Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Game 4: Pitt 81 Chaminade 68

Pitt avoided embarrassment and did not become the 8th team to lose to the Chaminade Silverswords in the Maui invitational.  The Division II school has a record of 7-82 in the tournament.  Is that bad?  It ain't good.

On December 23, 1982, the #1 Virginia Cavaliers, led by 2-time reigning National Player of the Year Ralph Sampson (he would be a 3-time POY by the end of the season) traveled to Hawaii to play NAIA Chaminade University of Honolulu.  The Silverswords were only in their 8th year of existence but came into the game with a 10-1 record.  Virginia had originally wanted to play Hawaii but got Chaminade instead.  Chaminade (who would go 33-2 that year) defeated the Cavaliers 77-72 in the greatest upset in college basketball history.  After the game, Virginia coach Terry Holland congratulated the Chaminade athletic director and suggested that he start a Hawaii tournament.  Two years later the Maui Classic was born.

The eight Maui Invitational participants usually consisted of one team each from the Big 6 conferences (ACC, Old Big East, SEC, Big 12, Big 10 and Pac-12) a bonus team from a different conference and host Chaminade.  There is a loser bracket so every team is guaranteed to play three games.  By beating Chaminade in the first game, Pitt can finish no worse than 4th in the tournament.

The 2014 participants are:

Pitt (ACC)
Arizona (Pac-12)
Missouri (SEC)
Kansas Sate (Big 12)
Purdue (Big 10)
BYU (West Coast)
San Diego State (Mountain West)
Chaminade (Pacific West, DII)

The results from the first round are as follows:

#3 Arizona 72 Missouri 53 - Arizona is far and away the best team in this tournament.  They'll win unless TJ McConnell transfers back to Duquesne today.  Actually, he could leave and they'd still be the favorite.  They'll play Kansas State at 7:30 tonight in the first semi-final.

Kansas State 88 Purdue 79 - Kansas State is a decent enough team, but they'll lose to Arizona.  Joe Lunardi had them as an 8th seed in his pre-season bracketology (Arizona is a #1 seed btw).

#15 San Diego State 92 BYU 87 2OT - In the best game of the night, San Diego State outlasted their former Mountain West rivals.  The Aztecs will tip-off against Pitt around 10 pm this evening.

Okay, now that the background is covered, we can talk about last night's game.

The big takeaways from this game are that Chaminade rebounds worse than my 3rd grade rec team and that Pitt let another team shoot over 50%.  The Camburglar's return will help, but their defense is a concern.  Wright should hopefully be back sometime in early December.

Now here are the grades:

Michael Young - Simply put, Young has taken a HUUUUUUUUUUGE leap forward.  After only scoring in double figures five times his freshman year, he's averaged 20 over the last three games.  He had a career high 27 points and 15 rebounds (his first career double double).  He's shooting an absurd 67% (up from 41% last season).  That will naturally fall as the competition gets better, but Zanna shot 58% last season and I imagine Young will be around that number this year.  He has been working mostly inside this season and it's hard to argue with the results.  Jamie should make him do 20 push-ups every time he attempts a 3 in practice.  He's not a bad long-range shooter (10-28 last season) but he can be an All-American inside.

Grade:  A+

Derrick Randall - There have been about 385 games played in the Maui Invitational the last 30 years and no player ever had more rebounds in a game than Derrick Randall had last night.  He put his own spin on a triple double with 11 points, 10 offensive rebounds, and 11 defensive rebounds.  He was shining glass all night.  Randall is only relevant when the competition is awful.  Remember he had 12 and 12 in the season opener against Savannah State in 2013 and then only scored in double figures once more the rest of the year.  I predict he will turn back into a pumpkin tonight, but for now he is THE WINDEX MAN!

Grade:  A+

Joseph Uchebo - He missed a layup, committed a foul and didn't return after only one minute of action.  He is the John DeGroat of this year's team in that he would start the game and then disappear seconds later never to be seen again.  DeGroat started 26 games in 2005 for reasons still unknown to Pitt fans.

Grade:  Incomplete

Pitt is trying their hardest to keep Young from having to play center, but with Randall's lack of improvement, Uchebo's limited mobility, and Tyrone Haughton being nowhere near ready, Dixon may have to eventually go with Young at the 5.  This would force Jeter and Artis to play power forward, which is probably a bad thing.

Chris Jones - Jones has alternated good games and bad games so far this season.  After being the lone bright spot against Hawaii (19 points, 5 threes) he missed all four of his shots and didn't score in this one.  If the pattern continues he'll probably score 15 tonight in a Pitt win.

