Friday, February 25, 2011


p>With Gilbert Brown on the bench because of three first half fouls and Talib Zanna not dressed because of a broken thumb, redshirt freshman Lamar Patterson saw an expanded role for BIG EAST leader Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The Lancaster (PA) native came through with a career-high 11 points and was the catalyst for a second half run that swung the came into the Panthers' favor.

After trailing 31-30 at the half, Patterson scored the first five points of the second half and then assisted on the next three baskets in an 11-2 run over the first 4:10 after intermission, sparking Pitt's 71-58 win over West Virginia at the Peterson Events Center Thursday night.

“He played really well," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. "He defended well and didn’t force anything. He made some great passes and did a good job of just making the simple play. He’s been a big part of what we’ve been trying to do and he gave us very good minutes."

In his 22 minutes, Paterson finished with 5 assists, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal along with the career-best 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 from the line.

“It felt really good," said Patterson. "Like [my teammates] said, I’ve been practicing and playing pretty well. It felt good to go out on the court and finally put something together. By watching these leaders on the court ahead of me I was able to make the process really smooth.”

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Notre Dame Prep guard Myles Davis has been on the recruiting radar of much of the BIG EAST for the past year and that has continued since transferring from St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City (NJ) to Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg (MA). The change of schools was only one of the major changes to his status of a top recruit, Davis is also firmly planted in the recruiting Class of 2012 and is one of the more highly sought after shooters on the east coast in the class. He has also shown this season with ND Prep he is more than just a lights-out shooter.

Earlier this season at the National Prep Showcase, Davis was one of the more impressive players in the early games of day one. Known as a shooter for much of his career, Davis showed he is expanding his game in a major way. Hewas getting to the rim off the dribble, and has vastly improved court vision and ball-handling ability. Davis has the ability to play the point guard position and find teammates for baskets. Of course, he still has the deep range that made him such a coveted prospect in the first place. The list of schoosl currently involved is impressive.

"It's Pitt, Xavier, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, Villanova, Georgetown and anybody else who wants to recruit me," Davis told NBE's Matt Whitfield this afternoon via text when asked for the latest list of schools recruiting him. "I am really open right now."

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Saturday, February 19, 2011



What else can you say about the Pitt/St John's game that just concluded an hour ago on a Dwight Hardy baseline drive?

Hardy put Pittsburgh's Gil Brown in the spin-cycle on a beautiful hesitation/look back move before finishing at the rim for the 60-59 St. John's win.

What else can you say about Pitt's Travon Woodall, who despite taking on the annual role of "let's bash player x" on this year's team, somehow continues to hit huge shots like the three-pointer he drained to put Pitt up 59-58 with 11 seconds left on the clock?

What else can you say about Pittsburgh not having any timeouts left with 1.8 seconds left and the length of the court staring them in the face down one?

I mean wow, wow, and yeah...freaking wow!

Whenever I exchange text messages with St. John's coach Steve Lavin, his message is always the same regarding his surging basketball team.

It always about making progress in their journey -- and inevitably or is it fittingly? -- includes the words baby steps.

Well, when Dwight Hardy -- he of the seven-game blitz that's put him solidly in discussion for Big East Player of the Year along with UConn's Kemba Walker, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs and Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough -- baby-stepped his way along the baseline for this incredible win I think it's safe to say that Lavin's crew raced right past puberty, shook hands with adolescence, and were welcomed into adulthood...all by the time the final buzzer sounded.

That journey to adulthood has been a brisk one for the Red Storm, but they've definitely come of age while bringing the city that never sleeps right along with them. Let's take a look at the maturity process and just how it happened.

They Beat Duke 93-78.

Beat UConn 89-72.

Won at Cincinnati and Marquette -- "business trip," said Lavin.

And now beat #4 Pitt 60-59 in a game that had the 1980's Big East glory days written all over it (and Coach Carnesecca at mid-court giving his blessing).

