Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Q&A for February 23

By Chris Dokish

Q: How shocked are you that this team is now a top 15 team?

A: I'm very shocked, of course. Anybody who says they aren't are either delusional or biased. I had many people think I was crazy for saying before the season started that they would win 20 games and could slip into the tournament. Now they will end up closer to 30 wins than 20 wins which is unbelievable, amazing, insane, and any other adjective you want to throw in there.

Q: Do you and the other media now realize that Pitt has talent?

A: Nobody ever said Pitt didn't have talent. Of course they have talent. Every team in the Big East has talent. What I, or any other rational person said, was that they didn't have elite talent. And they don't. They have one player on the roster that was highly recruited coming out of high school, they have no All-Americans, no future pros, just one all-conference player, and no players on the All-Freshman Team. That means they don't have elite individual talent. Anybody who thinks they have great talent needs to take off the blue and gold glasses because only then can you truly appreciate what is happening in this program.

Q: How is Pitt doing this and will it carry over into the NCAA tournament?

A: I see them the same way they have been every year, both in the regular season and in the tournament. And that's that Jamie Dixon amazingly gets every ounce of ability out of his players, and he gets them to play hard and smart at all times. It seems so easy, yet nobody in the country does it as consistently as Dixon's teams, so obviously it's an amazing accomplishment. Thank God he is a nice guy because he has the kills of a cult leader in that he can convince his players of anything.

On the other hand, like other years, elite talent rises to the top in the tournament and plays just as hard as Pitt does in the regular season, and that's where Pitt's lack of elite talent will prevent them from getting past the Sweet 16 again. On the bright side, college basketball is not great this year and you never know if this team can keep surprising. May as well hope that the Cinderella season keeps going, right?

Q: How amazing is Jamie Dixon? Do you really think he hasn't had great talent all these years?

A: The answer to your first question is, pretty damn amazing. The answer to the second is that I think it's obvious. Put it this way, we all agree that Dixon is a great coach. That can't be stressed enough and even though that word is highly overused, if Dixon is not a great coach then I don't know who is. So let's look at it like this. If Dixon is a great coach and has great talent, he would have done better than one Elite 8 appearance in his six completed seasons. Isn't this common sense? You can't have a legitimately great coach with legitimately great talent and not do better in the tournament. He had two excellent players once and that was the one year he made it to the Elite 8. He just didn't have much behind those two. If Gibbs was as good last season as he was this season, the Panthers would have at least made it to the Final Four. But of course he was only a freshman then. It's always just one player away for Dixon and his lack of great recruiting always leaves him a bit short. That doesn't mean he isn't great at getting awesome kids who are tough, smart, give their best, and have good talent. It just means they don't have the elite talent that's needed to win national championships. But on the bright side, two seasons from now could be a national championship contender if things fall the right way. The young guys will be veterans then, Gibbs will be a senior, Taylor should be a lot better, and J.J. Moore, John Johnson, Isaiah Epps, and Cameron Wright will be very talented additions.

Bottom line, I understand that some fans get others fired up by twisting what I say so that they can use the "it's us against the world" thing (10 bucks says I get at least five emails saying some message board has a thread that reads "Doke says we have no talent"), but I think the Pitt program is nothing short of amazing and it's an honor to cover them. Just because I point out the fact that they don't have elite talent shouldn't get fans angry. What they should concentrate on is the fact that they have an amazing coach and amazing kids who win huge despite that. And that eventually I do believe the stars will align and Pitt will get to the Final Four- at least.

Q: Do you agree with Bob Smizik that Gary McGhee should not only win the Most Improved Player Award, but that the award should be called the Gary McGhee Award?

A: I don't even think McGhee will win the award, though he should. I think Tim Abromaitis will win it. I never even consider Gibbs for the award because he was already good last year. He was just a true freshman on a veteran team. McGhee and Abromaitis were actually awful for their first two seasons. McGhee actually had three fouls in one second one time and literally couldn't catch a basketball without it bouncing off his face. Now he has gone from awful, to passable, to a genuinely good player. His only real weakness is that he has no offensive game. But he is smart enough to know that and he doesn't try to do what he can't do. His rebounding is excellent, he can pass, and he is a very underrated shot blocker. He is also a sneaky good athlete who can run, and does so hard at all times. But the thing that impresses me the most is his stamina for his size. I never see the kid tired. I've said many times before that he was the nicest kid I ever interviewed, so I'm just very happy for him.

Q: You said in the past that you thought Maurice Walker would move on and not wait for Pitt, and now it's looking like that may happen. Do you still think that?