Grade:  D

Jamel Artis - After averaging 13 in the first two games, Artis has somehow gone ice cold in Hawaii.  he didn't score against the Rainbow Warriors and had only 4 points tonight.  He's shooting 1-10 the last two games.

Grade:  D

So let's see, three of Pitt's starters combined for 4 points.  I'm no mathematician (wait, yes I am) but that is not good.

James Robinson - Lost in the shuffle of Young and Randall's rebounding effort, Robinson had a quiet 17 points on 5-12 shooting.  He did have 4 turnovers, but two of those came in the last 90 seconds after he had already played 37 minutes.  When Wright returns both of them should play around 30 minutes a night with Newkirk somewhere around 20-25.  Jones will return to the bench.

Grade:  A

Ryan Luther - He made his only shot (a 3-pointer) but committed 3 fouls in only 11 minutes.  He'll get better with Dixon.

Grade:  C

Sheldon Jeter - He played three minutes and didn't do much other than commit three fouls.  He was held scoreless for the first time this season.

Grade:  D

Josh Newkirk - Newkirk had a very solid game with 10 points and 8 assists.  I could see a smaller lineup of Robinson, Newkirk, Wright, Artis and Young being very effective in short bursts.

Grade:  A

Cameron Johnson - He scored nine points (all on 3's) and has been a pleasant surprise so far this season.

Grade:  B+

Joshua Ko - Playing in his home state, Ko missed his only shot attempt.

Grade:  C

Mike Lecak - He did not register any stats.

Grade:  I

Alright that's it.  San Diego State is next.

Hail to Pitt,

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Game 3: Lolpitt: Hawaii 74 Pitt 70

The University of Pittsburgh Men's Basketball team lost a heart breaker to the University of Hawaii Jeff Gordons early Saturday morning by a score of 74-70.  Yes, the same University of Hawaii who lost at home four days earlier to High Point, best known for being the alma mater of one Snoop Dogg.

This game was not on television or radio.  I asked twitter where I could view the game, and I got response about an app called livewire.  Seeing as how I am one of the .00034% of people in my 20s without a smart phone or tablet, this did not help me.

In honor of this debacle (but more because I have no idea what actually happened), I'm going to countdown the top 12 most disappointing things to happen in Hawaii.

12. Saved By the Bell: Hawaiian Style - In terms of the two made-for-tv Saved By the Bell movies this one pales in comparison to the wedding in Las Vegas.

11. The Pro Bowl - The NFL Pro Bowl represents the closest we've come to actually implementing
Randy Marsh's Sarcastaball rules.

10. The 2010 Maui Invitational - Kemba Walker scored 900 points in three games to lead UConn to victory and ensure that Pitt fans would have to listen to how great Kemba Walker was a full five months before he forced Gary McGhee to retire from basketball.

9. This Game - I'm sure Pitt Pitted all over the place.

8. William Pitt Kalanimoku - He was a High Chief who was was kind of like the prime minster of the Hawaiian Kingdom at the beginning of the 19th century.  He took his name from William Pitt the Younger, most famous for riding the coattails of his Western Pennsylvania city name inspiration William Pitt the Elder.

7. The Movie Battleship - They should have made a movie about minesweeper instead.

6. Pitt's Performance in the 2014 Maui Invitational - Yes, I know this hasn't happened yet, and I'm not saying they're going to lose to division II Chaminade in the first game...

5. Hawaiian Punch Polar Blast - Am I reaching on this list?  Maybe.

Much like Pitt this list failed to reach the Final Four.

The Maui Invitational starts on Monday night.  I'm sure it will be a lot of fun.

Hail to Pitt,

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Game 2: Pitt 63 Samford 56

The Samford Bulldogs are a bad college basketball team.  They went 13-20 last year and are picked to finish last in the Southern Conference this year.  They fired their coach Bennie Seltzer because 14 players transferred in his two years as coach.  That has got to be an NCAA record.  They lost five of their top six scorers.  Leading scorer and first team All-SoCon forward Tim Williams left for New Mexico.  SoCon Freshmen of the year guard Isaiah Williams left for Georgia State.

They opened the year with a 40 point loss against a shoddy Purdue team picked to finish 13th in the Big Ten just ahead of Rutgers and behind Penn State.  So let's see here, Pitt is playing a home game against a low-major team with a new coach trying to replace 5 of his top 6 scorers from a 20 loss team who just lost their opener by 40 points to a team that is barely better than Rutgers.

Obviously, Pitt would find a way to be in a one-possession game against this team with half a minute to play because Pitt.

