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A bunch of Pitt fans/alumni writing and ranting about the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and anything sports and entertainment related. Other than being alumni, the writers of this blog have no affiliation or official connection with the University of Pittsburgh, the Pitt Panthers, and related entities. The views expressed on this blog are solely our own. You can e-mail us: PittSportsBlather-at-sbcglobal.net.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Bring It Above Ground 

We got some interesting arguing going in the comments, regarding the recruitment of Morelli, and other such that has gotten kind of long, and oat times a little varied so I'm going to post them and offer my thoughts. I would have done this sooner, but I've been a little busy.

It starts with a reader actually identifying himself. John from Fox Chapel (or who I will just call JFC):

Who is writing this column??? I could do a much better job. For starters,who cares about Anthoney Morelli. Harris should just let him walk. Morelli's only claim to fame will be to add to a long list of high school prospects from Western Pa. that are overhyped. ie: Jawon Walker, Josh Lay, Tutu Fergusen. Harris should try looking over on the other side of the state if he really wants to get some players. Either that or stick to that fertile breading ground in Florida.

To which Lee responded,

I won't argue that Morelli and his Dad haven't been acting like spoiled brats. However, I won't call him untalented either. He's a legitimate five star prospect on every recruiting service that I've seen.

And although I agree that Western PA is generally overrated as far as recruiting grounds go, plenty of legitimate blue chippers have come out of our region recently. Michigan's Steve Breaston and Marlin Jackson come to mind, although LaVarr Arrington wasn't too far back either. Pat, a little help here?

JFC countered:

David Abdul was also rated as a 5 star prospect out of the tri state area. He has turned into a goat and is going to be beaten out by Gressel for the kicker spot. How about the other highly touted QB prospect from western Pa Tyler Palko. I have been to Pitt practices and it painfully obvious that he will be beaten out by Luke Getsy for the quarterback spot. What I am trying to say is that the recruiting services like the idea of spotting the next great Western Pa. quarterback. They find the kid who is hyped by the local media and throw five stars on him simply because thats where he is from. Watch the kid that starts for Ohio State this year, Justin Zwick, and tell me he is not better than Palko despite being rated LOWER.

As far as Breaston and the others are concerned, your always going to find a few acorns. It is Western Pa. after all. The fact is in Pa. we run the ball ALOT. Which skews the acurracy of a QB evaluation. Breasten was a great athlete at woddy high. Otherwise the guys PA. produces are along the lines or on the defensive side of the ball.

Pat joined the fun.

I'd love to help, Lee, but John from Fox Chapel makes a good point.

There are plenty of Division 1-AA and II schools who ended up with former Pitt recruits who were the second coming of either Marino or Dorsett (remember Zimmermann from Penn Trafford?).

Pitt has wisely broadened its recruiting base, particularly in Ohio. That being said, we HAVE to keep the local top tier talent - if for no other reason than to keep the fans and HS coaches happy. If and when a genuine 2nd Dorsett or Marino does spring fourth, we'll need all the help we can get to land them.

Lee, again:

All I'm saying is that I haven't seen anything yet that would lead me to believe that Morelli, in particular, is overrated. That being said, he may have some maturity issues and (as we all agree) Western PA quarterbacks are often overrated.

And incidentally, John from Fox Chapel is right about Ohio State's Justin Zwick.

JFC replied,

Since you both conceded to some of my arguments I will concede to one of yours. Athletically Morelli is a top notch prospect. 6-4 200 lbs, a cannon and 4.7 in the 40 is probably the frame people dream about on a QB. That being said, does anybody wonder why his completion percentage was so low??? Coaches at the elite 11 said Morelli needed to work on reading defenses. In other words Morelli is not that smart!!! Hes got the tools but not the squash!!!Morelli is going to remind people of Chris Rix. A guy that should be good but contstantly finds a way to selfdestruct. They dumb the offense down to Rix's level at FSU but Harris would not do that here. So do we really want Morelli??? No because I do not want to suffer through three bad seasons in order for him to have one good season.

Lee:

Good point about Morelli's mellon.

On the way up to State College tonight, I heard Phil Grosz, the Editor of Blue White Illustrated (and G&W Recruiting), practically guarantee on WRSC that Morelli would be a Nittany Lion come Wednesday. It looks more and more like -- for better or worse -- we won't have to suffer the idiot after all.

But even if it turns out to be for the better, I still can't stand losing anything to Penn State... even spoiled brats.

That being said, I still can't believe that any quarterback would rather be developed by the likes of Jay Paterno (PSU's quarterback coach) rather than Walt Harris. But oh well.

Finally, JFC:

How does Penn State do it??? I mean with the UPMC complex on the south side Pitt has comperable facilities. They have a coach that will probably see you through all four years which PSU does not. Pitt has a dynamic offense while PSU's looks worse every year. How does one get sold on playing for PSU besides the fact of Beaver Stadium.

Also I found another intertesing Pitt site. I will leave the link. http://www.livelogcity.com/users/pittsburgh/

Starting with the final item. I checked out the blog that opened today. Looks good. Adding it to the blogroll. JFC, though, didn't just "find" it. He is apparently John Beard on the blog -- or else the guy is stealing his comments -- nothing to be embarrassed about trying to pimp your blog.

Now going back to the first item. Why bother with Morelli? Pat made his point about keeping the WPa. coaches happy. I'll suggest a couple other reasons.

1) In recruiting, perception is reality; and perceived recruiting success helps build the schools name recognition and desirability (though not as much as being a winning, good program). You never know if the recruit is going to pan out as expected. Is he going to be a stud from the moment he gets on the field (Fitzgerald)? Is he going to be a complete bust after high school? Is he going to take a few years and/or the right system before he flourishes (Carson Palmer or Jeff Smoker)? Who knows at this point. It is all projection. A huge industry and obsessiveness from fans has sprung from it.

2) You always protect your turf first, then spread outward. You cannot be seen to lose the good players in your own backyard to be a good program. Ohio St., Michigan, Texas, and the like very rarely lose out to other schools for players that are within 50-100 miles of the school. And then you keep expanding from there.

Morelli is perceived to be a blue chipper in Pitt's backyard. Add in his early commitment to Pitt, plus the bad season Pitt had with the blows to the Big East; and losing Morelli is a big trumpet to a lot of potential recruits that Pitt is not the good choice. I'm trying to remember the column from the fall about how Rutherford committing to Pitt was a huge moment for signifying Pitt's resurgence to other recruits. I thought it a little ridiculous, but there was a small truth there. I remember early in John Majors, the sequel. Pitt was the finalist for a top blue chip, can't miss WPa. QB (for some reason I am drawing a complete blank on his name). Instead, he chose ND to win 2-3 Heismans. Pitt never contended for another blue chipper until after Majors was gone.

As to the issue of David Abdul going from blue chipper to goat as a kicker as an example. That is completely ignoring the job he did last year as a freshman. Now, I'm not going to defend or excuse Abdul's performance this past year. Let's just concede, though, that there were extenuating circumstances, and he could very well rebound next year.

So Palko was rated ahead of Zwick coming out of high school. It wasn't by much. Both were considered top blue chippers. Everyone wants lists, though, so one has to be placed in front of the other. Your criticisms of Palko's ability, though, is unnerving. It reminds me of some comments that I read about him following the Big 33 game. They said he would be better off as a safety, and reminded a scout of that drunk QB from Ohio St. at the end of the Cooper era (whose name is also escaping me). Trust me, that was not a comparison that could make you feel good.

Regarding Morelli's smarts. I don't know. Maybe when the colleges are allowed to make the kids take the Wonderlic tests like the NFL does, we can get a better idea. I'd say the Morelli family tantrum (if it is true and not a pretext) suggests that he won't be happy unless he starts as a freshman and in a system to his liking (are they related to Eric Lindros' family?). I could see him transferring from a school at least once if his family doesn't get their way. As it stands, I'll take your word that he does not have the mental part.

As for the final thing on UPMC and why would anyone play for PSU on offense. First, can we stop this ridiculous self-congratulations on the practice facility? It only counts for so much. No matter how much we may not like PSU, they have history, tradition that can be evoked and a very widespread and active alumni base. If football players went to college based on geography, then Oklahoma and Nebraska would never have been powers; and Fordham and Columbia would be fighting off the recruits.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Lovin' Krauser 

Krauser's late game heroics against BC, dovetailed nicely with some puff pieces. The local one from the Tribune-Review matches him with Isaiah Thomas -- apparently an idol of Krauser's. Talks of Krauser wanting the ball in crunch time. The big moment when the game is on the line, etc.

More importantly is the short piece in this week's Sport's Illustrated (subs. only). It stressed Krauser and his NYC roots.

Pittsburgh sophomore point guard Carl Krauser will never be accused of forgetting his roots. Before every game Krauser writes only the strong survive in nyc on his sneakers, and whenever he makes a good play, he forms an X with his arms, which, he'll readily tell one and all, represents the final letter of the Bronx. After Pitt's 66-45 drubbing of Syracuse at the Carrier Dome last Saturday, in which Krauser scored just five points but had 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals, he mentioned either the Bronx or New York City seven times in one conversation.

