Tag Archives: Pitt Basketball

Notre Dame 50 Pitt 45

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Game Recap

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’.

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Massive Catch Up

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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.

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So, Pitt’s Been Winning Some Basketball Games

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Pitt58 Marquette 51

Pitt 70 Villanova 65

Wow.  This Pitt team sure is a lot of fun to watch.  Before I could even blink (or get in front of a computer for an extended period of time), the Panthers rolled off two more really quality wins.  I’m very impressed with how much the level of play has improved over the season so far.  Both of these wins come against teams that have typically had Pitt’s number, and with good reason.  Both are very quality teams year in and year out, and more to the point both teams are very small, quick and scrappy.  They’re able to give the traditionally slower and more physical Pitt teams a hard time with their athleticism on the offensive end, and they use their quickness on defense and rebounding to keep up.  But this is a different Pitt team than usual.  It’s much more guard-oriented and athletic than past teams.  They still play defense, but they’re a lot quicker and not as strong as past teams.  That means that Pitt can neutralize that quickness from Marquette and Villanova a little bit and win with their consistency and defense.  We saw this earlier in the year against Louisville.  The Cardinal’s press always gave Pitt fits.  But this year the Panthers were able to handle that pressure much better, and ended up winning the game.  So that’s one takeaway, but I’ve got more:

  • Gary McGhee played fantastic in both of these games.  He had 10 points and 5 rebounds against Marquette, and 7 points and 10 rebounds against Villanova.  Now, this needs to be put in perspective a little bit.  Both Marquette and Villanova are both guard oriented teams, and it’s easy to dominate guys you’ve got by a few inches.  But there are two things to take away from this and be pleased with.  First of all, Gary was quick on defense.  He didn’t let the smaller more athletic centers dominate him.  That’s a big part of what happened against Georgetown (Greg Monroe), Seton Hall (Herb Pope) and West Virginia (Da’Sean Butler).  The second thing I was pleased with was how much more aggressive he was playing.  He was taking the ball up strong to the hoop, and he was grabbing tough rebounds with both hands.  That’s what I’ve been looking to see (and what I hope to eventually see out of Dante Taylor).  Now, I’d like to see him do that again against some bigger competition to make sure he wasn’t just feasting on guys he could literally look down on and then I’ll be thrilled.
  • Dante Taylor.  He had 6 points against Marquette, then got in too much foul trouble against ‘Nova to be a factor.  While the 3 open dunks were a game changer, and they showed he could get himself open, I still wasn’t thrilled with his overall performance over these two games.  He missed a lot of defensive assignments in both games (a LOT), and it’s a big reason for the foul trouble.  I’ll give him a pass since he’s a freshman, but I see this as a bigger problem than the physical strength troubles.  He’s not grasping the system quite yet, and I hope the light goes on sooner rather than later.  As a side note, I’m sure the light will eventually go on.  It always does.  I’m not concerned with the long-term progress of Dante.  He’ll be fine.  But I’m kind of hoping against hope that he gets it before the end of the year because we could really use some more production from the frontcourt.
  • Jermaine Dixon was a huge factor in these wins, but rather quietly because he made his biggest contributions on defense.  He really put the clamps down on Scottie Reynolds for Villanova and Acker and Cubillan for Marquette.  I don’t think we would have won either game without him.
  • Rebounding!  Pitt won the rebounding edge against both teams, and pretty handily against Villanova (though a lot of that had to do with ‘Nova’s defensive schemes).  They allowed 11 offensive rebounds to Marquette which kind of irks me, but other than that I’m impressed.
  • Brad Wanamaker had 14 points over these two games.  That’s great, but coupled with 11 turnovers it’s not so great.  But that’s Wanamaker in a nutshell: Brad giveth, and Brad taketh away (or giveth away if it’s a basketball).
  • There was really balanced scoring in both of these games.  It’s getting to be part of Pitt’s reputation: lots of people can hurt you.  I guess it’s a philosophical debate whether you want one go-to guy or a bunch of capable scorers.  I’m not quite sure what side of the fence I’m on quite yet.
  • Travon Woodall continues to play very well.  He had 11 points 5 assists and 2 turnovers over these past two games.  Maybe the light switch has finally gone off for him.  I really hope so.  More depth is never a bad thing.

Next up is Notre Dame tonight.  Harangody is not playing.  So there goes the opportunity for McGhee to show what he can do against better competition.  It should  still be a great game, and South Bend always has a good atmosphere.  I’m excited to watch.