A: I know many Pitt fans aren't that enamored with Walker, but all you need to do is look at McGhee this year to see the benefit of having a big kid in the middle with some ability. One of the main reasons why the Panthers just beat West Virginia and Villanova was because those teams had nobody who could control a giant like McGhee.

But I never had high hopes they would get Walker. They definitely want to add him but I don't see how they can, especially if Moore is eligible. From what I'm hearing now, it's probably not going to happen with Walker.

Q: If the Panthers don't add Walker, what are they going to do for a future center? Leave Taylor there or add Desmond Hubert?

A: Finding a center is the main goal for the staff right now, but it's never easy. Adding Walker will settle it, but as I previously stated, that's more doubtful as time goes by. They would prefer to eventually move Taylor to the four, but they can only do that if they find a center. They see Hubert as a four so he isn't the answer, and he is a very long shot anyway. After that, there isn't much in the pipeline yet. They really like Jaylen Bond and Mikael Hopkins, but they are also fours.

Q: Outside of center, where else is Pitt looking for 2011? Any chance that Durand Johnson is still in the mix?

A: They would love to add Johnson but once again they are hurting for scholarships. I could throw out a bunch of other names they are interested in but since they may not have room for any of them, it's pointless right now.

Q: Do you think Pitt has a real chance at Omar Calhoun?

A: He's a 2012 kid, and quite the player, but it's way too early on him. For all we know, Tom Herrion and Brandin Knight may be head coaches somewhere by that time.

Q: Do you think Gibbs will make First Team All-Big East?

A: I think he will make Third Team.

And while I'm talking about Gibbs, let me say what I like most about him. Yes, he is best known for his shooting, but it's his all-around steadiness that I marvel at. Even in the games when his shooting is off, he doesn't compound the problem, like many do, by pressing in other areas. When the shooting isn't there he is still as solid in every other facet of his game as he always was. He doesn't press by continuing to shoot just for the sake of it (I'm looking at you Jeremy Hazell), and he doesn't let it effect his defense or floor game. He realizes that defense, hustle, and brains doesn't slump like shooting does, so there is no reason why you can't be consistent with that at all times. It's a great asset in a player, and very rare.

Q: What are your thoughts on Pitt going to the Big 10 and do you think they will be asked?

A: I addressed this before on here, but I think it will hurt the basketball and football programs competitively. And I'm not even sure that Dixon would stick around if the change was made. In fact, if I had to guess, from what I hear, he probably wouldn't. On the other hand, it's highly beneficial to the university as a whole.

As for being asked, I have no idea. I know Texas was the sexy rumor at one point, but I don't see how that helps them and I have since heard that they aren't even among the 16 universities under consideration. Notre Dame will never do it. That leaves Missouri as a real possibility and they are actively begging.

Bottom line, it's all going to come down to what others are doing. The Pac 10 wants to expand, then that will change things in the Big 12, which will then effect the Big 10, which will then effect the Big East. Pitt has to make sure they have a chair when the music stops. The Big East may not be able to sustain another body blow and if it means staying in a weakened conference, then they may have to try to get into the Big 10. But in a perfect world, I would preferably stay in the Big East, if the conference has no changes, because I think for competitive reasons it is best for the football and basketball programs.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Some dubious conference statistics

Statistics like points and rebounds get most of the attention, but it's interesting to sometimes look further and see more negative stats like turnovers and fouls committed. Going into Sunday's games, here are listed the worst combined offenders in the league of these two dubious stats.

Player- Minutes- Turnovers/Game- Fouls/Game - Total/Game

Jerome Dyson, UConn 33.8 - 3.6 - 2.9 - 6.5

Herb Pope, Seton Hall 30.2 - 2.5 - 3.3 - 5.8

Dominique Jones, USF 36.8 - 2.8 - 3.0 - 5.8

Brad Wanamaker, Pitt 33.0 - 2.7 - 3.0 - 5.7

Greg Monroe, Georgetown 33.8- 3.2 - 2.5 - 5.7

Mac Koshwal, DePaul 33.1- 3.2 - 2.3 - 5.5

Edgar Sosa, Louisville 27.0- 2.9 - 2.5 - 5.4

Lazar Hayward, Marquette 31.0- 2.0- 3.3 - 5.3

A total of 49 players had at least a 4.0 combined turnovers and fouls per game. Of those, the players with the least minutes needed to accumulate that total were:

Preston Knowles, Louisville 20.0 minutes 4.5 total

Travon Woodall, Pittsburgh 20.8 - 4.2

Malik Boothe, St. John's 21.7 - 4.0

Wellington Smith, WVU 21.9 - 4.3

Sean Evans, St. John's 22.0 - 4.0

Mike Coburn, Rutgers, 22.1 - 4.0

Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse 22.5 - 4.2

Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, USF 22.6 - 4.1

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Friday, February 12, 2010


Despite their recent 70-51 loss on the road to the rival Mountaineers just nine days ago, sports betting houses have made the host Panthers just a three-point underdog when they host rival West Virginia tonight at 9 PM at the Peterson Events Center on the Pittsburgh campus.