The Southern Conference might be for Pitt basketball what the MAC is for Pitt football.  In the 2009 season opener Pitt trailed Wofford the majority of the game before eking out a 63-60 victory.  However, that Wofford team won 26 games and made the tournament.  This Samford team will struggle to win 26 games the next two years.

The good news is that Pitt shot 51% from the field to Samford's 32%.  The bad news is that Samford had 13 offensive rebounds with every one of their 9 players grabbing at least 1.  Here are some thoughts.

Michael Young - Young didn't have much of a post game last year.  There were times when he would get the ball underneath and not know what to do with it.  That has changed a lot.  Young scored every which way inside today.  There were dunks, layups, reverses, everything you'd expect from a high-level big man.  Young needs to have a huge year for Pitt to have a chance at the Sweet 16.  He had a game high 20 on 10-13 shooting.
Grade:  A+

Jamel Artis - He led Pitt in scoring with 14 against Niagara.  He had 12 today.  Two games into the season and he is already halfway to his 2013 season total of 8 three-pointers made.  He's 4-6 from long range so far this season.  He slimmed down and is almost unrecognizable from last year.

Grade:  A

Chris Jones - He missed a bunch of shots and will soon be relegated to backup duty when Wright returns.

Grade:  C

James Robinson - Tell me if this stat line seems familiar.  2-6 shooting 4-4 from the line, 8 assists, 2 turnovers.  Typical Robinson for better or for worse.  I do think he'll eventually break out, but it hasn't happened yet.  He did have 6 rebounds and 2 blocks which was a nice surprise.

Grade:  A-

Joseph Uchebo - Two games in and no exploded knees.  That's a good thing.

Grade:  C

Derrick Randall - He didn't commit a foul!  He didn't commit a foul!

Grade:  A because although he only scored once (a layup off a great feed from Young) he automatically gets an A any game he does not foul someone (even if he only played four minutes).

Sheldon Jeter - He made all 3 of his shots including an alley-oop.  Jeter is a transfer who played one year at Vanderbilt before sitting out last season.  He's from Beaver Falls.  If you grow up in Beaver Falls, there is approximately a 59% chance your last name is Jeter.

Grade:  A-

Josh Newkirk - He had surprising 7 assists off the bench, but 3 turnovers and 4 fouls prevent a higher grade.

Grade:  B

Cameron Johnson - He bricked a three after getting a block on the other end.  That was his only shot in 13 minutes.  The Niagara game might have been an aberration.

Grade:  C

Pitt heads to Hawaii for a road game against the Rainbow Warriors on Friday before the Maui Invitational November 24-26.  Pitt gets to play an extra game because an NCAA rule states you get an extra non-conference game if you play a road game in Hawaii.  That games starts at 11:59 pm so I will probably not liveblog it.


So basically, Pitt is going 41-0 and breaking the record for most wins in a college basketball season.  The 2011 Baylor Brittney Griners and 2013 UConn Women went 40-0.

Okay, maybe they will win less than that.


Hail to Pitt,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Game 1: Pitt 78 Niagara 45

Well, the 2014-2015 college basketball season is underway, and I am more excited than Frank Kaminsky in a dance off.

A lot has changed since I last joined you.  I got married in August, which was awesome.  Since my wife is one of like five people who read this, "Hi, you are sleeping right now, and your husband is posting gifs of white player of the year candidates dancing on his blog."

Anyway back to Pitt, wait hold on...

Okay, I'm done.  I promise.

Pitt opened their season with another slaughter of some cupcake school, this time the part of sacrificial lamb was played by the Niagara Purple Eagles.  They went 7-26 last year out of the MAAC, and they are awful.  But hey, in 2007 they made the tournament AND beat Florida A&M in the play-in game (back when there was only one).  Then they lost to Kansas by 40.  Pitt was the #3 seed in that region so what I'm saying is we were only 3 historic upsets (and one Pitt over UCLA win) away from this game being a 2007 West Regional Finals rematch.

Pitt probably would have lost.

Players who have attended Niagara actually have scored more points in the NBA than players from Pitt.  The score is currently 37,779 to 37,244.  Help us, Steven Adams, you're our only hope.
That stat is misleading though, since Niagara got almost half its output from the hall-of-famer Calvin Murphy, who is the shortest NBA player in the basketball hall of fame.  Apparently, Calvin Murphy was also a world class baton twirler who won the 1977 Texas State Men's Twirling Championship.  You know, in his time off from averaging 25.6 points per game for the Houston Rockets that year.