Hardy's gone for 26, 15, 32, 33, 18, 28 and 19 in his last seven games (all wins except for the 32 that happened during a complete hosing at UCLA).

St. John's, with the same team that could never win big games before this season, has now won a slew of them.

Lavin said afterward he believes Hardy is the runaway winner in the Player of the Year competition.

I'm not so sure about that but he's definitely in the first group of names involved in the discussion.

You have to love the way Lavin is pushing for a kid who's helped make his initial season in Queens a dream come true after that kid endured a lot of heartache in the previous ones.

Hardy very well might be the Player of the Year...we'll see how the last few games go.

With a 17-9 record --9-5 in the Big East-- an RPI of 16 before the win over Pitt, plus a phenomenal strength of schedule, I think it's time to declare these Johnnies as all grown up.

Hardy very well might be the Player of the Year (we'll see how the last few games go plus the Big East Tournament before we at NBE hand out any hardware).

However, with the numbers mentioned above in mind I don't think there's any question -- not after today -- about who the 2010-11 Big East Coach of the Year is.

That's Steve Lavin.

Hands down.

And it's not really close.


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Sunday, February 13, 2011



Brad Wanamaker's play is classical Philly Soul.

It's as if the 6'4" Pitt guard is a basketball playing Delfonic if you will.

So imagine the feelings inside Wanamaker tonight when he stepped off the bus, headphones on blast, and realized this is my city and this is the last time I'm going to play here in a Pitt uniform.

Wanamaker and his teammates -- especially fellow Philly head Nas Robinson -- had spent all week hearing about what the atmosphere would be like at Villanova's on-campus Pavilion (a cozy gym where Nova had won 46 straight games). They had heard all about the excellence of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, of the highly-rated talent that Villanova would trot out on the floor against their Panthers. Mostly, they had heard all about how they wouldn't beat Jay Wright's Wildcats, due to the reasons covered above.

Yes, Nova had broken their hearts two years ago in Boston.

But that was two years ago.

And to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Scottie Reynolds wasn't walking through that door.

This Pitt team, despite it's shiny record and up to this point a certain #1 seed come March, has been overlooked in a lot of ways. Sure, they're used to being ignored in the Steel City, especially when the Steelers make a deep run as they did this season, getting all the way to the Super Bowl.

But it's more than that. They've pretty much taken on all comers -- save Tennessee and Notre Dame (neither is a bad loss) -- and prevailed. They've won high scoring affairs and defensive struggles alike because they're so efficient offensively. And maybe that's what rubs them the most. This idea that this Pitt team, the one that regularly plays nine guys, averages 77.4 points a game, dishes out 18.4 assists and shoots almost 48% from the field continues to be portrayed as a slow-it-down, bang you around (read not very skilled) unit.

It couldn't be further from the truth. Across the statistical board Pittsburgh is better than Villanova offensively, but you'd never, ever know that from listening to the experts that monopolize the college basketball content out there. In fact, you might get punched in a bar if you try to argue it with the wrong drunk guy.

So, I guess Wanamaker and Robinson figured screw it, if the media is going to continue this false propaganda, let's go back to the good old days and see if we can't get under Jay Bilas' skin a little bit. And that's what the Panthers did tonight in Philadelphia. They went old school.

Already minus their star scorer Ashton Gibbs, Pitt struggled to hit shots. Open shots, contested shots, layups, you name it. But they also guarded the hell out of Villanova. And in the end they relied on Wanamaker (their Philly Bull) -- who got help from Robinson and Travon Woodall -- to make enough plays to hold off Villanova 57-54.

Wanamaker was the best player on the floor. His up-fake that got Maalik Wayns in the air -- before hitting the shot and drawing the foul on his ex-Roman Catholic teammate -- will no doubt earn a text from a guy named Young who now does his thing in Memphis. Wanamaker finished with 21 points and 4 rebounds, plus 2 steals, an assist and a block.