The game is part of ESPN's 'Rivalry Week' theme and will be broadcast live nationally by the sports network.

In the previous meeting the rivalry showed to be very much alive and well as a mini scrum between players on the court and an unruly crowd was more of the story than the game itself. Bob Huggins had to take the microphone to ask the crowd to refrain from throwing objects onto the court and following the mini scrum on the court Pitt associate head coach Tom Herrion was hit just below the eye by a quarter thrown from the crowd. After the previous warning, this resulted in a Technical foul being assessed against the home team.

This time it is WVU Entering Hostile Territory (Register Herald) and the Oakland Zoo, the nickname of the Pitt student section, will be ready for action. The Mountaineers will look to rebound from a loss earlier this week when Villanova beat them on Monday night at the Coliseum.

Pittsburgh knocked off local rival Robert Morris on Monday night and Pitt Returns to the Pressure Cooker (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) of the Big East tonight in a contest that will greatly enhance the March Madness odds of the winning team earning a higher tournament seed next month.

Pitt has won two in a row since their loss at WVU, which was their fourth in five games. WVU looks to avoid a two-game losing streak heading into the conference stretch run.

Tune in to ESPN tonight at 9PM for the action!!


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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Panthers game against Seton Hall expected to go on

By Chris Dokish

According to a source on the Pitt staff, the game between Pittsburgh and Seton Hall, scheduled at the Petersen Events Center for 6 PM, is not expected to be canceled at this time since the Seton Hall basketball team is already in Pittsburgh. "We are playing today," according to Greg Hotchkiss, Director of Media Relations.

Just got an email from Pitt asking to pass this on:

Statement from the University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department:

The basketball game between the University of Pittsburgh and Seton Hall will tip off as regularly scheduled. Pitt encourages those who can walk to the game, including students, to attend the game as they normally would. For those others, we encourage them to stay home and watch the game on television for their safety and to allow the city and county crews to complete their work.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Q&A for 2/4

By Chris Dokish

Q: Okay, what's the problem with the Panthers? Why are the wheels falling off after it was looking like we were going to have a magical season?

A: The problem is the same as I've said all along. Their talent level is not very high right now. I knew when they got hot at the beginning of the conference schedule that people would eventually get disappointed and therefore get angry. All of the talk about this team getting to the Sweet 16 and beyond was ludicrous. There was not one one knowledgeable college basketball observer who thought the Panthers would continue at that pace because the talent level just isn't there. They only have decent talent. It's the excellent coaching that fools some fans into thinking the talent level is higher than it is.

At the beginning of the season I said that Dixon would be a miracle worker if this team won 20 games and he is going to win more than that. So the fans need to be rational and realize that this is their level and it's not this program's destiny to always be excellent. Your team is going to win 20+ games in a down year. Consider yourself fortunate because more historically successful programs than Pitt has had worse down years over the past decade.

Q: Okay, I admit it. You were right. The recruiting did us in. How did that happen?

A: Because Jamie Dixon is not God? I know it's hard for some fans to comprehend but the guy is not perfect. He is an excellent coach and you can't find a better ambassador for the program. But everybody makes mistakes. He took some iffy prospects and now he's paying for it. But he will have this program great again soon so don't lose hope.

Q: What did you think of Tom Herrion getting hit at the WVU game and what was it? I heard a quarter but it looked white. An ice cube?

A: Like everybody else I thought it was a disgrace. I actually had a chance to ask Herrion today what it was and he said it was a quarter so that really had to hurt. He's a man who is really tough as nails as you could tell from that incident.

Q: Is Dante Taylor the biggest waste of a recruit ever?