At this point, you may be wondering, did I even watch this game?  Well, I could not get ESPN3 to work until the first half was almost halfway over.  When I finally turned it on, the first play of the 2014-2015 Pitt basketball season was a Derrick Randall committing a foul.  There might not be a more perfect play to start another year of this blog.

Pitt was up 32-6 with six minutes to play in the first half.  Speaking of having six points, I went to a game my senior year of high school against Auburn.  I think at one point Pitt was up 40-6 and of course, the Zoo chanted, "You have six points!"

Honestly, I did not watch enough of this game to give accurate grades.  Here are a few things I noticed which may or may not be hyperbole.

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  • Robinson bricked a couple threes which means he still cannot shoot and thus has not gotten any better. Ames Robinson will probably lead the ACC in assists anyway.
  • Michael Young only scored 7 points so all predictions of him having a breakout year were stupid.
  • Durand Johnson will be the most important player for Pitt this year.
  • Derrick Randall will set the NCAA record for fouls in a season.

By the way, Pitt announced they were suspending Johnson for the entire season about thirty minutes before tip-off, which sets a new record for fastest a Pitt athletic's season has gone up in flames.  They did not yet reveal the reason for the suspension, but this might be the last chance I get to post this for a while.

Seriously though, pretty much every player on Pitt played well.  Freshman Ryan Luther did not play, and he'll probably red-shirt.  Walk-on Mike Lecak scored his first points as a Panther.  The biggest surprise was probably freshman Cameron Johnson scoring 11 points in his debut.  The pride of Our Lady of  the Sacred Heart High School seemed comfortable, and he receives bonus points for inspiring the best tweet of the night.
Pitt plays Samford on Sunday at 1.  I promise I will actually talk about it.

Hail to Pitt,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Game 31: Pitt 83 Clemson 78 OT

It finally happened.  Pitt did it.  They finally caught a break, and it was everything I hoped it would be.  K.J. Daniels gave Clemson an early 19-17 lead.  This continues the recent trend of Pitt giving up a lot of points to players who go by initials ending in J.  Pitt's season will inevitably end at the hands of T.J. McConnell and Arizona...or Tyler Ennis somehow.  Daniels had 24, but he had to work for it (18 shots).  The entire game was a blur.  Clemson led comfortably for the majority of it.  Pitt did tie it at 56 on a Patterson jumper, but Clemson took control again.  With 13 seconds, Clemson hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 5.  The game was all but over for Pitt.  They'd need a miracle.  They got one.  Robinson dribbled down the court and threw up a leaning, contested three-pointer that barely got the rim.  The ball was knocked out by Clemson with 4.4 second left.

Pitt is down 5 with 4.4 seconds left.  They have the ball, but even if they were fouled shooting a 3 and made the free throw, they'd still lose.  Pitt's season was hanging in the balance.  The NIT wolf was lurking.  A loss to Clemson would force Pitt to have a very good ACC tournament to get an at-large bid.

"I don't believe that's going to be enough time," said the announcer.  Robinson inbounds to Patterson who quickly buries a three with only two seconds going off the clock.  Pitt called timeout.  They couldn't let Clemson inbound the ball because with one dribble the game would be over.


I yelled so loud whenever that shot went in.  My fiancée might actually be partially deaf right now.  I'm sorry.  On a side note, finding the accent mark to type fiancée is a pain in the ass.  You know what's easier to type?  Wife.  I assure you the ease with which this new title can be typed is not the only reason I'm getting married.  Anyway, being the cynical Pitt fan that I am, I managed to convince myself that it was still in his hands after the first few replays.  Pitt's lost twice on last-second shots by the other team so it only seemed fitting that they would lose because they themselves couldn't get off a last-second shot in time.  It counted though, and Pitt scored the first seven points of overtime to take control.  It was their first lead since early in the first half.  Clemson pulled to within 3 with under 20 seconds left, but Wright made two more free throws to ice it.  Pitt moves to 4-0 in overtime games this season so basically all they have to do is get through regulation tied and they'll be golden.  Let's give some grades.

Lamar Patterson - Patterson was huge all afternoon.  He had 30 points on 10-19 shooting (5-9 from deep) including the three at the end of regulation and another that opened the OT scoring.  He made up for some poor play down the stretch.  He had a turnover and missed two shots with Pitt down only 2 (and then 4) in the closing minutes.  He still had 30 points, so I can't give him anything other than an A for this effort.

Grade:  A

Cameron Wright - Wright had the two game-clinching free throws I mentioned earlier to finish with 16 points.  He also had four steals, which means I can bring back this picture.