Krauser is also all business, as evidenced by his photo in the Panthers' media guide, in which he's scowling at the camera as if he's just smelled expired milk. It's a look that Krauser no doubt used to good advantage when he was an amateur boxer, his other love until he decided to focus on basketball at age 15.

Krauser's New York City game and combativeness is a major reason why Pitt was 19-1 through Sunday and ranked seventh. He had big shoes to fill this season, taking over at point guard for honorable mention All-America Brandin Knight, whose eligibility expired after leading the Panthers to a 28-5 record and their second straight Sweet 16 appearance last season. Krauser went from an 18.6-minute-a-game backup to a starter, and if there were any doubts about his leadership abilities, they were erased early as he helped Pitt win its first 18 games. Quick, aggressive and flashy, Krauser was averaging 15.1 points, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals a game at week's end. Says junior forward Chevon Troutman, "We're more of a running team with him [than with Knight], and he's definitely more of a scoring option. Even if he has two defenders in front of him, he's going to push the ball and get somebody open if he doesn't have a shot."

Hey, my favorite team is in the Bronx.

Recap, BC vs. Pitt -- Surviving the Let Down Game 

Let's face it. This was the classic let down game for Pitt. Two huge nationally televised road games against the best teams in the conference over the last ten years and going 1-1 last week. Being ranked in the top 10 for two straight weeks (and now heading to 3), a 37-game home winning streak (longest in the country). Everyone noticing Pitt. An opponent that couldn't beat West Virginia. This is the kind of game that was ripe for the upset.

But Pitt pulled it out 68-58. The story after the game was Karl Krauser taking charge of the game late in the second half.

Since I couldn't see the game in Cleveland, the news accounts and box score are my only guides. Read the news accounts to get the idea of how close the game actually was. I'm just going to look at the box score for my thoughts. Pat, if you got to see the game, please share your thoughts.

Coach Dixon seems to be making an effort to work McCarroll and Graves into the game more. Yes I know Graves saw a lot of minutes last night because Krauser had early foul trouble, but Graves has been getting more minutes over the past couple weeks. Toree Morris is holding steady at his 6-8 minutes per game. That seems plenty at this point. Demetrius is also steady with 4 minutes and 1 or 2 missed shots per game.

Taft seems to be shooting well at the charity stripe. Jaron Brown, though, eww. Yes, he made those two crucial FTs in the final minutes last night, but that only raised him to .500 for the game. There is no doubt that late in a close game, the other team will always look to send Brown to the line when trailing (hell, I'd consider it even with a lead).

The box score just reads like Pitt's typical team game. It isn't flashy. No one player's line stands out, but everyone does a little of everything.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Continuing Saga of Anthony Morelli 

With only a week left before national signing day, the Altoona Mirror included a overview of local college football recruiting in today's paper. Reflecting local sentiments, Penn State was portrayed as finishing strong and aggressively -- in the running for five star recruits Anthony Morelli and New Jersey linebacker Brian Toal. The fact that Morelli had previously committed to Pitt and that Toal has usually listed Miami and Boston College before PSU was not reported until well into the second page of the article.

Pitt, meanwhile, was portrayed as desperately trying to hold on to what little it had.

Living around here, I'm more than used to the pro-Penn State/anti-Pitt sentiment in the Central Pennsylvania media. So all of this didn't really interest me much. However, the following quote from Harry Psaros of Pantherlair.com regarding Morelli raised my eyebrows a little.

"I hate to say it, but I have a bad vibe about it as far as Pitt is concerned," Pitt recruiting expert Harry Psaros of Pantherlair.com said. "I think that he began to think about the chance for early playing time... Morelli is probably going to end up at Penn State."


This being a case of "your own man says so," I'm officially worried about Morelli now. Has anybody else read anything on Morelli's leanings? Furthermore, did Morelli ever visit Ohio State? I'm assuming that the Buckeyes have left Morelli alone (like they did Andrew Johnson), but I have no confirmation on that.

Losing Morelli to Penn State would suck huge.

Speaking of things that suck, Pitt has quietly dropped three places to #25 on the Official College Sports Network (by ESPN.com's Bill Hodge) 2004 recruiting class rankings since yesterday. Ohio State remains at #5 and Penn State remains at #16.

No. 1 Southern California (Top JCs)
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Oklahoma
No. 5 Ohio State
No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Georgia
No. 8 Florida State
No. 9 Miami-Florida
No. 10 Maryland
No. 11 Texas A&M
No. 12 Florida
No. 13 Oregon
No. 14 Alabama
No. 15 Tennessee
No. 16 Penn State
No. 17 Washington
No. 18 Kansas State (Top JCs)
No. 19 Missouri
No. 20 Michigan State
No. 21 UCLA (Top JCs)
No. 22 Texas Tech (Top JCs)
No. 23 Purdue
No. 24 Nebraska
No. 25 Arkansas
Tie No. 25 Arizona State
Tie No. 25 Pittsburgh


Hail to a good end to the recruiting season.

Boston College vs. Pitt -- Something of a Preview 

Back in football season, I noted how little attention BC got from the local media. That doesn't change come basketball season. The Boston Globe's lone article on the game was really just part of a notes article listed under women's basketball.

Eagles are pitted against a tough foe: Skinner is wary of seventh-ranked Panthers

The Boston Herald isn't any better.

Skinner wary of Panthers

Apparently the word of the day is "wary." How about the word of yesterday?

BC wary of a Pitt fall: Eagles face revitalized opponent

Oh. Well, wary on then.

Over to the Pittsburgh papers. Two columns on Pitt. One repeats the meme: Dixon was the right choice. Look, I'm not trying to hate on Dixon. The guy is doing more than you could hope in his first season. The team is obviously playing hard and well under him. I'm just saying that there needs to be a little perspective before you just declare that this was the right choice. What if the team flames out in a first round upset in the NCAA Tournament (I can't believe I get to type that -- the presumption, the arrogance)? Or what happens if they don't make it past the first or second round of the Big East Tournament? It really will take a year or two to get to the point where you can better evaluate this.

The other is from radio guy Madden. Madden talking Pitt hoops? Madden talking hoops at all? I guess that is what happens when the NFL draft is still 2 1/2 months away, the Penguins are trying to hang on until the lock out/strike and the Pirates just suck. Well it's a piece about how this team is better than last year's team. I think a compelling case could be made, but his reasoning isn't particular compelling.

Cook has a lazy columnist crutch -- the one liner grab bag with a few things to say about Pitt. And one cheap shot for all the Penn State haters

What has it been? A month since a Penn State football player has been arrested? I'm not sure, but I think that's a record.


A couple nice articles on Jaron Brown and his realistic expectations for life after Pitt (hint, not the NBA).

Both beat reporters for the Pittsburgh papers lead with the story of Craig Smith of BC and the fact that he came from California because USC and UCLA weren't interested. I think everyone is just about sick of the winter weather.

Coaches or Writers Polls 

This may be nitpicking, but I'd say 2004 has been a bad start for the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. There was, of course, the BCS mess. Now, I'm looking at the Coaches and AP Writers polls for this week.

Last week Pitt moved up significantly in both polls. Six spots in the coaches from #15 to #9; and five spots in the writers -- #13 to #8. I thought that was a little high. In the past week Pitt played 2 big road games on national TV. A close loss to UConn, and a blowout win against Syracuse.

I figured Pitt would likely rise 1 maybe 2 spots in the ranks. The writers moved Pitt up a spot to #7, with UConn falling to #6. The Coaches, though, moved Pitt up 3 spots to #6.

I don't quite get it. Pitt went 1-1 this past week. I'm all for Pitt getting props and the attention, but it's hard to understand how going .500 for the week justifies the big bump.

What it points out, in my view, is how little attention the coaches actually pay to other teams unless they are on TV. The first 6 weeks or so of the schedule, Pitt had a hard time moving in the coaches poll. Pitt gets on TV, and in 2 weeks they suddenly jump 9 spots. By some coincidence, Pitt has 3 of its 4 games on ESPN and ESPN2.

Sad that I find the writers more accurate than the coaches.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

In Case Anybody Out There Needed Another Reason To Hate Penn State... 

For those of you who couldn't imagine the Pennsylvania State University's football program doing something that would somehow make it even more evil in your eyes, brace yourself. Chas, you in particular are gonna love this...

According to Neil Rudel's column in this morning's edition of the Altoona Mirror, Joe Paterno is very seriously considering hiring former University of Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel for an undisclosed position on his staff.

"The worst-kept secret in State College centers around former Colorado and Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel spending time with Joe Paterno and possibly being in line for some kind of position."


Rudel offers a quick justification for ignoring all of the NCAA violations in Neuheisel's past.

"He did leave a checkered wake at Colorado and Washington... But given these desperate times, what with the Lions unable to recruit the quarterback they want -- though Penn Hills' Anthony Morelli visited over the weekend -- Neuheisel's presence could be a drawing card. Stay tuned."


Stay tuned indeed. You know, in a perverse sort of way, I hope that Penn State does hire Rick Neuheisel. Wouldn't it great to see Joe Paterno wrap up his career with a few solid NCAA recruiting violations?

Hail to Nittany Lion desperation. And hands off Morelli already.

