where Wannstedt took over the team that won the conference in the previous season and was ranked in the preseason Top 25 to start his initial season.

So Where is the Program Now?

Despite the obvious limitations of Wannstedt's head coaching ability, a 9-4 record will give hope to many who will assume that Pitt has arrived under Wannstedt. But have they?

There is little doubt that Pitt had some excellent players in LeSean McCoy and Scott McKillop, and Greg Romeus led a defensive line that would make some elite programs envious. But there wasn't much after that, at least when comparing them to the top programs. The quarterback play was often awful, and has been for most of the last two seasons. But this is not is a surprise since Wannstedt is not doing a good job of targeting top prospects at the position. The offensive line was improved, but they were still mediocre, at best. And if wasn't bad enough that the starters weren't excellent, the drop off after them is severe, except for possibly Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson, two youngsters. But after seeing the lack of progress of many of the other linemen, it's even questionable if they will change things around. The receivers, thought to be a strength, showed very little. There is some speed, but other than freshman Jonathan Baldwin, none of the fast and athletic receivers see the field. And Baldwin was only used to run straight down the field and wait for the ball to inevitably sail out of bounds. There is talent at tight end, but it's only considered a strength if they are used, which they rarely are. The only spot on offense that was consistently good was the running back position with McCoy, Larod Stephens-Howling, and Conredge Collins all producing. But at least two of them will be gone next season, if not all three.

On defense, McKillop and Romeus starred, and Jabaal Sheard is on the verge of stardom, too. However, the secondary was exposed when the line couldn't get pressure on the quarterback, and outside of maybe Greg Williams, the linebacking corps is paying for substandard recruiting. The recruiting was so bad at the position that Williams started the season as a running back and the other starter, Austin Ransom, was a former walk on wide receiver. Of the seven linebackers on the roster who were recruited as linebackers, and will be linebackers again next season, they have accumulated, outside of Pitt, eight major offers- total. Four of the seven received no major offers outside of the Panthers.

Bottom line, the success of this year's team was basically three things- McCoy, McKillop, and the defensive line. McKillop, however, will not be back next year and McCoy may not be either. It's true that he said he would return, but every player says that at the time he said it. It's only after they get twenty people telling them that they will be a millionaire and will not have to go to class anymore that they change their mind. Even Wannstedt has expressed some doubt that McCoy will stay with his decision.

Also benefitting Pitt this season was the good fortune of having Notre Dame, Louisville, West Virginia, Rutgers, Navy, UConn and South Florida all have down years. That's a lot of down years.

So despite playing in the worst BCS conference this season, having the best offensive and the best defensive player in the conference, and playing seven teams who were having down years, at the end of the year the Panthers still were no better than the third best team in the conference, behind Cincinnati and Rutgers, and will probably not make the Top 25. What happens when McKillop leaves, and worse yet, if McCoy joins him? Chris Burns is a talented back, but if Pitt can't get into the Top 25 with McCoy and McKillop, they aren't going to get in there with Burns and whoever replaces McKillop.

Of course, McCoy could come back and the offensive line returns four starters, plus tight end Nate Byham and Baldwin at receiver. Plus, most of the defensive line returns, and the secondary returns three starters so they could improve. Quarterback, however, will still be a problem, and a major one. Stull has been made a scapegoat, but that's too bad because it was the fans, not him, who thought he was something he wasn't. No, he is not the ideal starting quarterback for a team with any aspirations, but he's the best they have. It's not that he isn't trying. It's that he isn't very good. But he's still better than Bostick and Kevan Smith, which just shows you how bad the situation he is. Like Stull was this year, Tino Sunseri will be looked at as the savior next season, but as a redshirt freshman he will have to be significantly better than Stull to get the nod. Plus, he has always been considered a good, not great, prospect, and expecting him to take Pitt to the next level without any college experience whatsoever may be a pipe dream.

Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh is another scapegoat, and while he is clearly suspect at his job, there's only so much you can do with a mediocre quarterback and equally mediocre receivers and offensive linemen. There is a belief that things will be different if Stull and Cavanaugh were gone, but the fact remains that Wannstedt will still be there. It is he who hired Cavanaugh and gave him the reigns of the offense, and it is he who is responsible for not having a decent quarterback on the roster. The buck stops with him. The embarrassing losses and the underachievement are Wannstedt's doing. He is the captain of the ship and he is the sole reason when they spring a leak.