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Pitt 98 WVU 95 (3OT)

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Game Recap

Wow.  Just wow.  I wrote a post a while ago about the top 10 games in the Pete (you can read it here).  Well, we have a new #1 by a landslide.  That was one of the best college basketball games I’ve watched, on TV or in person.  As usual, some thoughts:

  • Rebounding should have cost the Panthers the game.  It was pretty tight statistically, but Pitt was getting killed on the glass.  At the end of regulation, WVU had a 14 rebound advantage, and that’s after Pitt had grabbed a few towards the end.  In the overtimes, Pitt out-rebounded WVU by 7.  You bet that’s why they were in control most of the way.
  • WVU missed 3 of 5 free throws in the final minute  of regulation which started with a 7 point Mountaineer edge.  It was eerily similar to Louisville’s collapse.
  • Speaking of that 7 point lead with a minute left, I saw a lot of people leaving at that point.  I noticed a lot of those seats re-filled during the overtime (I guess they caught the game in the lobby and turned back), but there were still some empty chairs left.  They deserve it.  I’ve never gotten leaving early, and I hope this teaches them a lesson.  Oh, well.  It’s one more thing to add to the legend of this game.  You have to love when a team is counted out by their own fans, then proceed to resurrect themselves like Lazarus.
  • All those rebounds?  They led to a 15-0 second chance points lead by the Mountaineers at the end of regulation.  More proof that Pitt got away with one here.
  • Huge bench night for Pitt.  The Panthers got 34 points from the reserves.  Travon Woodall looked good.  Gil Brown had a lot of those points even though he’s a de-facto starter.  J.J. Richardson had another solid game.
  • Speaking of J.J., he definitely out-played Dante Taylor again.  Big time.  Dante’s an amazing athlete, but he just doesn’t have the hunger to play the low post (and before you say anything, I’m not sure he’s quick enough to play PF in the Big East, either).  He just needs to get stronger in the off-season.
  • I’ll expand on Travon, as well.  He had a great game at the point.  12 points, 6 assists, and 0 turnovers in 31 minutes.  That sure looks more like a PG line to me.  If he can do that consistently, Pitt will be in great shape.  But consistency is the key.
  • Good job by the Zoo.  I heard a few rumblings of a bulls**t cheer, but that never caught on.  Besides that, there was only a few go home mountaineers chants (some kids switched the last word around to involve a word that starts with q, but they were also drowned out by the kids saying it the better way).  I can live with that.  Overall the kids were loud, intimidating, and positive.  I’m proud to have them representing my school.  I’d like to think that the jerk who threw stuff in Morgantown is very unhappy somewhere tonight.  It’s a good thought.
  • Ashton Gibbs missed a free throw to ice the game at the end of the first overtime, but got redemption by draining two in the third to make WVU try for a 3.  You’ve gatta love that.
  • Brad Wanamaker had a huge night going 7-14 from the field and 9-11 from the free throw line.  He did have 4 turnovers and 3 minute stretch at the beginning of the second half with a bunch of mistakes, but I’ll take this performance any day.  He was one of the few guys who wasn’t afraid to drive on this Mountaineer defense.
  • WVU is a better team than Pitt this year, but Pitt had the desire down the stretch.  I love that.  I need to see it every game.

Great win.  I’m all smiles tonight.  Pitt parlayed the Syracuse upset into a few more quality wins.  They’re going to have an opportunity to do the same thing coming up against Marquette, Villanova and Notre Dame.  I’d love to see a repeat performance.

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Catch-Up

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Sorry for the absence of posts lately, but I’ve been a little preoccupied with the snow the past few days.  If you aren’t in town and don’t have access to a news source, Pittsburgh looks roughly like the image above right now.  It sucks.  But, enough with the snow.  I’m sick of talking about it already.  Lets get into the nice diversion from real life that is the sports world.

The Pens went on a two game skid over the past few days losing back-to-back games to Montreal and Washington.  The 5-3 loss to the Canadiens looks really easy to diagnose when you look at the stat sheet.  We were in the penalty box for literally half the game (29 penalty minutes for the Pens).  The reality, however, is a little different.  The Habs only scored 1 goal on the power play, going 1 for 7.  The real reason the Pens lost this game was because Fleury had a bad night.  It happens.  He let in some softies and was even lifted from the game after giving up 4 goals.  It’s not something to be overly concerned about, though.  The second game was just weird.  The Pens jumped out to a 4-1 lead halfway through the game, and still led 4-2 at the second intermission.  It was at that point that they just died.  The Caps got a slew of chances in the third period, cashed in on a couple of them, and won in overtime.  It really makes you shake your head.  I’ve got two theories on why this happened.  The first is that the Caps are a very good team offensively, and they got a fire lit under them for the third period.  That’s a combo that would be hard for anyone to stop.  The second theory is that the Pens were tired.  The Montreal game was the night before (the Caps game was at noon).  To get to Washington in the snow, they had to fly to Trenton, NJ and bus it.  They arrived very late after mostly sleeping on the bus.  I think dying at the end of an emotional game like that given their situation is totally understandable.  I may be in the minority, but I’m willing to brush this one off a little bit.  Plus, if you want to look at the glass half full, it was a tremendously entertaining hockey game that was nationally televised and hopefully brought in some new fans.