The Latest Rankings of the 2004 College Football Recruiting Classes  

Despite national signing day being only eight days off (February 4), Pitt football recruiting has been relatively quiet. Since my last update, there has been some movement in the Official College Sports Network (by ESPN.com's Bill Hodge) 2004 recruiting class rankings. However, Pitt's recruiting class has remained stuck at #22.

No. 1 Southern California (Top JCs)
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Oklahoma
No. 5 Ohio State
No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Georgia
No. 8 Florida State
No. 9 Miami-Florida
No. 10 Maryland
No. 11 Texas A&M
No. 12 Florida
No. 13 Oregon
No. 14 Alabama
No. 15 Tennessee
No. 16 Penn State
No. 17 Washington
No. 18 Kansas State (Top JCs)
No. 19 Missouri
No. 20 Michigan State
No. 21 UCLA (Top JCs)
No. 22 Pittsburgh
No. 23 Texas Tech (Top JCs)
No. 24 Purdue
No. 25 Arizona State

I find it interesting that although neither Ohio State, Penn State, nor Pitt has signed anybody since my last update, Ohio State has climbed up a spot to #5 (jumping Texas), Penn State has dropped four spots (eight spots since January 16... the Nittany Lions are in the recruiting doldrums, apparently) to #16, and Pitt has remained stuck at #22. Anti-PSU bias in the media, of course.

Incidentally, Pitt remains the only loyal Big East Conference member in OCSN's top 25.

Over on Superprep.com (powered by TheInsiders.com Recruiting Network), Pitt's recruiting class remains unranked. Superprep's top four are identical to OCSN's. However, Miami and Georgia stand ahead of Ohio State at #7. Penn State is at #9, and Virginia Tech (unranked by OCSN) is at #25.

I haven't heard anything new on the Anthony Morelli front, so I assume he's still headed to Pitt... not that some Penn State fans aren't a little anxious...

Sean (Philadelphia): Please give me your opinion as to whether or not PSU can get Anthony Morelli. It would be great for Penn State and their fans!

Tom Lemming: It looks like Morelli might be shopping around. Penn State and Ohio State are two schools he is serious about. However, he still remains committed to Pitt.


...or even a little bitter...

Ray (MI): Tom, Why do you try to be negative on Penn State chances. I have been observing you for a long time and even on the prospects they have a legitimate chnace you mention that they do not have a prayer? Hope you answer my question..thanks

Tom Lemming: I said earlier that the Nittany Lions have a shot at getting Morelli from Pitt. I'm just trying to be honest here. Penn State started out fast and have hit the skids over the past few months and are trying to rebound.


Hail to Nittany Lion paranoia.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Misc. Media 

Just a couple articles to point out. Another recap of the game in the Tribune-Review. One of those inside the numbers type pieces. It's pretty good. Some interesting points regarding the power forward play of Troutman and McCarroll.

Up in Syracuse, they are still feeling the after effects of losing two straight -- and taking a physical beating in the process.

But they have not responded to the strength, toughness and aggression of the recent Big East Conference opponents, said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

"I just think mentally we weren't tough out there tonight," he said after watching his team score 45 points, the fewest in his 28 seasons and 895 games. "Craig Forth is 7-foot, 260 pounds and he got pushed all around the court. Billy (Edelin) is 210 pounds.

"I don't think it's anything to do with the weight room (strength). I think our guys are strong enough. Missouri's as physical as anybody. We just didn't play physical today. We didn't accept the physical challenge and that was it. Bottom line."

Pittsburgh, a team known for its physical play, out-muscled Syracuse 50-36 on the boards. The Panthers outscored Syracuse 40-18 in the paint. They limited SU to a season-worst

27.3-percent shooting (15-for-55) from the field.

"We didn't go out there and hit anybody," said forward Hakim Warrick. "We let them come hit us and they just took it to us from the start."

Syracuse gets a week off -- well, a week of practices with those losses lingering in the background -- then they get perennial bottom feeder Virginia Tech to take out a lot of aggression. Take Syracuse and give the points no matter how ridiculous the spread. Syracuse should be downright surly.

Pitt's next opponent is Boston College, January 28. The Boston Herald's college basketball writer noticed.

As if things weren't dreary enough for Boston College after it lost to a very beatable West Virginia team Saturday in Morgantown, W. Va., the Eagles' coaches had to sit in front of the television and watch their next opponent, No. 8 Pittsburgh, dismantle No. 13 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome that same night.

On Wednesday, BC will visit the Panthers, who have won 37 straight home games, the last 31 at their new Petersen Center. The streak is the best in the nation.

I'm guessing that the crowd might be a little juiced after Pitt's play in the last week.

Finally, the new polls will come out this evening. I expect Pitt will either rise a notch or two or stay in the same position.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Pitt-Syracuse: Media Notes 

A late Saturday night game means no opinion columns made the papers for Sunday. Just game recaps. Pittsubrhg Tribune-Review and Post-Gazette point to Pitt's strength and complete dominance.

In the Syracuse papers, they too talk of Pitt's muscle, and being too overpowering.

One of the themes is that Syracuse was held to its lowest point total ever in the Carrier Dome, and the lowest since 1968.

The best write-up came from Orangenation.net. I have to say that the guys running this site seem to be total class and are not just fanboys but honest in their assessments and breakdowns. They paid respect to Pitt, and this stood out to me.

That’s the toughest thing about this loss- we got beat up and mauled by a team that plays, (and I say this with admiration), like the school-yard bully. Boeheim said after the game "We have to get tougher." If we don’t we will go down to Pittsburgh a month from now, (February 29th), wondering if they are going to steal our lunch money.

Imagine, Pitt as the bully against 'Cuse. I feel warm inside, and not just because of the bourbon.

Pitt v. Syracuse -- Wearing Down and Out 

Surprise, surprise, surprise. Pitt is a tough team. Once again, game notes. Apologies for not posting this sooner, but I had a lot to do today around the house and with the family. Better late than never, game notes.

The Pitt game was set to tip at 8:08. 8 pm, plop into a chair, grab a beer, then the remote and flick to ESPN2. Howard Dean-esque scream/yell as the Tennessee-Duke women's basketball game is still taking place. They give the programming note saying that they will be going to the Carrier Dome after the game. Unfortunately, despite being in the last couple minutes the country is subjected to the worst thing in basketball. The game is almost-but-not-quite out of reach resulting in excessive fouls, timeouts and stoppage of play, The end result is an excrutiating extension of a game.

This is not to rant on the WNBA or women's basketball. I don't care. I would have been bent if it had been a regular game with 'Nova and St. John's at the wire. I wanted to go to the game that I had been waiting all day to watch. The game I had been practically counting down the minutes until.

Finally the game ends, but they don't immediately switch over. Instead, I am subjected to a meaningless postgame -on-the-flooor interviews before the switch. Under normal circumstances, my inner-Beevis and Butthead would have been happy to watch interviews of women's coaches by Heather Cox. Especially, getting to Duke's Tasha Butts; but not now.

Finally, they go to Syracuse, NY. Missed the first 4:24 (and roughly 10 minutes real time). Dave Strader and Len Elmore are calling the game. Good. Strader and Elmore aren't that annoying, and are easily tuned out. What does it say, when every time you tune in a game that Dick Vitale isn't attending is considered a good thing?

Gerry McNamara is playing (apparently started) for 'Cuse. Looks good right now, but let's see how that groin feels after a few TV timeouts.

The score is low. Pitt is 3-12 in shooting in the first 5-6 minutes. Thankfully, Syracuse is shooting almost as bad, so Pitt has the lead by one. Syracuse is running its 2-3 zone, but Pitt is blowing right through it. Problem is Pitt can't buy a basket. An ugly game, though, favors Pitt.

Chris Taft is having a great first half. He's getting rebounds and points, not to mention blocking or redirecting shots.

By Halftime, Pitt has a 29-23 lead.

There wasn't much to say about the first half. It was plain ugly. Both sides struggled to make shots. Neither team made runs, so much as the other side missed and turned the ball over more than the other for stretches. Pitt was dominating on the boards. Especially offensive boards -- major contribution factor, of course, being the number of missed shots provided many, many second chance opportunities. The refs were Big East refs. They let them bang a lot, which favored Pitt.

Pitt went 3-12 from 3-point land, after starting 3-5. Pitt needs to take the ball inside more. The 2-3 zone is not working with Pitt's bigger and stronger interior guys who can pass inside and out.

I don't think McNamara will be a big factor in the second half. He started out decently with a couple 3s, and played a lot more than I thought, but his shots aren't falling and that groin is only going to get worse.

The second half starts with Pitt scoring first on a fast break score. Krauser to Taft. Man that was ugly. Pitt just should avoid running the floor for purely aethestic reasons.

The second half continues with 'Cuse still sticking to the 2-3 zone, and it's costing them. McNamara is still in the game. I have to believe they are sticking with the zone to keep McNamara from having to chase any one too far.

Taft is getting a lot of props, and deservedly so for his game. He has an already strong defensive presence, but the accoclades are because of his skills on the offense with the soft passes and his touch off the glass. Chevy Troutman, though, is finally playing like he did last year, but without the attention. He is getting after the boards and doing all the dirty work inside on defense tonight. He isn't getting drawn too far out on defense.