Nasir Robinson finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 1 punch to the face and 2 Mouph Yarou blows to the head. I thought they were honoring Rayndy Foye by retiring his jersey, but I think they rescheduled that for a later date and instead went with the first annual "Hit Nas Robinson in the Head Night."


Robinson took it, and to his credit, didn't respond foolishly.

Woodall finished with 8 points, hit two huge shots and most importantly, didn't turn the ball over against Nova's unrelenting pressure.

It was an ugly game.

A Philly-type game, gritty, with bodies flying all over the floor.

And as Jamie Dixon said so eloquently to Erin Andrews afterwards: "Our Philly guys played like Philly guys."

So true. Robinson, at 6'5", was the toughest guy in the paint.

And Wanamaker?

You could excuse him if, as he walked off the court, he didn't break out into a little old school jam.

Didn't I blow your mind this time, didn't I?


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Friday, February 11, 2011


The ESPN GameDay crew invades Villanova for a battle between the Wildcats and Pittsburgh at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Pittsburgh will try to break Villanova’s 46-game winning streak at The Pavilion. The Panthers are 22-19 against the Wildcats in BIG EAST regular-season games, including a 70-65 win last year at the Petersen Events Center.

The meeting prior to last season's Pitt win was their instant classic in Boston in March of 2009 with a spot in the Final Four at stake. The game ended famously with Scotty Reynolds going the length of the court in the final seconds to win it for Villanova in a game where both programs were deserving to be in the Final Four according to Jay Wright.

“What’s so impressive about them is the guys in this game learned from the group in 2009 that we played in the final eight," said the Villanova coach during Thursday's media conference call. "We said it back then and we still believe it now, that group was a Final Four team. Either one of us could have won that game."

The Wildcats are currently looking up at the Panthers in the BIG EAST standings. Entering the season as co-favorites in the league, Pitt is 10-1 in conference play and the Wildcats are three games behind at 7-4. Wright believes this version of the Panthers might be better than the group led by Levance Fields, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair in '09, high praise as the 2009 Pitt team might have been the best ever the Pittsburgh program has produced. The 2009 club earned the first No. 1 ranking and NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed in the program's history.

"I think this team might be better just because of the depth. Depth and they have a little bit more skill level overall," said Wright. That’s kind of hard to say because both of them were great teams. They’re just an outstanding team and I definitely think they’re Final Four caliber.”

That depth will certainly be tested as Pitt's leading scorer Ashton Gibbs is doubtful to play because of a MCL injury in his knee. Gibbs missed the Panthers' 71-66 win at West Virginia on Monday night. Sophomore Travon Woodall got the start in his place and scored 12 points and turned the ball over just once in 36 minutes. Woodall will certainly be challenged on Saturday night by Villanova's talented backcourt duo of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns.

Fisher finished with 23 points, 10 assists and five steals in Villanova's 77-76 loss at Rutgers Wednesday night. The Wildcats will have to quickly put the memory of that game out of their mind as they let a late 13-point lead slip away in the loss.

“We had a tough loss [Wednesday] night but in the BIG EAST you’ve got to respond quickly,” said Wright Thursday. “The good news is we get to play again and try to get it out of our mind; the bad news is that it’s Pitt.”

Trailing Pittsburgh in the league standings by three games with seven conference games left makes catching the Panthers a tall order. The two teams will also meet on the regular season's last day March 6th in the Peterson Events Center. The Wildcats will likely have to win both games against the Panthers and get some help if they are to capture a BIG EAST regular season championship, a goal very important to the Villanova coach.

“I just really believe what you do in your conference, over 18 games, that really shows where you are as a program and as a team,” Wright said. “The regular season is very important. The team that wins it, I think, really is the best team.”

Even without Gibbs in the line-up, Wright is aware of the talent Pitt will still have on the floor.

"(Brad) Wanamaker is incredible, (Gilbert) Brown’s becoming incredible," said Wright. "I love (Gary) McGhee. You can argue that McGhee is as good as anybody they’ve had in that spot."

