Monday, December 15, 2014

Game 9: Pitt 58 St. Bonaventure 54

St. Bonaventure and Pitt can be bad at the same time, but they cannot be good at the same time.  The Bonnies made the NCAA tournament in 2000 (losing to Kentucky in the first round).  This was two years before Pitt started their run of ten straight tournament appearances (2002-2011).  St. Bonaventure sucked during that time.  The year Pitt fell off the map, St. Bonaventure had the A10 player of the year (current NBA player Andrew Nicholson) and won its conference tournament.  They lost to #3 seed FSU in the first round (I refuse to call the play in games the first round).  They've sucked since.  So, it turns out Pitt's entire fortunes are tied to a bottom-feeder A10 team not named Duquesne.


The Bonnies came into this game at 6-1 but they've played the equivalent of the 3rd best team at your local YMCA so far.  This game was ugly.  Pitt played its six best players for almost the entire game (Robinson, Wright, Jones, Young, Artis, Newkirk) and they still only beat St. Friggin Bonaventure by four at home.  I hope this team figures it out.


Cameron Wright - Wright returned to the starting lineup after making a cameo appearance against Duquesne.  He played 21 minutes.  Unfortunately, he forgot how to play offense.  For one night, he regressed back into the awful offensive force that was freshman Cam Wright.  He was 0-4 from the field and made 1-2 free throws for his first point this season.  Thankfully, he remembered how to defend and that's where Pitt needs him the most.  He intercepted a 3/4 court pass when the Bonnies could have tied the game with 3 seconds left to clinch the win.  Wright has a few more games against cupcakes to find his offense in time for the ACC.  That was probably the plan all along.


Grade: C


Michael Young - He only shot 3-10 but he made his free throws (8-12 for the game) in the final two minutes to keep Pitt ahead.  With Pitt behind 47-44, Newkirk hit a three and Artis found Young for a dunk to put Pitt ahead for good.  Young finished with 14 points and an absurd 17 rebounds


Grade A


Chris Jones - He had 11 points and 3 blocks, but nothing really stood out to me.  His biggest play was probably finding Newkirk for the game-tying three. Of course that play only happened  because Jones bricked a three and Uchebo had the biggest offensive rebound of his life to give Pitt another possession.


Grade: B


Jamel Artis - Artis had 14 points on 5-8 shooting to go with 4 blocks.  It was easily his best game this season.  This was probably in response to me tweeting in the first half that he had "regressed so far I couldn't even see him anymore."  I am clearly a master motivator.  Dixon should hire me to give halftime speeches.  After an Artis jumper put Pitt up 44-37, the Bonnies went on a 10-0 run to regain the lead.  Artis made the aforementioned pass to Young for the dunk, and he made two clutch free throws with 27 seconds left to put Pitt back up by four.


Grade: A


Josh Newkirk - Newkirk was having a decent game for the first 36 minutes.  He hit that tying three as part of his 9 point night.  Unfortunately with a minute left to play, Newkirk's head fell off.  Somehow there is nothing in the NCAA rulebook preventing a player from competing without a working brain, so Newkirk was  allowed to stay in.  After Artis made those two free throws to put Pitt UP by 4, Newkirk fouled his guy in the backcourt to send them to the line.  I repeat, PITT WAS AHEAD BY FOUR.  They made both free throws and used only 2 seconds of time on that possession.  Then with 5 seconds left Pitt ahead by only three, Newkirk fouled his guy attempting a three.  Thankfully, St. Bonaventure sucks and his man only made 2/3 free throws.  That was Newkirk's fifth foul so he couldn't try to ruin this game any further with a Nasir Robinson type foul at the end.


Grade: F for Foul


James Robinson - He had 9 points and 4 assists but wasn't noticeable.


Grade: B-


Joseph Uchebo - One of only three reserves to play for Pitt.  He didn't score in 7 minutes but he had that monster offensive rebound.


Grade: B


Ryan Luther - He didn't attempt a shot in his 8 minutes.


Grade: C


Cam Johnson was hurt, and Sheldon Jeter must have said something about Dixon's mother so he didn't play either.