Mark McCarroll is getting a lot more minutes tonight. The problem is he is no match for Hakim Warrick. McCarroll is very soft on defense. He has some good moves on offense, but until he improves his D; his minutes will not be going up.

With 12:09 left, Pitt has now reached a 46-32 lead. Pitt has been slowly wearing down Syracuse since the last 5 minutes in the first half. It isn't a big run at any time. It's a slow, grinding, punishing, millstone approach. The kind of game that slowly saps the will of an opponent, because without that big burst to give hope to answering, you just want to finish and go ice yourself down.

Of course, the refs are starting to call a much tighter game in the second half. By 12:02, Syracuse is in the bonus against Pitt shooting one-and-one. UConn, Pitt and Syracuse -- the entire elite of the Big East appears to be incapable of making free throws, so this is probably working against Syracuse.

With less than 11 minutes to go, and Pitt still extending the lead, Strader and Elmore talk about the job by Dixon in taking over from Howland. It's kind of obligatory, I guess. Pitt now has a 50-32 lead.

With 10 minutes to go in the game, McNamara is sitting more, and Syracuse goes to man-to-man defense. Too little, too late.

Pitt is using more of its bench as Syracuse just looks whupped. Morris, Graves, (and even) Demetrius are getting some minutes with McCarroll in the second half.

With 4:37 left, Pitt takes a 60-40 lead. A couple minutes later it is 64-43 and a wide shot of the Carrier Dome shows a very empty place (understandably).

Final Score. Pitt 66-45.

Post game on ESPN News. Strader says that it was all Pitt. Especially on the Defense.

Len Elmore interviews Coach Dixon and Chris Taft. Dixon spouts pure cliched coachspeak. Nothing interesting.

Taft, who had 15 points (6-10) and 8 rebounds was happy and confident. He said he expected to play well and was just playing his game.

Box Score review.

Troutman had the kind of game that makes him my favorite. 12 points (5-8 shooting), 11 boards (with a whopping 7 on the offensive end), a blocked shot and 4 personal fouls. Doing all the hard work and banging inside.

This was a powerful statement game for Pitt. They completely rebounded from the tough loss to UConn, to just beat up on Syracuse. Syracuse is stuck wondering how they can beat Pitt.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Themes 

Okay, I'll take credit for it. In one post, I seemed to have covered the local media themes for the week. Moral victory for Pitt against UConn. Check. No more moral victories for Pitt. Check. Praising Dixon as clearly the right hire. Check.

The game is on ESPN2 at 8 tonight. The teams are ready to have at it.

Depressing note of Pitt's basketball history while looking over the game notes (warning big PDF). This season was only the 6th time Pitt was ranked in the preseason top-25 polls.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Classic 

I suppose for alumni of big schools like Michigan, Georgia, Ohio State, Texas, North Carolina and such it is no big deal when ESPN Classic airs a college football or basketball game their team played. As a Pitt fan, though, it is a special treat to come across it.

So this afternoon at 3pm, I was pleasantly surprised to catch Pitt vs. Syracuse from January 4, 1989. Syracuse was the #2 team in the country with Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens and Derrick Coleman. They were hosting the underachieving Pitt Panthers. This would have been in my freshman year. Prior to the last few years, this was the one of the final Pitt teams to be competitive and massively underachieve under coach Paul Evans. This group ran until about 1991. Names from the past that only a Pitt fan can recall:

Brian Shorter, Darrelle Porter, Jason Matthews, Bobby Martin, and Sean Miller.

(Though, Miller is now considered a hot young coaching prospect, presently as an assistant at Xavier.)

Pitt upset 'Cuse 81-76, in what was only the 6th time Pitt won at Syracuse (and the last time until 1997).

Very strange to hear Dick Vitale (with Tim Brando) seem almost muted. He was a relatively normal color guy then. It's almost distracting.

The Latest Rankings of the 2004 College Football Recruiting Classes 

Since my last update, there has been some movement in the latest 2004 recruiting class rankings of both the Official College Sports Network (by ESPN.com's Bill Hodge) and Superprep.com (powered by TheInsiders.com Recruiting Network). However, the position of Pitt's recruiting class hasn't changed in either: #22 on Hodge's list and unranked in Superprep's.

OCSN/HODGE -- SUPERPREP
No. 1 Southern California -- 1. Southern California
No. 2 LSU -- 2. LSU
No. 3 Michigan -- 3. Michigan
No. 4 Oklahoma -- 4. Oklahoma
No. 5 Texas -- 5. Miami-Florida
No. 6 Ohio State -- 6. Ohio State
No. 7 Miami-Florida -- 7. Georgia
No. 8 Georgia -- 8. Texas
No. 9 Maryland -- 9. Penn State
No. 10 Florida -- 10. Maryland
No. 11 Oregon -- 11. UCLA
No. 12 Penn State -- 12. Texas A&M
No. 13 Texas A&M -- 13. Florida
No. 14 Alabama -- 14. Tennessee
No. 15 Florida State -- 15. Florida State
No. 16 UCLA -- 16. North Carolina
No. 17 Kansas State -- 17. Oregon
No. 18 Tennessee -- 18. Wash. State
No. 19 Washington -- 19. Washington
No. 20 Michigan State -- 20. Alabama
No. 21 Missouri -- 21. Texas Tech
No. 22 Pittsburgh -- 22. Iowa
No. 23 Texas Tech -- 23. Virginia Tech
No. 24 Purdue -- 24. Virginia
No. 25 Arizona State -- 25. Michigan State

...alright, you try to get columns to line up straight on Blogger -- you know, Blogger can be a piece of $#!T at times...

Although Pitt didn't move since Monday, Ohio State (now #6) got passed by Oklahoma and Texas while Penn State (now #12) got passed by Florida and Oregon on Hodge's list.

National signing day is now only 12 days off (February 4). So watch out for the cr@p hitting the fan this weekend.

Although I'm a little surprised that enthusiastically shouting out a couple of state's names is apparently enough to disqualify one from the Presidency, is anybody all that sorry to see Dean fall behind Kerry (and perhaps even Edwards)?

Hail to Pitt beating Syracuse.

Pitt-Syracuse 

I get the feeling no one really knows what is going to happen on Saturday in the game. The Post-Gazette's only Pitt article focuses on the fact that Coach Dixon has cut the minutes for the bench players in favor of playing the starters more, now that the Big East portion of the schedule has begun. Shocking. The competition gets better and Pitt opts to play the guys who are the best players more.

The Tribune-Review looks back at the thriller in the Carrier Dome from last year -- especially the bizarre events in the last second of the game. Pitt lost that game 67-65, and many 'Cuse faithful saw that game as the turning point in the season.

It seems Syracuse point guard, Gerry McNamara, who injured his groin earlier in the week is feeling better (via Orange Juice). Whether he plays, plays limited or sits is still unknown.

When McNamara struggles offensively, so has Syracuse. In SU's seven losses since the start of last season, the 6-foot-2 guard is averaging 13 points on 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 30.2-percent shooting from the 3-point line.

In SU's 43 wins, he's scoring 14.7 points on 41.8 percent shooting from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Though McNamara has had no serious injuries in his first 50 games in Syracuse, he is a guard who is typically fighting through nagging injuries, many as a result from his hustle and dives to the floor.

I expect he will play.

Orangenation has an absolutely stellar analysis of the match-up. I'm not sure what I can add to this look at the 88th meeting between Pitt and Syracuse.

Judging by what I'm reading, though, if McNamara has a bad game, the fans don't feel good about their chances. Given that McNamara, at best, will still be feeling a little tender Pitt should probably look to keep a body on him at all time, and maybe see about running him through a few screens at the other end. I'm feeling a little wishy-washy, though, and can't help but think that Syracuse might have started preparing for the game with the assumption that McNamara wouldn't play (or would be very limited). It's not like he's their only weapon. I have no clue how this game will turn out.

Senior Bowl Note 

From Mel Kiper, Jr.'s observations on the Senior Bowl practices so far

Pittsburgh TE Kris Wilson catches the ball and is athletic, but he's not very tall. Somebody will find a place for him on a roster. He will probably get drafted, but not until sometime during the second day.

I find this kind of surprising considering how good a player Wilson is. While wondering how much I overvalue Wilson because I saw him for the last few years, and I prefer for TE's to have a big roll in the offense (especially for the underneath passes). Still, I suppose it makes some sense. Teams don't exactly stockpile TE's or place a huge value on them, unless they are totally dominant like Winslow, Heap or Shockey. So, even the 3rd or 4th best TE might not go until the 4th round.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Final Round-Up on the UConn 

The "moral victory" theme was used in the Smizik column in the Post-Gazette today. Whatever

Bendel in the Tribune-Review goes with the idea that UConn-Pitt is now the Big East rivalry. Umm. No. Let's hold off on making this the thing that Georgetown-Syracuse was for so many years until Pitt shows they can maintain the level of achievement. Right now, it is merely the hot game in the Big East.

The three NYC dailies all had stories on the game. The Post; Daily News and Times. All spoke well of Pitt. The Daily News had also run a story on the NYC pipeline running to Pitt -- essentially attributing it to the problems at St. John's.