As poorly as the Pens have played over the past few days, the Panthers have been going in completely the opposite direction.  Against Seton Hall, the Pitt regained its shot, shooting 51.7% from the field.  After disappearing in Morgantown, Gil Brown dropped 23 points and Brad Wannamaker had 13.  Ashton Gibbs broke out of his slump a little bit and saw the ball go through the net at least while going 3 for 7 on the day.  Best of all, Pitt out-rebounded the Pirates 36-27 and only allowed 8 offensive boards.  I’m drawing a line in the sand and saying that Pitt’s goal should be to limit opponents to less than 10 offensive boards per game.  It’s good that they met it for this game.  Overall, the 83-58 drubbing exorcised a lot of demons even though it was against a less than stellar defense.  That trend continued against Robert Morris on Monday where the Panthers notched a 77-53 win.  It was very close for the first half as the Colonials shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.  They were challenged shots as well, which is why I wasn’t really worried.  Sure enough, RMU cooled off a lot in the second half, and Pitt was able to win going away.  The Panthers had a 39-26 advantage on the boards (with only 9 offensive boards for RMU, so they still pass the test), but they only held a 16-14 edge at the half.  That was a bit troubling.  RMU really shot themselves in the foot in this one with their style of play.  They were very aggressive defensively, and very physical with the rebounds, and that led to a lot of fouls.  Two of their starters were in foul trouble by halftime.  It really handcuffed what they could do.  So, in general, it looks like the Panthers are starting to heat up again with a rematch against WVU coming up on Friday.  I guess all it took was half empty gyms because of a snow storm.  STAGE FRIGHT!  That’s their problem!  But, seriously, it’s good to see the shots start to fall again.  I’m still just a little nervous for the long term health of the program that it relies so much on streaky shooting this year.

So that’s pretty much what you missed (besides that silly ‘Super Bowl’ thing.  How bout’ that Saint defense, by the way?).  I hope everyone out there made it through the storm in good shape (you’ve at least got power if you’re reading this.  That’s a start).  I’ll be back tomorrow night for a Pens recap.  I promise.

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Pitt 51 WVU 70

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Game Recap

Watching the highlights on ESPN and reading a few headlines, it seems like the theme for the game is that WVU won a game last night where tempers flared.  Well, I’m not sure that I really agree with that.  The fan’s tempers flared, but I didn’t see much on the court.  There was the one play that halted the game for a while, but that was more guys tripping over each other than anything.  And the actual game was no more physical than a lot of games I’ve watched in the Big East.  Emotional, yes.  Overly physical with tempers?  Not so much.  The actual game itself was a little more complex.  Pitt was right in it until about 8 minutes left when they just lost their shot.  I have no idea what happened there.  I didn’t see a defensive switch by the Mountaineer or anything else that would explain it.  Unfortunately, the cold shooting really did in Pitt because the other aspects of the game were all going to WVU.  If the Panthers would have won this game, it would have been a steal.  But they didn’t win, and they didn’t really deserve to, either.  Some other thoughts:

  • I’ve never seen Gary McGhee look so bad with layups.  Honest to goodness.  He was 3 for 11 shooting without taking a shot from outside 3 feet.  My theory is that he was juiced with adrenaline coming in, threw a few over the rim, and was trying to compensate and find his touch for the rest of the game.  But that’s just a theory.  I’m not in his head.
  • I think the biggest reason Pitt lost was the lack of rebounding.  Yeah, there was a big rebounding deficit overall, but to get a clearer picture of the problem you just have to look at the offensive rebounds the Panthers allowed: 17.  WVU is a good rebounding team, and they’re especially good on the offensive glass, but 17 is ridiculous.  This has got to stop or Pitt’s going to struggle to win every single game from now on.
  • WVU shot better from beyond the arc than they did from inside.  I have a feeling its because most of those were wide open attempts.  It’s not a pattern yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
  • Lots of people have weighed in on this, but the WVU fan behavior was inexcusable.  The student swearing is bad, but not the worst thing ever.  Pitt’s gone through the same troubles as does just about every school in the country with a student section.  But throwing things just can’t happen.  Ever.  What’s worse is this is not the first time this has happened from WVU fans, and it doesn’t seem to get better.  Both the fans and the administration have to do a better job of creating an atmosphere where that’s not tolerated.  I know you want to make the arena intimidating, but take it from a Pitt fan who has watched a game in Morgantown: the Colosseum (and Mountaineer Field.  I’ve been there too) is already intimidating because its filled with real down to earth people that aren’t afraid to cheer and make noise.  You don’t have to make it a dangerous place to be intimidating.
  • J.J. Richardson played fairly well considering the circumstances.  He got a lot more minutes than Dante Taylor who looked lost out there again.  I’m wondering if he’s starting to overtake him on the depth chart.
  • Anyone still think Gilbert Brown should start ahead of Nasir Robinson?