A: That's ridiculous and that's exactly the kind of talk that makes kids transfer. It's no secret that I give a lot of constructive criticism to players, but I at least wait until their second year in the program before I start expecting anything, and it's not until their third year that I expect them to a be a good player. Taylor is just a 19-year old kid in his first year of college. Give him a year to make the transition. If he is still showing nothing next year then you can start to doubt his ability. But from what I hear Taylor is taking the criticism hard and it's not helping the situation by calling him names. Trust me, this kid has a lot of pressure with all of the McDonald's All-American talk about him and if he should decide to leave and be a good player somewhere else then Pitt fans will kick themselves. I'm not saying he will leave, but high profile kids who get trashed by the fans because they aren't living up to expectations are often the kids that do go elsewhere to get a fresh start. Lastly, let me say this about Taylor. He is simply overmatched physically at this point and that has hurt his confidence. But, I can tell you that the people at Pitt consider him "a great kid" and "the best teammate we have", and those are direct quotes.

Q: You took a lot of heat for saying Ashton Gibbs would suffer if he was playing point guard, but now you've been proven right. So why can't the coaches see that?

A: They can see that. They're not stupid. But there is nobody else to play there. Brad Wanamaker and Jermaine Dixon aren't point guards, and Chase Adams and Travon Woodall aren't very good.

Q: It seems like you thought Adams was going to be a better player. Clearly he wasn't worth bringing in, right?

A: Of course he was worth bringing in. It was either add him or nobody and at least adding him helps in practice. At best, he could have been a decent player. He did have some big games against top competition in the past so I think they were expecting to get a little more out of him, but it just didn't happen. At the end of the day, it was no harm, no foul.

Q: How can Pitt be underachieving with the talent they have?

A: They aren't underachieving. They were overachieving before. They don't have great talent. I don't know why some Pitt fans continue to put their heads in the sand over this. At various times the fans have pointed to Gibbs, Wanamaker, or Gilbert Brown as the best player on the team and what some fans seem to be blind to is that they have taken turns being awful. Sorry to be so blunt, but too many people still are delusional. If there was a draft in which every Big East team could draft from all of the players in the conference, only Gibbs would go in the first 30 picks. Anybody who thinks that Wanamaker and Brown are among the top 30 players in the league needs to do their homework because they're not. See, what happens is Brown scores 20 against Georgetown and 25 against USF, and the fans proclaim him to be the best player on the team. What they fail to mention is the fact that he went scoreless against WVU and Louisville, and has failed to reach double figures in the majority of his games. Or that Wanamaker leads the team in turnovers and fouls. I'm not suggesting that Gibbs, Wanamaker, and Brown aren't good players. The problem is, in the Big East almost everybody is good. You need to have players that are better than good. The fans were embarrassed that Pitt lost to USF, but I have news for you. If Augustus Gilchrist were playing in that game, USF would have had the two best players on the floor. So think about that the next time you think Pitt is so much better than USF this year because it's just not true. If the fact that USF has two better players than anybody on Pitt's team doesn't wake you up then you must be in a coma.

Q: We need to get Taylor out of the center position. Why don't they want Maurice Walker now?

A: They do want to sign Walker. That's 100% fact. They desperately want a true center and they are few and far between. The problem is that they don't have any scholarships available and are very hesitant to push somebody out. Personally, I would push somebody out, though I don't know if it would be for Walker, who quite frankly is yet another project. I have said this before, but sometimes this level of basketball is not for everybody and I would sit a kid or two down and tell them that they just aren't going to play much here so it's in their best interest to go elsewhere. Dixon has always hated doing that because he believes so much that he can make everybody a productive part of the team and he doesn't want to give up on anybody. Plus, the last time he did it, with Cassin Diggs, it ended in disaster when Diggs didn't want to leave and made a big stink about it. But, like I said, even if they did get Walker, he probably would not make a huge impact next season. They love his natural size, and great hands and feet, but he needs to lose a good 50 pounds before he could play at this level.

Q: Any word on if they still want to add Durand Johnson, and what about Jaylen Bond and Desmond Hubert for 2011?

A: They would love to add Johnson, but where would they find a scholarship? As for Bond and Hubert, they would love both for the PF spot. Bond is an ideal four in the Panthers system in that he is both physically strong, and skilled. Hubert, who gets mentioned by some as a center, is considered a four by Pitt, and he is very slight and not physically strong right now. However, he has a ton of upside. Both would be very difficult to land if they went that way, but first they must decide if they do want to go that way. Like I said before, they are really trying hard to add a true center and if it's not Walker than they will have to make center a top priority again in 2011. The problem, however, is that they see the 2011 center class as very weak. Personally, I would try to add two highly talented fours instead of a project five, if I could, because I know they like a lot of fours for 2011. While I know the line would be small would it be so bad to have, as an example, 6'6" J.J. Moore, 6'7" Bond, and 6'8" Hubert along the front line? That's if they could land that caliber. If not, then go for a true center. But, hey, that's me, and Dixon has a lot more coaching wins then I do.

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