The Hartford Courant didn't do a lot of crowing about the home team. Just a sense of relief that they won.

Lemming on Morelli and Johnson 

I would apologize for digressing from this site's heady discussion on the close loss to UConn and the subsequent Panther basketball media hype. But if you've ever met any of the authors of PSB, you'd know that conversational digressions are pretty much ubiquitous around here.

(And yes, once again, I'm pretending that somebody besides the authors actually reads this site.)

But for those of us who get wrapped up in football recruiting enough to be actually concerned about Ohio State, Penn State, and (to a far lesser extent) UCLA courting Pitt blue chip verbal commitments QB Anthony Morelli and RB Andrew Johnson, ESPN's recruiting analyst Tom Lemming offers some reassuring words in his latest chat. And before we get any critical comments on Buckeye Fan's ability to spell, remember some of the spelling difficulties that we've had on this site (and we have a spellchecker, fer chrissakes).

John (C'bus): Tom - any chance that OSU can land the Penny. trio of Morelly, Johson and Bryant?

Tom Lemming: I think you mean Anthony Morelli, Andrew Johnson and James Bryant -- don't do this to me again, I'm not that bright to begin with and when you mis-spell everyone's name, it causes me a lot of trouble. I think Pitt has the best shot at landing this trio, but if any else has a legit shot of pulling them out of western PA it would be the Buckeyes of Ohio State.


Although I generally don't hyphenate the word "misspell," I tend to agree with Lemming. This is more than likely a tempest in a teacup. Morelli and Johnson probably know that they would be better off at Pitt (especially Morelli), both are surrounded by Pitt alumni, plus Ohio State rarely ever raids another school's verbals (not that there's anything wrong with that). Still, it's a situation worth keeping an eye on.

Is it just me, or is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy starting to get old? You can only use the same slob jokes so many times. It's a shame, really. I liked that show when it first came out, plus now I have nothing to watch on Tuesdays.

Hail to some freakin' snowmelt already.

Winning For Losing 

I wonder how much people must have been undervaluing Pitt, prior to the UConn game. It seems in a Pitt loss, the team has gotten more respect and recognition.

Losing to Connecticut 68-65 in the final possession shouldn't mar any of the accomplishments. This team, this program and this coach are as tough as they've ever been in the Steel City, maybe even tougher.

How do we know?

Listen to the respect that the Huskies heap on the Panthers. And this isn't coachspeak or a few courtesy comments from a team that will play them again in the regular season. The Huskies genuinely respect Pittsburgh and call them easily their toughest rival in the Big East. Playing them in back-to-back Big East tournament title games (they've split the last two) earned the Panthers the right to move ahead of Syracuse as Connecticut's latest nemesis.

"Tonight's game wasn't for everyone," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said of the demands the game would make on his players. "Their system is tough. They screen you so much and hit you so much. I'm sure there is an awful lot of contact at their practices. ... Jamie is demanding nothing but the best from them. They're the best I've seen at getting you out of position before the ball comes to you. You catch the ball and all of a sudden you're not where you're supposed to be."

ESPN moved Pitt into the #7 position in their "Power 16." Now maybe I'm just not used to the positive vibes going to Pitt. Or maybe the Pitt football team has scarred me even deeper than I realized, but this is getting a little silly. Yes, Pitt is a very good team. Very likely will be battling for the Big East title and another Sweet 16 run. Beyond that, I just don't know yet. This all seems a little excessive, and a little too predicated on a couple games on ESPN in the last week plus (Self-question: doesn't that just reflect the importance and value of getting into the national rotation for games on ESPN? Doesn't that help make it self perpetuating? Yes and it can but plenty have fallen off the perch -- UMass, Seton Hall, NC St., LSU, Utah, the list can go on. The point was that the whole thing now is skewed the other direction in how the media feels about Pitt.) A little perspective, please.

As Shawn said to me the other night, if Pitt can split the games this week then we know how legitimate they are. Pitt has another big road game Saturday night against Syracuse -- the defending National Champs. Pitt needs a win on the road against a ranked opponent to prove they are near as good as people are now saying they are. As good as Pitt played Monday night, it was still a loss. That was their one "moral" victory for the year. There are no more of those. The game looks even tougher following the 'Cuse's loss to Seton Hall this past night -- even if Syracuse sophomore guard Gerry McNamara is questionable with a groin injury.

Finally, can people stop declaring that Jamie Dixon was clearly the right choice as if there is nothing to debate. That won't be known for sure for a couple years. Anyone remember the job by Bruiser Flint in following John Calipari at UMass? Looked good for the first year, but then things fell apart. I like the job Dixon has done so far, and the team is definitely listening (free throw shooting, excepted); but it is time to tone things down.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Recap -- UConn 68 Pitt 65 

Doing Game Notes for a basketball game is a lot more difficult than football. Football allows plenty of time to write and note what is and is not working. Basketball is in continual motion, and you can't look away for long stretches to make a note. Still, I find that I want to take them. It seems I've crossed into something of geeky territory, because I have found that I actually like taking the notes. I pay more attention to the game and I am actually seeing the offense and defense running their plays or zones.

Going into this game I was a bit worried because of UConn's tough loss on Saturday at North Carolina. Ideally, I wanted UConn to have won that game with very physical play by both sides and still be number 1. They lost and slipped to #4, and would obviously be looking to bounce back. Their coach, Jim Calhoun, is too good to let them lose 2 in a row with the talent they have.

Before the game, I saw that Pitt got a huge bump in both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll to #9 (from #15) and in the AP Writers poll to #8 (from #13). I was very surprised by the level of the bump and it struck me as a little much. Pitt may have been underrated in the polls by a couple notches, but seeing them jump Kansas and Georgia Tech (both of whom didn't lose last week) was a bit much. I'm guessing Pitt's first national game (last Monday against Notre Dame) was viewed by more of the voters.

The first 10 minutes do not go well for Pitt. They play completely off their style. Krauser, especially, tries to match UConn's uptempo style to push the ball up and down the court. This is a big mistake. Pitt has strong physical players who are tough and difficult to move on defense. By playing uptempo, UConn, which has faster, more athletic players can use their speed to get around the Pitt defense. Since they are playing uptempo, the Pitt defenders are reacting a little late and keep getting whistled for ticky-tack fouls -- reach-ins, hand checks and the like -- because they are being beat on the dribble. Pitt needs to slow the game down and keep UConn from moving the ball so much.

Page and Krause both pick up 2 two fouls early. At the 12 minute mark, Pitt calls a time-out. Coach Dixon is visibly hot. Pitt is down 18-10. He is pissed at the refs for the cheap calls, and is being pushed back to the bench by a couple assistants. I get why he is pissed at the refs. The cheap calls are all against Pitt right now, but that is because Pitt is completely off their game. The players look visibly flustered and worried about the refs; they are playing UConn's style; and that is leading them to take bad shots. They are running and gunning, but misfiring.

Pitt goes down 20-10 at about the 11 minute mark, and Pitt uses another time out. This time, Dixon is focused on his players rather than the officials. This marked the turnaround in the game for Pitt. It quickly became obvious that Dixon really got on the team -- and they actually listened -- about not playing UConn's game. About playing the half-court game that they can win. Not the up and down the court, frenetic pace that is killing them.

And the message gets through. Pitt goes on a 7-0 run over the next 3-4 minutes. The game slows to a half-court game where Pitt controls the tempo. Pitt, does, though miss some big opportunities to score more.

There has been a lot of talk about the difference in the team from last year with Brendin Knight at point versus this year with Carl Krauser. Knight was the more traditional PG looking for passes, setting up the offense, and having great court vision. Krauser is more the scoring PG. He looks around the court, as much to get his own shot as he does for finding the open pass.

I was struck by just how much Krauser can hurt the team at times during the 7-0 run when he forgets about his teammates. Pitt was cleaning the boards on rebounds, both on offense and defense, leading to the run, but there were plenty of missed chances. The problem was Krauser was more interested in slashing and driving more than he was in passing. He would stand out beyond the key looking things over, trying to get a lane cleared for him to drive. Or he would pass the ball on the perimeter where it would clearly have to go back to him. Since everyone knew he was looking to take the ball himself, the Pitt players were not moving as much. They were not cutting and moving away and without the ball. To some degree they had to stay where they were. They weren't sure which way Krauser was going with the ball, and the most they can do is try and get their defender to move out of the lanes.

Of course, UConn came out of the drought, and you could see just how much talent is on the team. They have excellent shooters. Their size inside is something to envy with Emaka Okafor, Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueva. Then add in their excellent shooters with Ben Gordon and Denham Brown. Jeez. If they could make free throws (gee, that sounds familiar), they would be unbeatable.

By halftime, UConn reasserted themselves and had a 39-32 lead.

Think Pitt would like to have the first 9 minutes or so back for a do over? The bright side, it only took them 9 minutes to start playing their game. In the last week or so, it has taken Pitt at least 15 minutes to an entire half, before they settle down and play the game at their tempo. This is something that Dixon has to get control of immediately. Getting Pitt to play their style from the opening tip-off. Not getting caught up in trying to push the ball or play too fast.