Grade:  A

Michael Young - He had 7 points, but he didn't do anything the last 23 minutes of the game.  He also missed two free throws in the final minute of overtime that could have put the game out of reach.

Grade:  C

Talib Zanna - He had a double-double, but he didn't score in the second half.  He finally reached double figures with a layup late in overtime.  He also fouled out.

Grade:  C+

James Robinson - I can't complain with 9 points, 7 assists, 2 steals and 0 turnovers with 60% shooting.  Sure he missed that three at the end, but it worked out alright for Pitt.

Grade:  A

Derrick Randall - He made a free throw and committed two fouls in four minutes.
Grade:  C-

I am truly busting out all the old pictures for this recap.

Jamel Artis - I don't remember much from him this game.  He had two baskets early in the contest.  One of them was a dunk off a nice feed from Robinson.

Grade:  B

Josh Newkirk - Newkirk came into this game having made 7 three-pointers in a row.  He missed his first two threes in this one.  He only made one shot all game, but it was pretty important.  The pump fake was entirely unnecesary on the final shot, and I'm so glad that he still got it off in time.  If that hesitation cost Pitt a tournament bid (and it very well could have) that would have been a tough pill to swallow for the kid.  Luckily, it counted.

Grade:  A+

Pitt plays Wake Forest in the 2nd round of the ACC Tournament at 2:00 tomorrow.  Thankfully, Wake beat Notre Dame in the first round so Pitt didn't have to deal with them again.  Pitt's right on the bubble.  ESPN has them as a 10th seed, CBS an 11th, and Yahoo a 12th.  If they lose to Wake, they're out.  They'll probably have to win tomorrow and beat UNC on Friday to clinch an at-large berth.

Hail to Pitt,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Game 30: Pitt 67 T.J. Warren 74

Pitt couldn't stop T.J. Warren.  He actually only had 41 of NC State's 74, but that was still enough to shatter the Pete scoring record.  Chris Quinn had 37 for Notre Dame back in 2006, but Pitt won that game 100-97 in double overtime.  I can't even be mad at Warren.  Pitt tried everything, and he was just unstoppable.  Plus, any time you erase this guy from the record book it has to feel good.
Pitt led by as many as 13 in the first half, but they couldn't pull away.  Warren gave NC State the lead for good at 48-46 almost midway through the first half.  Pitt got to within one on numerous occasions, but Warren answered them each time.  After dominating the glass against Notre Dame, Pitt couldn't buy an offensive rebound.  NC State had 16 second chance points to Pitt's 0.  Warren shot 16-22 for the game, so it's not like his 41 points came on a barrage of 3's.  He made mid-range jumpers, layups, dunks, free throws, and even the occasional 25-foot 3-pointer with the shot clock about to expire.

In his final performance at the Pete, Patterson had 17 points on 4-12 shooting.  Zanna had 11 points and 9 rebounds but he was a non-factor.  The MVP goes to Josh Newkirk who had the game of his life in a losing effort.  He had 20 points on 7-8 shooting including 5-5 from long-range.  If Newkirk doesn't go nuts like that, Pitt loses this game by 20.  Newkirk's offensive game has come around in recent weeks.

That's enough about this game.  In the 30 minutes it's taken me to write this post, Warren has scored at least another 18 against Pitt.

Hail to Pitt,

Game 29: Pitt 85 Notre Dame 81 OT

I am far behind on these recaps, but I wanted to try and get a post for every single game this season.  I'm almost there.  I didn't get to watch this game so I don't have a whole lot to say about it.  I did get to listen to the last few minutes of regulation and overtime so that was nice.  Here are some highlights.

  • Pitt beat Notre Dame for the first time since 2009 and won in the Joyce Center for the first time since 2005.
  • Notre Dame shot 9000% in the first half (really 76%) but Pitt only trailed by 4 because of a huge rebounding edge.
  • Notre Dame was down 3 with 17 seconds left.  They missed, but got the offensive rebound and made a 3 to tie it.  Robinson missed at the other end to win it.
  • Pitt held a 38-22 rebounding edge, won the turnover battle (16-9) and made 24-28 free throws.  This was just enough to overcome the Irish shooting 54% for the game, making 12-23 threes and making 23-27 of their own free throws.
  • Almost all of Pitt's scoring in overtime came on free throws.  They were 14-15 in probably their best performance of the season from the line.
  • Zanna had 17 points and 14 rebounds including 10 on the offensive end.
  • Robinson's shooting was awful (1-8).  Patterson wasn't much better (6-17).
Anyway, Pitt played and lost to NC State T.J. Warren on Monday.  That post is on its way.

Hail to Pitt,