I guess the thing to remember is that it was a great team across the court (#6 in the country, remember?) and the Panthers hung tough for a while.  They had some spurts of doing the right thing, so I know they’re capable.  Pitt just needs to gain some consistency, which is not surprising considering how young they are.  The only real consistent problems with this team are the reliance on shooters and the lack of rebounding (both are fairly big problems, I know).  Who knows, if Richardson keeps bouncing up the depth chart, maybe he can bring a little bit of a solution to both problems.  Until then, I guess Pitt fans just have to cross their fingers and hope that this team has some more great shooting nights (a la Syracuse) and gets enough wins to get a tournament spot.

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Pitt 61 USF 70

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Game Recap

Well, the less than stellar performances just keep on coming.  It’s very easy to diagnose what went wrong in this one.  The defense had too many miscues.  The offense was struggling to hit jump shots.  Then to top it off, when the game was on the line, Pitt couldn’t hit a free throw to save their lives.  That was the most frustrating part after we had improved so much in that area this year.  Just an awful game all around that I’d like to forget as soon as possible.  Here are some other random thoughts:

  • Pitt out-rebounded the Bulls, but the Panthers are still allowing way too many offensive boards.  USF had 12 in this game.  It’s becoming a bit of a pattern that I mentioned in previous posts.  The problem as I see it is that we’re gambling for blocks too much instead of going for rebounds.  You have to make the shot tough for the shooter and then immediately box him out.  This HAS to improve.
  • On offense, Pitt is getting the most production when it is getting assists for their baskets.  Over the course of the season, Pitt has had 328 assists on 489 baskets.  That’s an assist for every 1.49 baskets.  The Panthers had 8 assists on 23 baskets in Tampa.  Assists mean that you’re taking a good shot.  That a teammate found you in a good position and you hit the shot.  Low assist to basket ratios mean selfish play that always leads to offensive struggles.
  • Remember when DeJuan Blair used to lower his shoulder to clear room for a shot, and all the other teams would yell for fouls and not get them?  I saw the other side of the equation in this game, and it sucked.
  • Dominique Jones scored 37 of South Florida’s 70 points.  There are a zillion defenses to stop one guy.  I’m shocked at that total.  But I’ll also say that Pitt having it’s best defender on the bench doesn’t help matters.
  • USF shot 13 more foul shots than Pitt.  Even with the total being padded by some intentional fouling at the end, that’s pretty high.  But it’s because South Florida pounded the ball inside.  I miss watching Pitt do that.
  • Coach Dixon got a technical after you can see on the replay that he yelled “that’s not right” after a bump at the top of the key (he claims to have said “Call that”.  I think both are pretty much the same thing).  Now, the T was given by Ray Perone who I don’t know too well because he rarely does Big East games, so I did some research.  He’s mostly an Atlantic 10 and Northeast conference ref.  And he’s very very quick with the technicals.  Let’s compare him to Tim Higgins (who was also reffing the game), Ed Hightower and Jim Burr: three guys who have been doing tons of Big East games for years and really know all of the coaches and their styles.  So far this year, Perone has 15 technical calls.  Tim has 6, Jim has 4 and Ed has 2.  That’s a pretty big gap (oh, and to be fair, Ray has 49 games this year compared to 41, 46 and 47 respectively).  Last year Ray had 30 T’s compared to 16, 19 and 25 from the three other guys.  So, he’s got a track record of not taking any crap whatsoever.  Now, I’m pretty sure that both “Call That!” and “That’s Not Right!” would be acceptable in just about any game I’ve been close enough to hear coaches yell.  But this was not a Big East ref who knew Jamie.  It took me all of 5 minutes to get his background.  I know reffing crews aren’t announced until the day of the game, but one guy with a laptop can do some reconnaissance for you.  I call that mistake a lack of scouting.
  • Lots of miscommunication between the Pitt players on defense.  There were many instances where a guy got caught up deciding whether to help or not, and ended up leaving his man open without affecting the ball carrier at all.  I’ll chalk that up to a young team, but that’s another area that needs to improve.

All in all, a lot of things to work on.  But such is life with a young team.  We get a chance for redemption on Wednesday in Morgantown.  An unlikely win makes everyone forget the Bulls.  A loss puts us in a bit of a hole.

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