The main problems with the offense is that Wannstedt is forcing Cavanaugh to play a straight up pro style offense with players who don't have elite physical talent. The only kind of team that can get away with it these days is USC, and that's because they have an endless supply of superior athletes. Programs of Pitt's stature need to get an explosive offense another way, usually by using highly athletic players spread out all over the field. West Virginia did it and became a power, as has the likes of Oregon and Utah.

Of course this is where people wonder why if Pitt has so many problems, then how did they go 9-4? Well, looks can be deceiving. There was not one elite team on the schedule, and most hovered around the .500 mark. A team led by McCoy, McKillop, and the defensive line can beat other mediocre teams. But that just makes Pitt better than mediocre. It doesn't make them excellent. And at the end of the day, they lost to Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Oregon State, the three best teams they played, though to be fair I will throw Iowa in, too, even though they peaked later in the season winning six of their last seven. It still doesn't change the fact that Pitt peaked this year- right between mediocre and excellent. They can beat average teams, or slightly better than average teams, but their weaknesses are exposed when they play good teams.

What to do About Wannstedt?

Well, we have established, at least in my mind, that Pitt will not become an elite program under Wannstedt. In fact, if McCoy leaves I can even see the team regress next season since they can't expect seven down teams again.

Bottom line, Wannstedt is what he is. An awesome guy, a Pitt guy through and through, and somebody who you wish would achieve success because it would make it so much sweeter if it was he who made Pitt a power again. But, he is also a mediocre coach. The proof is in the pudding. An overall record of 25-22 and 17-20 against BCS teams says it all, not to mention a 14-14 record in the Big East. You can't get much more mediocre than that. Pitt should be a power in the conference but instead they had to watch West Virginia, and then Cincinnati, do much more with what should be much less. Wannstedt had a lot going for him this year and it still was not enough to turn Pitt into a power. The buzz he had when he came to Pitt is wearing off for him and his recruiting is getting less each season. You only have so much time to convince prospects that you are about to turn a team into a power and the clock is ticking loudly.

The best prospects over the last two years, Terrelle Pryor and Dorian Bell, went to Ohio State. The best prospects for the next class are Corey Brown, Paul Jones, Seth Betancourt, Mike Hull, Kyle Baublitz, and Dakota Royer. It's unlikely that any will end up at Pitt, though there is an outside chance for Jones, a QB that unfortunately would not be ready to star for a few years, even if Wannstedt does pull off the coup. That means in the future, Pitt will sink or swim with Sunseri, a player they didn't even offer until the very end of the recruiting season last year despite being a local with an ex-Pitt legend as his dad.

This isn't to suggest that Wannstedt will, or should be fired, because we all know he won't be. Harris was fired because, while he was successful, he was not successful enough. By all accounts, Wannstedt has been even less successful. So why won't he get fired? Well, he's a nice guy that no doubt has charmed the right people, he recruits just enough big names to make it look like he will eventually turn the program into something special, he runs a clean program, and probably most of all, he's a Pitt, and a Pittsburgh guy, who even says yunz when he talks.

He's a good enough coach, in a weak enough conference, that he will probably never let the program nosedive. Five to nine wins yearly looks like the norm. The only question remaining is, how long can he do that before it's finally decided that, like Harris, it's not enough?

Truthfully, probably as long as Wannstedt wants, unless his win totals return to equaling his loss total. He's considered "one of us" by the university and there will be no rush to can him. At best, they may ask him to get on with his life's work, and make it look like it was his decision, but that won't be after a nine win season. He no doubt has the administration believing, because that's what he's good at, after all. But most of all, they are in no rush to get rid of him, because in contrast to the top programs in the country, Pitt has never shown that they are willing to pay a top coach, and there are no other Pitt guys on the horizon who will take the home town discount. As was already proven, only excellent head coaches produce excellent programs and only big bucks brings excellent head coaches.

In conclusion, my advice to Pitt fans, even though they never asked, is to get used to what you had this season- a few more wins than losses most years, a handful of top local recruits every year, and a clean program. But do yourself a favor and stop expecting a Top 10 finish. Yes, it could happen in a year when the stars align, but more than likely this current level will continue until it's eventually decided that Wannstedt has had enough. But, when you think the never ending 7 or 8 win seasons (complete with three frustrating losses), the lopsided recruiting, the puzzling decisions, and the frustrated sideline looks will never end, you can always think of this- at least the head coach has a Pittsburgh accent. And after all, wasn't that the main objective when he was hired?


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