Playing up-tempo led to more turnovers -- Pitt had 9 in the first half; and poor shooting -- only 39%.

The second half is completely Pitt's style from the opening. Pitt has the tempo at their pace. There's some frustration by UConn that they haven't been able to put Pitt away. Pitt, on the other hand, hasn't really been able to close because UConn keeps responding to any surge by Pitt.

At about 13:40, Pitt ties the game at 47. Then takes the lead 49-47 at the 13 minute mark. UConn has been held to only 8 points in the first 7 minutes of the second half.

UConn ties then takes the lead. And for the next 10 minutes I have no notes because the game keeps going back and forth. Neither side getting any separation. The lead changing. This is an edge of the seat game. UConn never getting more than 4 points ahead of Pitt; Pitt never being more than 2 points ahead.

At 2:47, Krauser gives Pitt a 63-62 lead. But UConn retakes the lead at 1:45. Then extends the lead to 3. UConn's big men really work the glass, and UConn shows how good they can be at killing the clock when they need to.

Pitt gets back within one point, 66-65 with 34 seconds left, and they have to foul. Oddly enough, since the refs kept their whistles in their pocket most of the second half, Pitt had to foul 3 times before they got to the one-and-one free throw time. UConn is just as bad as Pitt at the line. Unfortunately, Denham Brown made his free throws to give UConn a 68-65 lead with 25.8 seconds left.

Krauser takes the ball and drove right to the basket. Unfortunately, for Pitt, UConn was not biting. They knew Krauser was going to take it all the way himself. That he wouldn't pass the ball or kick it out. He ended up being stuffed and UConn got the ball with 14.4 left. Krauser and Pitt were completely predictable. It cost them against a talented and well coached team.

By the time Pitt fouled, 6 more seconds had run. UConn missed the first of the one-and-one. Pitt got it and called time out. 5.5 seconds left. Still a chance to send it to OT.

On the inbound, Ben Gordon gambled on the steal for the inbound to Krauser and whiffed. Krauser drove to the 3 point line and passed to the open Adam Graves, the freshman point guard. Graves had an open look but it hit the front of the rim. Damn.

Final score UConn 68-65.

It's still hard to be that upset over this loss. UConn is one of the best teams in the country, and Pitt almost beat them in Hartford. Just a little short. If Pitt could have had the first 9 minutes back... Oh, well. There is a rematch this year, and Syracuse is coming up on Saturday.

Post-game. Caught Digger Phelps' comments like Lee It was still nice to see Phelps finally concede how good Pitt is, after his dismissal of them last week after the Notre Dame game.

When did Chevy Troutman start playing so far away from the basket? He has been too far away all season. He can't get rebounds or points when he is that far out (7 boards, 5 points) and he is not the kind of player to be out there. He needs to be down low more. I know that with Chris Taft, that he is playing outside more, but he needs to be closer. Way too often he was up at the free throw line or further.

Box score. Despite only getting to the line 7 times, Pitt went 6-7 (it helps when Jaron Brown doesn't get to the line). Pitt shot a tolerable 7-20 from 3-point land, but shot only 41.3% (26-63) overall. Julius Page shot only 4-11 with 14 points. He has not shot well all year now, with his shooting % for the year at 41.1%.

Monday, January 19, 2004

The Latest Rankings of the 2004 College Football Recruiting Classes 

Just a quick note on football recruiting while I'm gearing up for the Pitt-UConn basketball game tonight (yes, I'm mostly a football fan... but basketball helps me get through the winter)... Since my last update on Friday, there hasn't been any change in the Superprep.com (powered by TheInsiders.com Recruiting Network) ranking of the 2004 football recruiting classes. However, the Official College Sports Network rankings by ESPN.com's Bill Hodge has changed slightly. USC has edged out LSU at the top, and both Georgia and Maryland have surged past Penn State -- FINALLY knocking the Nittany Lions out of the #8 spot. However, Ohio State is still at #4, Boston College is still at #24, and most importantly, Pitt is still at #22. Here's the whole list.

No. 1 Southern California (Top JCs)
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Ohio State
No. 5 Oklahoma
No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Miami-Florida
No. 8 Georgia
No. 9 Maryland
No. 10 Penn State
No. 11 Alabama
No. 12 Florida
No. 13 Texas A&M
No. 14 Washington
No. 15 UCLA (Top JCs)
No. 16 Tennessee
No. 17 Michigan State
No. 18 Florida State
No. 19 Oregon
No. 20 Missouri
No. 21 Kansas State (Top JCs)
No. 22 Pittsburgh
No. 23 Texas Tech (Top JCs)
No. 24 Boston College
No. 25 Purdue
Tie No. 25 Iowa

These rankings will start being updated more regularly as we approach national signing day (February 4). I'll try to keep everyone up to date.

Hail to Pitt's upsetting UConn. Good luck, guys. You'll need it.


UCONN 68, PITTSBURGH 65: LEE'S POST-GAME COMMENTS
I've never posted on basketball before for a very good reason. As much as I genuinely enjoy the game, I simply don't understand it at anywhere near the same level as I understand football. That being said, I was kind of impressed by our Panthers's showing in Hartford tonight. Heck, even Digger Phelps admitted on ESPN's post-game show that he expected Pitt to get blown out by the very physical Huskies. But to the complete surprise of Digger and I, Pitt was able to slow down and flat out out-physical UConn for major stretches of the second half. Really, UConn should feel lucky to have escaped the upset at home (or close enough to home, anyways). I'm already looking forward to the rematch in our house.

Next up, the Panthers go to #19 Syracuse: next Saturday night at 8:00 PM on ESPN2 (so Chas can watch it in Cleveland)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Two and Through 

Looks like we only got 2 seasons to watch Larry Fitzgerald play for Pitt. It appears that the NFL will let him in early.

Two seasons into what already has been a standout college career, Pittsburgh receiver Larry Fitzgerald early this week will be declared eligible for the 2004 NFL draft, league sources have told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Because he is a true sophomore, Fitzgerald is not eligible for the draft based on the NFL rule that prevents players from entering the draft until three NFL seasons have "elapsed" -- language that has evolved into a league policy stating that players must be three years out of high school.

However, the NFL is verifying that Fitzgerald indeed earned enough credits at a military school he transferred to during his senior year of high school, sources have told Mortensen. In that case, Fitzgerald would meet the league requirement of being three years removed from his prep graduating class, and thus be eligible to enter the draft.

Well, it would have been nice if he could have stayed, but I can't argue with him going pro. There will be new QB under center, a new WR coach (should be a new offensive coordinator, but Walt doesn't see that as necessary), loss of the starting RB and TE. Just a lot of changes. Add in, of course, the fact that he is a projected Top 5 pick, and there is absolutely no reason to stay.

I can only wish him well in the pros, and hope the Eagles trade up for him. That would be sweet.

WVU's loss/Pitt's gain? 

Here in hoopieland, the biggest news in recent weeks is the not-entirely-understood dismissal of WVU's top scorer, Drew Schifino. Until a couple weeks ago, all seemed well with Schifino -- he'd received the usual glowing articles in the local paper; everyone testified about what a great kid he was. Then, suddenly, he was off the team, a couple days after making some give-me-the-damn-ball type comments to the media. The Morgantown Dominion-Post seemed to lean toward Schifino in their coverage, hinting that Coach John Beilein had perhaps prematurely terminated Schifino because he was a hold-over from the previous coach's era. Whatever the case, the Mountaineers have since dropped two in a row, to Virginia Tech and Providence.

I, of course, immediately wondered if Schifino, a Pittsburgh guy, would transfer to Pitt. And would Pitt want a kid who was kicked off another team, a kid they didn't recruit? On the other hand, Schifino was averaging 20.1 points per game this season and had scored in the double digits in a NCAA-record 48 consecutive games before his streak came to an end in a loss to Notre Dame earlier this month. (That was when he told reporters that he wasn't getting the ball enough under Beilein.)

Last week, Schifino told the Post-Gazette that he has "always wanted to play for Pitt." The Dominion-Post is not clear on whether or not such a transfer would be easy, according to NCAA rules.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

That Worked Out Well 

Back in August, Pitt released an incoming freshman basketball player from his scholarship to Pitt. As Pat said at the time, Pitt had depth at the position, the freed-up scholarship could be used to sign a much needed back-up point guard, and the recruit (Walt Waters) had yet to academically qualify. Well Pitt did use the scholarship to get a good young point guard.

The player Pitt lost accepted an offer at Cleveland State. My local paper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was very excited about this recruiting "coup," and glossed over the whole academic qualifications thing at the time.

Guess who has been declared ineligible for the rest of the season for academic problems?

Friday, January 16, 2004

The Latest Rankings of the 2004 College Football Recruiting Classes 

College Football's second season is nearly finished. National signing day is only 19 days away (February 4). Although there are still plenty of blue chippers out there uncommitted, everybody's rankings of the 2004 recruiting classes are starting to firm up. However, there have been a few changes in the Official College Sports Network rankings by ESPN.com's Bill Hodge since my last update. Because Pitt didn't pull in as many recruits as some other schools did, we have fallen from the 18th ranked class on January 4 to the 22nd ranked class today (in mid-December, we had been ranked as high as #14). Losing either Anthony Morelli or Andrew Johnson to Ohio State, Penn State, or UCLA would surely knock us out of the rankings altogether.