Pitt plays the Manhattan Jaspers on Wednesday night.  I will miss the game because of a dress rehearsal for my choir's Christmas concert.


Fun Fact: Manhattan College is not located in Manhattan, but rather the Bronx.  I'm trying to decide if that makes more or less sense than Josh Newkirk's play in the final minutes.


It might be too close to call.


Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Game 8: Pitt 76 Duquesne 62

Another year, another win in the City Game for Pitt.  Duquesne came into the game leading the nation in 3-point shooting.  Pitt gave them a ton of open looks early.  Thankfully, Duquesne couldn't make anything.

Here are some quick grades:

James Robinson - He had a career high 23 points, mainly by getting to the line (8-10) and hitting three three-pointers.  He supplemented the scoring with 5 assists and 3 steals.  Robinson played 38 minutes.  He can't keep that up all season.

Grade:  A

Derrick Randall - He committed a foul early and Uchebo's surprising play (more on him later) kept him on the bench the rest of the way.

Grade: D

Jamel Artis - He played aggressively, finishing just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds.  He got tangled with a Duquesne player near mid-court and seemed to be in pain, but he brushed it off.

Grade: A-

Michael Young - He was 0-3 from the field and was a complete non-factor.  Pitt can afford this type of performance from Young against Duquesne, but they need him to be a force in the ACC.  He's far and away their most talented post player.  He has to stay out of foul trouble (he had 4).

Grade: C-

Chris Jones - I never know what to think of him.  He's the type of player who makes one shot, then thinks he can't miss.  However, he may be the only player Pitt has who is capable of making a mid-range jump shot.  With Duquesne mounting a comeback, Jones hit two jumpers to put Pitt back ahead comfortably. He finished with 12.

Grade: A

Joseph Uchebo - Apparently, Uchebo dominated this year's summer league.  Duquesne plays in the summer league.  Obviously, Uchebo would dominate them here.  He did with 12 points and 9 rebounds in just 14 minutes.

Grade: A+

Cameron Wright - THE CAMBURGLAR RETURNS

Sure, he only played one minute and missed both of his shots, but who cares.

Grade: A+ because the Camburglar photoshop is amazing.

Cameron Johnson - He didn't do much in six minutes of play.  The kid needs to get stronger.

Grade: C-

Ryan Luther - Not much more was heard from Luther, either.  He had three points.

Grade: C

Josh Newkirk - Josh Newkirk for ACC sixth man of the year.  Do they even have sixth man of the year awards in college? *Consults interwebs* They do apparently.  JOSH NEWKIRK FOR ACC SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR.  He had 16 points and 5 assists with 0 turnovers.

Grade:  A+

Alright, Pitt gets eight days off before they play the 6-1 St. Bonaventure Bonnies on December 13.  Pitt has alternated wins and losses over the last 6 games.  That will probably hopefully end against the Bonnies.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Game 7: I hope this helps them in March: Pitt 69 Indiana 81

Indiana is the 7th highest scoring team in Division 1 at 87.4 points per game.  Of course this was helped by a season-opening 116-65 win over Mississippi Valley State, but still, the Hoosiers can score.  Pitt can't defend, so you knew this one would be ugly.


I dissed Chris Jones after a missed shot, turnover, and foul early.  To spite me, he turned into Steph Curry at the end of the half.  Pitt was down 13 before Jones scored 11 points in 2 minutes (3 three-pointers and two free throws).  Cameron Johnson followed that with another three before halftime.  That barrage of threes would probably be enough to bring Pitt back, but unfortunately every single three by Jones was matched by an easy basket for Indiana.  After starting 5-8 (3-4 from 3) in the first half, Jones turned back into Chris Jones and was 1-9 (0-4 from 3) in the second half.


Indiana shot 54.1% to become yet another team to shoot above 50 against Pitt.  To give you an idea of how poor Pitt's defense has been across the board, here are the shooting numbers for every Hoosier.


