Monthly Archives: December 2008

State of the Team: Pitt Basketball 12-28-08

  • Pitt survives against Florida State to remain undefeated.  Good to see that we can manufacture points and play defense when the shooting isn’t there.
  • Some fans wonder whether that was an off night or Pitt just stinks at shooting in general.  I think Fittipaldo has a point at the end with Gibbs.  That’s the future threat there.  All you need is one zone buster to extend a defense and Gibbs may very well be that guy.  But he’s a freshman.  I’m withholding judgement on whether he can develop into the outside threat Pitt could use.  Even if Gibbs is a dead-eye, though, it still helps to have another one in case Ashton has an off night.
  • Jermaine Dixon called the Big East schedule ‘hell’.  That might be an understatement.

So the Panthers made it through another non-conference schedule unbeaten.  Some may brush this off as a factor of another weak non-con where we barely left the Pete.  I’ll admit Pitt has a fairly soft schedule to start, but with the parity in college basketball, 12-0 is still an accomplishment.  Just ask Gonzaga who’s licking their wounds after choking against Portland State.  The bottom line is that Pitt played a zone defense (Fairleigh Dickinson) and a man (Akron), a slow tempo team (Vermont) and an up-tempo team (Duquesne),  a fairly deep team (Florida St.) and a not so deep team (UMBC).  You get the point.  Pitt played a wide variety of styles in its non-conference schedule and found a way to adapt to the game.  They may not have been the most talented teams in their style of game, but Pitt has now seen a variety of different philosophies and has practiced defending them.

I’ve heard a lot of people criticize the Pitt program like the Post-Gazette letter writer above.  They either criticize the fact that 1) Pitt has yet to land a really highly regarded blue chip recruit or 2) Pitt has never been a really good shooting team.  I think both of these points miss the concept of Pitt basketball.  Pitt basketball is all about efficiency.  It’s all about maximizing how much they get from each possession by not turning the ball over and taking high percentage shots.  It’s about limiting their opponents possessions by getting rebounds and playing great defense.  Pitt won’t recruit a bunch of sharp shooters because unless their name is Gerry McNamara, it’s a much more efficient offense to pound the ball inside.  This also means that Pitt’s style of play naturally discourages one player from taking over a game and driving the lane on every play.  That may be a reason for criticism #1 (but that changes next year when Dante Taylor gets here).  It’s not the most entertaining way to play.  Pitt will never average 90-100 points a game (with anyone in the current coaching tree that is).  They won’t even average 80.  But they’ll win consistently.

I think Pitt will have the usual season.  They’ll play consistently.  They’ll have some off nights and drop a few games in the Big East.  I think they’ll get a pretty good seed in the tourney.  Will this be the year they reach the final four or even just get past the sweet 16?  I’m not sure.  The NCAA tourney is a funny place where the better team usually wins but not at a very consistent rate.  Pitt won’t be blown out by anyone.  Their slow efficient grinding way of playing will dictate that.  But that means they won’t blow anyone else out, either.  That’s had a funny way of biting them when a good team can make a push in the final few minutes.

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State of the Team: Pens 12-28-08

  • Fleury pitched a shutout on Friday as the Pens beat the Devils. Too bad they only put in one themselves to make it a nail biter.
  • The Pens then promptly lost to the Canadiens.
  • A lot of people have been commenting on Sidney Crosby’s lack of scoring. Don Cherry thinks he knows how to solve the problem. The Beaver County Times also has a solution: get him a winger. Some guy writing to the Post Gazette thinks he’s too predictable. My take is that he’s playing just fine. He’s on pace to score 34.17 goals this season (his career high is 39. Still obtainable). If you want to look at recent history, he’s got 2 goals and 7 assists in the month of December. A definite slump for a player of his caliber, but it’s still productive. I think we need to give it time and he’ll return to his normal pace. If he needs anything, it’s not a winger. It’s a garbage goal getter who can put in some rebounds. Sid’s not shooting because he has very few open looks. He sees the ice better than anyone in the league and he has the moves to buy some time to let a play develop. This means assists will always come more easily to him than goals. But Sid’s a smart player. If he feels he can put one in, he’ll take the shot. It’s just much easier to shoot knowing there’s a guy to put in your rebounds. Knowing he only has one shot must put a lot more pressure on that ability to create assists.
  • Despite disappearing, Crosby broke the record for most ever all-star votes. We’re lucky to have the face of the NHL in our city. It would be better if the NHL took the pay cut to get back on ESPN and get some exposure so having the face of the NHL would mean something.
  • This is very old, but here’s a nifty timeline of the Pens rise from financial ruin to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Overall, I’d say the natives are restless with the Penguins. I completely understand. Watching them this year has been extremely frustrating. Turnovers, lack of puck possession and lack of shots have made this team painful to follow. But I think the Pens aren’t too many pieces removed from being a top team again. As I said before, we need someone to be the scrappy blue collar player. Someone who can make some traffic in front of the net and scrap for pucks in the corners. Just look at some of the players who left. Malone is on pace for about 19 goals this year. He had 27 last year. Sid makes everyone he plays with better. Be it a scoring wing or a grunt that stands in front of the net. But we’re finding out that he needs someone to cause some commotion in front and free up some space. A second area of need is a defenseman who can run the point on the power play. But Gonchar will fill that up again in a few months. We could also use some guys that can win the battles in the corners and keep possessions going. We need to be putting much more pressure on opposing defenses with elongated possessions than we’re doing right now. The good news is that these are pieces we can get. Ray Shero has already proved that he assess talent very well (I can’t think of a bad trade he’s made. The Hossa one was risky and debatable but at least got us to a cup final. Plus, drafting Staal in ’06 was brilliant), and he’s proved he can place value on players (look at how well the Lightning are doing overpaying everyone…..and forget about last week’s game. It was an anomaly). He has some trade bait now that he has an abundance of defensemen with NHL experience. I trust Shero at the trade deadline. We’ll see if that’s a good thing or not.

-All statistics come from ESPN.com

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And…..Liftoff

If it’s good enough to kick off MTV, it’s good enough for me.

So welcome to Sports N’at.  A sports blog with a very Pittsburgh bias.  My reason for creating this was that I have a wealth of sports knowledge and a lot of free time on my hands.  This seemed like a perfect solution to both problems.  My name is Andrew, and I can be reached via email at sportsnat@gmail.com.  I’m a Pittsburgh resident and I have some contact with some of the local sports teams, but I really don’t have any inside information.  Most of the information here can be gathered from reading the newspaper, and I’ll throw in my useless opinion a lot.  But if you’re looking for anything exclusive, you’re in the wrong place.

The way I see this blog working is that I’ll put up one of two types of posts.  State of the Team posts will be a weekly (or however long I procrastinate putting it up) wrap up of news stories for one of the local sports teams.  I’ll follow the Pirates, Penguins, Steelers, Pitt and maybe Duquesne if they prove to be interesting enough.  I’ll also put up random posts about a hot topic in sports along with my take on the situation.  There will be no rime or reason to the timing of these, so keep checking back.  Every Thursday I’ll post a beer suggestion for those that want to try a tasty beverage while they watch their favorite game over the weekend.  Every Friday I’ll post a guide for some games to watch over the weekend.  I figure I’ll put up some things to watch for, a player that you should keep an eye on, and maybe a prediction.

So that should pretty much be it.  I’ll be down in El Paso for the Sun Bowl this week and will most likely be back with an update.  Until then, let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

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