Since my last update on the aforementioned OCSN/Bill Hodge rankings, Ohio State has climbed up two more spots to #4, Michigan has fallen behind LSU and USC to #3, Penn State has remained stuck at #8 (the Lions seem to been at #8 forever now), Maryland has remained at #10, Boston College has fallen a spot to #24, and the Panthers remain the only loyal Big East team ranked at all. Here's the whole list.

No. 1 LSU
Tie No. 1 Southern California (Top JCs)
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Ohio State
No. 5 Oklahoma
No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Miami-Florida
No. 8 Penn State
No. 9 Georgia
No. 10 Maryland
No. 11 Alabama
No. 12 Texas A&M
No. 13 Missouri
No. 14 Florida
No. 15 UCLA (Top JCs)
No. 16 Tennessee
No. 17 Washington
No. 18 Florida State
No. 19 Oregon
No. 20 Michigan State
No. 21 Kansas State (Top JCs)
No. 22 PITTSBURGH
No. 23 Texas Tech (Top JCs)
No. 24 Boston College
No. 25 Iowa
Tie No. 25 Purdue

Superprep.com (powered by TheInsiders.com Recruiting Network) has its own ranking of the 2004 college football recruiting classes thus far. Pitt falls out of the Superprep ranking entirely. However, Michigan is at #3, Ohio State is at #6, Penn State is STILL at #8, Maryland is at #9, Virginia Tech (unranked in Hodge's list) comes in at #22, and Boston College (like Pitt) is unranked.

There's your latest roundup. I look at these rankings on a fairly regular basis, so I'll update everybody if something changes (especially if we lose one of our big boys).

Hail to PennDOT's finding some way to de-ice the roads that doesn't involve cinders which chip up the paint on my freakin' car.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Can You Say, Pretext? I Knew You Could 

Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's everything. Either way, this story sent a chill down my spine with regards to Pitt football recruiting.

Penn Hills quarterback Anthony Morelli, Pitt's marquee recruit from the Class of 2004, has told Panthers coaches he is going to talk to other schools because of their silence over his snub by a national all-star game.
...
Morelli, who gave Pitt a verbal commitment in August, has received overtures from Ohio State, Penn State and UCLA, among others, since December.

He would be Pitt's second high-profile WPIAL recruit to re-open the recruiting process. North Hills tailback Andrew Johnson has scheduled an official visit to Ohio State this weekend. Verbal commitments are non-binding. The national letter of intent signing period begins Feb. 4.

According to the story, Morelli is bent because he wasn't selected to play in a national high school all-star game. The head coach of the squad he would have played for is the father of Tyler Palko -- a redshirt sophmore, who will be competing for the starting position with Morelli in the next couple of years. Morelli claims that the Palkos punked him out of the all star game -- the coach Palko claims he had nothing to do with it, that he doesn't have a say in who is selected for the squads.

Pitt coach Walt Harris is in Florida (presumably recruiting) but will be returning to talk to the Morellis.

This thing stinks. I have trouble buying that Morelli is going to consider other schools just weeks before the national letter of intent day due to being snubbed. It sounds like a crock, that Morelli was just looking for an excuse to reconsider his options after getting plenty of whispers about the future of Pitt football and the Big East. If he just admitted that, I would have a hard time getting annoyed with the news because it is what we feared when the ACC staged its raid.

I'm back to praying for the Big 11 miracle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Final Comment on the Non-Con 

I wish I had noticed this article last week. It talks about various top-25 teams as whether you should buy or sell their rank based on what they had accomplished in the non-conference portion of their schedule.

PITTSBURGH -- SELL: Of all the soft non-conference schedules that have been played this season, this is the one that disappoints me most. Pitt doesn't have the luxury of being an established commodity like Syracuse, and a couple of big-time games on national TV would do wonders for elevating the program. Not only have the Panthers not played a single ranked team, they have also played exactly one road game. They're a good team, but not nearly as good as their 14-0 record and No. 15 ranking would indicate. And that schedule will really hurt their NCAA seeding.

This makes a really good point. Pitt isn't a household name in college basketball. 3 straight years playing in the Big East Championship game (winning it last year) and 2 straight Sweet 16 appearances does not erase the decade or so of anonymity that was Pitt basketball.

Cheer and Dance Focus 

I want to thank Pat for the valuable summary of the game from the stands. Pat points out that his favorite cheerleader was out of action for another game. Unfortunately, there is no Pitt Dance/Cheerleading site. This makes no sense, given the number of Google searches for the Pitt dance and cheerleading team that have come to this blog in its 5 month history. This is the only page Pitt provides for the Pitt spirit squads. Please note, that it is also out of date. It hasn't been updated for 2003-04. Sad. Once again, PSB must call on the people running Pitt's dance and cheer squads to make some effort to set up a separate site. Surely there are many computer geeks at Pitt who would be happy to assist in this worthy endeavor.

Pat also reminded me of some thing I noticed about the Pitt dance team -- which, by the way, was looking a little more toned than they did through the first half of the football season -- the Pitt dance team has to be the most modestly dressed dance team in the BCS. Come on, girls. You are indoors now. There is no excuse for pants, and top with a body stocking cover to the neck and arms. No mid rifs. No shorts. Hell, not even an elbow exposed.


You can do better.

Now, before Pat and the others jump on me to point out that the cheerleaders look hotter than the dance team this year -- let me just say that I agree with that assessment. I am merely commenting on the dance team's outfit since they received more time on the ESPN cameras than the cheerleaders.

It's just a good thing my wife doesn't even bother to read this site.

Thoughts on the Pitt - ND game 

I hit The Pete last night for the game (Steve swapped his two nosebleed seats for two 100 level seats behind the ND bench - nice). To my great pleasure, not too many ND fans were in attendance, even though Jerome Bettis was sitting one section over - he was badly out numbered.

First, I must mention that my favorite cheerleader (whose name I don't know, so we'll call her "Bambii") was not in the squad for the third straight game (that I attended). She is the taller blonde one, who has becomed quite toned this year.

Anyway, I spotted Bambii in the Student Section in street clothes during the Georgia game (looking quite hot in a pink sweater and low-rider jeans). The cameraman, probably one of the same guys that covers all the games, zoomed for a close up that was put on the big screen - she appeared to know the cameraman based on her reaction. At first I wrote it off as a christmas break breather - let the underclass girls get some quality time during non-conference games, etc.

Then, to my dismay, Bambii was not in the cast for the ND game - arguably one of the biggest home games of the year, with a national tv audience. What's up with that, I asked?
Is she off the squad for the semester? Academically ineligible? Has she used up all of her eligiblitiy, perhaps having joined the squad in the spring of her freshman year? Is she injured? If so, is she suffering from a deep thigh bruise - requiring lots of massage therapy and time in the whirlpool/hot-tub? My mind was racing....

Back to the game. Pitt looked good. The crowd was great, and the students were crazy - all made for a great atmosphere.
I was worried we would be out-rebounded for the second straight game, but we turned it on in the paint in the second half. ND just couldn't miss from beyond the arc late in the game - that was real annoying. But Pitt held on, and good teams find a way to win even when their opponents have two hot shooters.

Other observations:
Page seems a little off. Not just his shooting, but Thomas had him running and jumping all over the court. AND he was missing foul shots! Hopefully he will get out of this funk that he is in now.
Taft is the man. It's just that simple. We'll be lucky to get two years out of this kid before he turns pro.
Dixon can coach - once Jones got his fourth foul, Pitt went after him. Brown had at least four layups when he got the ball down low, backed his way into the paint, and Jones just let him do it. Jones just refused to play tough D when he was in foul trouble, and Pitt exploited that fact.
Krauser has an ugly three point shot. He seems to force it, but often they go in anyway. I just hope he keeps it up.
Troutman is not the player he was last year. He's good, but he isn't shooting as well.
McCarroll has stepped up A LOT. He had been a bust the past two seasons, in spite of being a highly touted recruit. His emergence has really helped Pitt.

Hey, we're 17-0. How many teams can claim that? We are favored at home against Rutgers this weekend, but then we go away to UConn and Syracuse within 5 days. If we can win one (or both) of those away games, then I will be convinced this team is for real. I am almost convinced right now.

Recap -- ND v. Pitt -- Phew! 

Where to start. Pitt won 74-71. Pitt did not play a particularly inspiring game, but they weren't lucky to win or such. The box score actually tells most of the story. Still, I took notes

This was the 7pm game on ESPN's "Big Monday," but it wasn't the big game. Apparently the hype was going to the Syracuse/Missouri game. ESPN-HD was showing that one (for all 5 people that actually have it), and more importantly, that meant that would be where Dick Vitale would be calling the game. I really wish I could recall where I read it recently, but someone was writing about watching a college game from the mid-80s on ESPN Classic where the color guy was smart, insightful and didn't overpower the game. Then realized it was Dick Vitale before he became a caricature of himself.