Starters
4-6 8 points
5-10 10 points
4-7 11 points
5-14 13 points
2-4 6 points
Bench
3-5 7 points
6-6 15 points
1-1 3 points
0-2 0 points
3-6 8 points


8 players shot above 50% and the bench shot a collective 65%.  The 6-6 guy was a 6'7" freshmen forward named Emmitt Holt, who's had a rough year.  He's only played 17 minutes total in the first six games of the year, and he didn't even play at all in four of them.  Naturally, Pitt couldn't stop him at all.


Pitt returns to their regular scheduled cupcake non-conference schedule with the City Game on Friday then five more also-rans before the ACC schedule starts.  If Pitt loses any of these games, they won't make the tournament.  Pitt also begins the conference slate with 5 winnable games (@NCST, @BC, Clemson, FSU, GT) before embarking on a month of hell from January 19 to February 21.  In that span Pitt will play 5 teams ranked in the top 12 of the poll (3 on the road) and that doesn't even include playing Syracuse twice.  It's going to be an ugly month.  Please come back Cam Wright.


Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Games 5 and 6: San Diego State Abuses Pitt, Pitt Abuses Kansas State

Okay, I have two games to talk about before Pitt plays Indiana tonight.


Last Tuesday, Pitt was outclassed in every way against San Diego State.  They turned the ball over 17 (to 9 for SDSU) and shot a measly 37.7% while allowing the Aztecs to shoot an incredible 58.7%.  That makes the 3rd game in row that Pitt allowed an opponent to shoot above 50%, which is just awful.  They were lucky that Chaminade is such an awful rebounding team or they might have lost that one too.  Thankfully Kansas State ended the streak, but more on that one in a minute.


The long bright spot was James Robinson, who had a game 17 points.  Unfortunately, he supplemented that with a career-high 17 turnovers.


Pitt led 2-0 on a jumper by Young.  San Diego State tied it on the ensuing possession, Robinson missed a layup, San Diego State scored again, and the Panthers never got any closer the rest of the game.


When Pitt was an underdog against highly ranked teams in the Big East (namely Syracuse and UConn), you knew Pitt always had a chance because of familiarity.  Dixon had seen them enough times to counter-act the talent disparity.  Pitt frequently fails when playing a high-level non-conference opponent (in the regular season or tournament).  The game against San Diego State reminded me a lot of the game against Florida in the tournament last year.  Florida was so much bigger, faster, and stronger than Pitt that it seemed like they were playing two different games.  San Diego State was the same way.  Now, UConn won the national championship last year and beat Florida along the way.  Pitt lost to Florida by 16 in the round of 32 and Florida was average in that game.  If the brackets were switched, and Pitt ended up playing UConn in the round of 32, the outcome would be much different.  Pitt still probably would have lost because they are Pitt, but it would have been closer than 16 points.  Why?  Because Pitt had played UConn the past three years as members of the Big East.  Dixon would have three years of game type to figure out how to stop Shabazz Napier.  Granted, Napier took his game to another level that year, but Dixon has shut down high-scoring UConn guards before.


What is the point of this rant?


The point is that Pitt needs to continue to schedule tougher non-conference games like this one.  Yes, it was part of a tournament, but BYU would have tested Pitt as well had they won earlier.  Getting more exposure to talented teams outside of your conference prepares a team to face different styles in March.  The move to the ACC was a great thing for Pitt.  They mastered the Big East, and now it's time to expand.


Last Wednesday, Pitt destroyed Kansas State.  A three point game at the half, Pitt dominated the Wildcats in the second half to finish 3rd at Maui.  Every Panther scored except Randall (of course) and walk-on Aron Phillips-Nwankwo.  Joshua Ko hit a buzzer-beating three to score in his home state.  The star of the game was Ryan Luther, who was excellent defensively while also scoring 13 points on 5-7 shooting.  He has improved by leaps and bounds in the four months he's been with Pitt.  He played 24 minutes and I'd like to see his minutes stay in the 20-25 range the rest of the season.  The kid will be good.


Pitt plays Indiana tonight in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.  Jamie Dixon faces off against his old Big East nemesis Tom Crean.  Tom Crean recruited, coached, and is still friends with Dwyane Wade.  I hate Dwyane Wade so I hate Tom Crean.


Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

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,
J.O.





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,
J.O.



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.

Probably.

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.

Maybe.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.