Time will tell if this Pitt team is able to eclipse the accomplishments of their 2009 version. One thing is for certain, Saturday night in the Pavilion should be one great college basketball atmosphere and hopefully a game that lives up to it's billing.


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Monday, February 07, 2011


ESPN's Rivalry Week kicked off with a Big Monday BIG EAST match-up between No. 4 Pittsburgh and West Virginia at the Coliseum in Morgantown. A crowd of 14,175, however, went home disappointed as the visiting Panthers earned a 71-66 road win to maintain their two-game lead in the BIG EAST standings.

Pitt improved to 10-1 in BIG EAST play and did so without leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who could miss 10-14 days with a sprained knee. Gibbs injured the knee in Saturday's victory over Cincinnati. The junior guard tied a career-high with 25 points in the 71-59 win, but was unable to go tonight.

Without Gibbs the Panthers got back to being physical and took it right to one of the conferences toghest teams themselves.

“They out-manned us is what happened,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins to MSNsportsNET.com. “They beat us to death on the offensive glass and drove it where they wanted to drive it. They just out-manned us.”

Pitt held a 40-28 rebounding edge, with 18 of those boards coming off the offensively glass which led to 16 second-chance points. Pitt also outscored WVU 42-24 in the paint behind Nasir Robinson's 15 points and 8 rebounds and Gary McGhee's 13 points.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011


Pride is something often lost in today's world.

Think about it: How many people do you come into contact with that make you say he or she does the best they can all the time, or at least, most of the time?

There's a myriad of reasons those folks are hard to find and, in an ironic twist, one of the primary culprits is the amount of false pride that a lot of us are full of.

Think about how many times you see somebody act like they are above the simplest tasks because of how important they perceive themselves to be. I see it every day.

Two examples from over the last month: A lawyer goes off on the counter help at a deli when he, or his party, forgot to order something. The counter kid responds correctly, asking politely if they'd like to add to the order? His question results in an arm-raising voice piercing fit from the wannabe Grisham-- "you should know I want a dozen latkes by now!"

Really dude?

Then there was the teenager in the mall, who thought it was fine to call her mom a derogatory name out loud, in front of a store-full of people, when her mom asked her for help. I don't condone child abuse in any way, know some folks that went through it and are still struggling with issues because of it, but...maybe that kid would've been better off if she had gotten a smack or two back in the day?

But here's the flip side.

When you observe a person full of the right kind of pride you know it right away.

Quick story about a reunion weekend in Gainesville, Florida, where one of the Gators better teams from back in the 90's was being honored.

I wasn't there but the story was relayed to me by a player from the team being honored that weekend, a guy who had gone into coaching and was an assistant in the D-1 ranks at the time. The honorees were gathering in a conference room and there were boxes taking up one quarter of the room, making it kind of uncomfortable and crowded. A Florida staff member entered the room, observed the problem, and started moving the boxes at a brisk pace. Before long he was sweating noticeably, but the boxes got moved and there was more room for the players and their families to mingle.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011


by Lauren Kirschman


It’s a lesson every college student has to learn: keeping an equilibrium between school work, a social life, extracurricular activities and every once and while, a good night’s sleep.

It’s also a lesson that Aron Nwankwo had to master immediately.

Nwankwo, a freshman on the Pittsburgh men’s basketball team, juggles walking-on to one of the nation’s top squads with a full academic scholarship and a major in pre-Med. For Nwankwo, that means a lot of late nights.

“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” he said. “You’ve got to manage your time wisely.”

Now in his second semester at Pitt, Nwankwo said he’s used to the time management required in order to keep up with his school work. His solution to handling what could be an overwhelming load is simple: it’s all about discipline. When he needs to get work done, he gets it done.

But that doesn’t mean Nwankwo doesn’t occasionally fall victim to the slayer of many college students’ good intentions.

“I procrastinate sometimes,” he admitted. “Then I have to punish myself and stay up late.”

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