For the ND-Pitt match-up, it would be a 3-man crew of Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas. None of these guys really annoy me, and I found no reason to consider plunging an ice pick into my ears.

Pitt had a lot of trouble staying patient on offense. There were noticeable spells where Pitt was just hoisting shots and giving up the easy board. At the 11:40 mark in the first half, Pitt took a time out and when play resumed you could tell that Coach Dixon must have said something. The team really took some time setting up the half-court offense and looking for the open man. This would be something that happened throughout the game, even the commentating crew noticed a couple times. I think it was Bilas (with around 2:15 left in the first half) who said that Pitt's lack of patience on the offense was "bailing Notre Dame out." By halftime it was Notre Dame by one, 31-30.

Chris Thomas was smoking in the first half, and it continued for him in the second half. He finished the night with 29 points on 11-22 shooting (7-13 from 3-point) and 9 assists.

Pitt was outrebounded in the first half. Chris Taft was doing great work underneath, blocking shots and disrupting drives to the basket, but Chevy Troutman was not playing inside. He was often out beyond the free throw line guarding someone. ND was much more active in the first half to get after the loose board.

The first 5 minutes of the second half was very sloppy from both sides. The teams struggled to score, and shot poorly. Notre Dame, which does not have much depth, started committing more fouls. Of course, this is Pitt's weakness. Pitt could not seem to make free throws for a while. By the 6:07 mark in the second half, they flashed a stat showing Pitt going 4-11 from the line.

Notre Dame held on to their lead for almost the first 11 minutes of the second half, but Pitt started to dominate physically after a while. Pitt started to slowly take a lead and extend it. With 3 minutes to go, Pitt had a 63-54 lead.

At that point, the Irish began raining down the 3 pointers. They made 4 straight 3-pointers, went 5-6 from the 3-point line in the last 2.5 minutes. Pitt made some easy buckets and then had to earn their points from the free throw line.

Julius Page, usually one of the better FT shooters for Pitt, went 2-5 in the final minutes; but was bailed out because Taft and Troutman made their two FTs each. Jaron Brown -- who has an ugly FT shot -- added 1-2.

Pitt held on. ND went 12-26 from the 3-point line, which was what kept them in the game. Pitt went only 5-16.

Free throw shooting made this game closer than it should have. Pitt went 11-22 from the line. That is pathetic. At home. No screaming fans trying to distract. The team shot nearly that same percentage with contested shots -- 29-60. Jay Bilas talked to Dixon after the game and asked him about the lousy free throw shooting. Dixon, taking a page from his mentor, Ben Howland, dismissed the concerns. He pointed out that Pitt made the free throws when they needed them. Of course, if they made some of them earlier, they wouldn't have had to worry about making them later. Free throws will cost Pitt at least one victory this season.

Good balance in the scoring again. Jaron Brown led with 19 points, then Julius Page with 18, Krauser had 15 and Troutman and Taft each had 10. Chris Taft also had 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. He is playing amazingly well as a freshman. Yuri Demitrius will keep playing fewer minutes for a reason. He can't contribute. He only played 6 minutes, missed the front end of a one-and-one, and didn't provide any defense.

Pitt needs to remember to be patient on offense. Krauser still gets a little too excited at times, and tries to score without looking to see if someone might have a better shot. There are times when Krauser and Page just don't seem to be in the same sync that Page had with Knight. Otherwise, Pitt looked good.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Big Monday 

Family duties kept me from the computer most of the weekend, so there was no way I could preview the big match-up (and it is big, despite the stupid slant taken in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the game isn't quite so big because Notre Dame had some early losses) that starts in about a half-hour between Pitt and Notre Dame on ESPN.

So I never got to post on the big double OT road win for Pitt over Miami on Saturday (but what about the other guys? don't know, ask them?). I don't know why this game being close and tight was surprising. Miami has a very good coach, one big star (Darius Rice), and a better than average team. Add in the possibility that Pitt might have been looking past them, and it was Pitt's first road game in almost 2 months -- and it hardly seems that far-fetched. I mean, I saw the potential last week.

Pitt's 15-0 start also has a Post-Gazette columnist planting a big slurpy one on head coach Jamie Dixon's rear as he jumps on the bandwagon. I'm not ready to go that far yet. Things can change quickly, and there are still plenty of questions. Still, even I will admit to some surprise that Pitt didn't lose focus and give a game away early in the season.

Get their free throws over 75% and I'm in all the way.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Still Winning 

Pitt won its Big East opener against perennial bottom dweller Virginia Tech 78-59. VT played well for the first 18 minutes or so. They were shooting lights out from the 3-point line and forced 10 turnovers with some solid defense the game was tied at 28 with a little more than 5 minutes left in the first half. Then Pitt went on a run and it was 39-33 in favor of Pitt. The second half was all Pitt. Pitt Guard, Jaron Brown had a career game with 21 points, 4 steals, 4 rebounds and 3 assists (though his free throw percentage dropped even lower with a 1-4 shooting) while getting to 1,000 points. Still, I implore Jaron to stop shooting 3-pointers. He is a terrifying 4-30 at that range.

Freshman sensation, Chris Taft, got his third start in place of Senior Torree Morris. Taft also had a great game and doesn't look to be going out of the line-up anytime soon. Morris played only 6 minutes in the game committing 2 fouls and scoring 4 points.

Next up, at Miami on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Lee's Football Season Wrap-Up 

Here's a quick look back at the just-concluded college football season from my perspective.
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Over this past season, I picked 60 games against the spread on this website. Despite my obsessing over college football to a greater extent than almost anybody I know, my final season record was only 29-30-1. I see this as proof of how good Las Vegas really is at setting spreads. I'm always impressed when anybody can bet over .500 for a long period of time.

Incidentally, I went 3-3 on my bowl picks. I correctly predicted that Miami of Ohio, USC, and Virginia would cover against Louisville, Michigan, and Pitt respectively. However, the Gator Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl were all surprises to me. How West Virginia could look that pitiful against Maryland is beyond my reasoning: the Mountaineers's disciplinary problems cannot explain it all. And I'm not sure that anybody saw Oklahoma's collapse coming against LSU.

Of course, I'd like to personally thank my graduate alma mater for sticking it to me in its bowl game three freakin' years in a row. The sad part is that I KNOW Kansas State is always one of the most overrated programs in college football. I should have remembered this when I picked the Wildcats to cover against my beloved Buckeyes. It's just that KSU looked so good in destroying previously invincible Oklahoma.
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Does everybody out there remember how hard Chas pushed us all to play ESPN's Bowl Mania (presented by Sonic)? Well, I kicked his ass at it. I went 19-9 at picking bowl games without spreads (see how easy it is?) -- earning 282 total points (out of a possible 402) and ranking in the 93.5th percentile nationally. Chas, meanwhile, went 18-10 -- earning 253 total points and ranking in the 79.3rd percentile nationally. My biggest losses were in the Holiday Bowl (seriously, Texas... you suck), the Sugar Bowl, and the Fiesta Bowl (damn Buckeyes).

However, I only came in second in our little Pitt Sports Blather group. R. DEMICHIEI came in first: going 20-8, earning 298 total points, and ranking in the 97.5th percentile nationally. So congratulations to R. DEMICHIEI. Also, congratulations are due to our regular contributor Pat, who went 0-28 and came in dead last. In Pat's defense, filling out the submission form properly was much more complicated than Chas made it out to be.
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For me, the highlight of this season was Pitt's upsetting Virginia Tech (then ranked #5) 31-28 on November 8, 2003. However, this particular incident may well have been our comic highlight. My favorite post of the ones I wrote was this crack back on Penn State for blaming their falling ticket sales on terrorism.
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There were so many disappointments this season that picking an actual lowlight of the year is hard. Maybe I should go with that 52-31 complete asskicking that I witnessed in person in Morgantown on November 15. Our once proud-to-be-tough Panthers were completely out-physicalled. We knew exactly what the Mountaineers were going to do on virtually every play in the second half. We were simply too weak, too undisciplined, and too poorly coached (especially on defense) to stop them.

Maybe I should go with that loss to Miami that knocked us out of what would have been our first BCS bowl berth. Maybe I should go with that first stumbling block at Toledo or that domination by Notre Dame. But I think that I'll instead go with Pitt's blowing its best chance ever (1) to be Big East Football Champions, and (2) to finally surpass Penn State as the automatic, go-to-school for top Pennsylvanian recruits. Given PSU's terrible season, we had a unique opportunity to take the driver's seat in Commonwealth recruiting. But already, that opportunity seems to be slipping away.
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Well, we might as well make it official. The 2003 Oregon Award for the worst uniforms in college football goes to, who else?


The University of Oregon (seen here losing to Minnesota in the Sun Bowl). Seriously, somebody in Eugene should have sued Nike. Looking different hardly means that you look good. Incidentally, the University of Wyoming earns the runner-up spot with this ode to what's floating in my toilet.


The Syracuse/Illinois all-orange uniforms get honorable mentions.
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So now it's on to college football's second season: recruiting. As I've mentioned before, our current recruiting class is ranked 18th in the country and first in the new Big East. Unfortunately, Penn State is currently ranked 8th in the country.
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Hail to a 2004 that is brighter than 2003 was.

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