image from kentuckysportsradio.com
I’m not sure what I think about this one. Both teams seemed willing to play slightly slower than a snail’s pace, so that’s how it went. In a game like that, the more efficient team at both ends wins. Notre Dame was the more efficient team. They won, and they deserved it. That much is obvious. Should Pitt have pushed the tempo a bit more? I don’t think so as evidenced by the fact that they were in it until the very last possession. My diagnosis is this: Pitt took some 3’s in the first half, and they just weren’t falling. Good teams (maybe well coached teams is more of what I want to say there) admit when it’s not their night to play the game they want to and find a way to win anyway. Pitt made an attempt at that by trying to be more aggressive driving the lane, and it worked sometimes and resulted in forced shots other times. It wasn’t perfect, but it kept Pitt in the game. That’s for sure. But I’m almost positive that if Pitt hits a few 3’s, this is a totally different game. Notre Dame deserved that game because they made the Panthers one dimensional. The Irish frontcourt did a wonderful job sealing off the low post, so when the shots didn’t fall the only option left was taking your man off the dribble. If they make some shots and put some pressure on Notre Dame at two fronts, they can put Notre Dame on their heels a bit. I have a sinking suspicion that when Notre Dame gets down by more than 5 or 10 for the first time that the tendency to run and gun will surface again and it’ll be a hard freight train to stop. But I guess we’ll see whenever that happens. Some other random thoughts:
- Pitt didn’t get much in the way of bench points. You have to temper your expectations with the final score, but it still wasn’t a real great showing.
- The best argument for Pitt speeding up the tempo in this game? Notre Dame only went 7 players deep (even with a foul out). An up and down game really wears guys out.
- Jay Bilas made a big deal about the switching on the ball screens. I saw it too, and I’m a big Jay Bilas fan, but I’m not sure it was that huge of a deal. Pitt switches a lot like that, and their guards are usually very good at guarding bigger guys. This game they got their lunch eaten, but there’s not much you can do there. The other options are to not hedge on screens and allow some open 3’s, or play zone and allow some open 3’s. Neither one sounded all that good, either. The bigger hole in Pitt’s defense that I saw was the uncontested layups when a guy was too eager to double team late in a shot clock.
- I’m sure this is the type of game that non-Big East fans tuned out. That’s fine. This was a game where you had to appreciate the defense: the screens, the switching, the help side, etc. Most people don’t have the patience for that. Their loss.
So that’s pretty much it until selection Sunday. I think the consensus for Pitt is a 3 or 4 seed. We’ll have to see. If they could ever play consistently, they’d be Final Four material. I’m not holding out hope for that, though. Which is why as a Pitt fan I’ll take that 3/4 seed and say ‘Thank You’.
image from woot.com
So I once again apologize for the complete lack of posts lately. I’ve had a number of things on the ‘ole plate lately. I’m just going to go through a massive recap with some random thoughts that have been swirling around in my head about Pitt, the Pens and whatever else creeps in.
- So since we last left them, Pitt dropped a game in South Bend (which they’ll get a rematch of tomorrow), then finished off the year with a pair of wins against Providence and Rutgers. Not very unexpected if you ask me (excluding some big shot by Ashton Gibbs I’ve heard a lot about). Definitely a result I can live with.
- Luke Harangody was back in today’s Irish win over Seton Hall. He looked really good. Especially in the first half. I’m not going to lie: I’m a bit nervous about how Pitt will handle him. Not necessarily the points he may put up. It’s more the rebounding and the passing out of the post that he’s really good at that scare me.
- Pitt’s really good when they get a lot of bench points. It just doesn’t happen consistently. This has been brought up before about Gil Brown (which is true), but it’s also true to a lesser extent with Travon Woodall and Dante Taylor. When they can chip in a few points and add a few quality minutes, it makes a world of difference.
- The Pens have been really en fuego (that’s spanish for ‘on fire’ for the monolingual people out there) since the Olympic break. Anyone still think the Olympics were too much of a distraction? They’ve got a long road trip coming up that will decide a lot about the playoff seeding. But I like the team right about now.
- Both Ponikarovsky (2 points in 2 games) and Leopold (some solid puck possession on defense) are making solid contributions so far. It’s nice to have a GM that you can just trust to make the right moves unconditionally. Life is so much easier that way.
- Matt Cooke wasn’t suspended at all for his blow to the head on Marc Savard. It’s completely obvious that he was skating directly in front of Savard for the sole reason of knocking him while his head was down. It was a cheap shot. If you don’t believe me, watch the tape:
There’s no place for that in hockey. It makes me sick to watch. It makes me sicker to think I’m supporting the team he plays for. I guess there’s a compromise here. I’m going to continue to root for him to score goals and play well, but he’s definitely not a guy I’d buy a jersey of.
- NCAA tournament starts next week. This is seriously my favorite week of the year. Just as a treat, here’s my list of dangerous mid-major teams who could steal a game in the first round (not including the teams like New Mexico and Butler that are already ranked): Old Dominion (good defense and one of the best rebounding margins in the country are a good way to build a team. Just ask Jamie Dixon), Oakland (Keith Benson and an experienced cast of characters play a really solid game), Murray State (they can run the floor with anyone) and Woffard (another solid team that plays defense and rebounds).
- I’m seeing a lot of upsets in the tournament this year.
- I’m already looking forward to the World Cup. I’m not a huge soccer fan, but the passion of some of these fan bases and the heart and soul that goes into these games draws me in.
- The Olympics came and went. The countries that invest money in their Olympic programs won a bunch of medals. The ones that didn’t sent athletes that gave efforts you have to admire. The coverage was put together by a 4th grader with no attention span, and included way way way way way too many fluffy stories about the personal lives of the athletes. I love the Olympics (both summer and winter) because the athletes train their entire lives for this one moment and they all care a whole lot. I’ll watch pretty much any event where the participants are really giving it their all. But I have to admit I’m getting a little disenfranchised with the presentation of the Olympics.
- The Pirates started spring training and I’d have to think for a while to remember half their lineup. That makes me better than most of the city, I’m afraid. I’d love to tell you how they’re doing, but I just don’t care. That’s sad. I’m also beginning to lose interest in baseball in general. That’s worse. I’ve found that I really need to be keeping a scorecard just to pay attention to a full game anymore. And I mostly go to PNC Park to spend a nice few hours outside on a beautiful day with a good view and lots of people to peoplewatch. I keep a scorecard and follow the strategies as best I can to stay awake, but I’m barely rooting for anything. I suspect I’m not alone in that thought.
That’s pretty much all I have for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up from now on.