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.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Easier Than Expected 

It wasn't even close in the second half. Providence just could not take the physical beating inside from Pitt. I'm impressed that they were able to hang with BC (twice) and Syracuse, given the way Pitt pounded. Maybe they were hitting more 3s in those other games.

Also Impressed 

I think the guys in Pittsburgh who cover high school and recruiting for the area have become suitably impressed with Coach Dave Wannstedt already:
When new Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt claimed he wanted to make Western Pennsylvania a top priority for the Panthers, he wasn't kidding.

Now, everyone knows he's dead serious.

The Panthers upped their number of WPIAL recruits from the Class of 2005 to nine this weekend, adding verbal commitments from Seton-La Salle quarterback Bill Stull and Monessen linebacker Ernest "Mick" Williams.
Pitt now has the top two quarterback prospects in the WPIAL, perhaps the state, in Stull and Central Catholic's Shane Murray. The last time Pitt signed two WPIAL quarterbacks in the same class was in 2002, with West Allegheny's Tyler Palko and Steel Valley's Luke Getsy.
Williams said Pitt assistant coach Bob Junko recruited him to play defense, where he will be tried at middle linebacker.

"They said at the snap of the ball, I get downhill great," Williams said. "That's what they needed. I wouldn't mind playing defensive end, but I want to be a linebacker."

Williams, however, is ranked the nation's No. 8 fullback prospect by Rivals.com and could end up there. A three-year starter for the Greyhounds, he rushed for 1,109 yards and 13 touchdowns on 131 carries as a senior.

Williams was deciding between Pitt, Iowa and Indiana. Stull isn't speaking, but his high school coach is sure happy to talk.

Stull always liked Pitt, but the feeling wasn't mutual when Walt Harris was coach. Pitt didn't recruit Stull during Harris' days, so Stull committed to Kentucky Dec. 20.

But Harris left for Stanford, Wannstedt was hired at Pitt and Wannstedt hired Paul Dunn as an assistant coach. Dunn recruited Stull for Kentucky. Wannstedt recently decided to take a look at Stull and Stull met with Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh Saturday.

Stull went home Saturday afternoon, but was asked to attend Pitt's basketball game Saturday night. He was offered a scholarship and accepted.

"I think it's a great fit for Billy," said Seton-LaSalle offensive coordinator Greg Perry, who accompanied Stull to Pitt Saturday. "They'll redshirt him next year. Then Billy will have a year to learn under Tyler Palko. Tyler's a great kid and can teach Billy everything he needs to know. After two years, Tyler will be gone and Billy will have three years left."

I'm not even going to speculate as to why Harris would not recruit a drop-back passer in their own backyard.

It looks like signing day, may be a little more positive for Pitt, than last year.

Providence-Pitt: Their Own Revenge 

Everyone harped on how Pitt was looking for revenge against Syracuse for beating Pitt last February. Last year, Pitt decimated Providence at the Dunk. Now it's Providence's turn to look for revenge.
The memories are clear, painful and not very comforting as the Providence Friars pull into the Steel City today.

On March 2 of last year, the high-flying 12th-ranked Friars welcomed sixth-ranked Pittsburgh to the Dunkin' Donuts Center. First place, and the Big East regular-season title, was hanging in the balance.

On that night, nothing went right for the Friars. Pittsburgh claimed the league title in convincing fashion, throttling PC inside, holding Ryan Gomes (11 points) in check and rolling to an 88-61 win.

Unfortunately for the Friars, not much has gone right since that loss. PC lost its regular-season finale to Boston College, was outfought in the Big East Tournament by Villanova, and then upset by Pacific in the NCAA Tournament.

Almost a year later, that Panther-inspired hangover hasn't ended. The Friars are off to an 0-6 Big East start, losing by an average of five points a game. Going back to last March's Pittsburgh loss, that's nine consecutive defeats against conference foes.
Man, that's a lot to blame on one loss. It's practically Ralph Willard-esque. Pertaining more to the game at hand, it is noted that Providence point guard Donnie McGrath's sprained ankle isn't as bad as feared. He will likely play. Against WVU after McGrath was out of the game, Providence committed 27 turnovers. 27? And they managed to only lose by 4? That reflects more on how badly WVU has fallen in Big East play.

surprisingly, this is not Providence's first time going 0-6 to start Big East conference play. They started 0-6 in 1980 and 1992. They have never gone 0-7, though.

Mark McCarroll's diminishing minutes and John DeGroat's DNP against Syracuse are noted in passing.

Most of the love today, is reserved for Freshman Keith Benjamin. Benjamin suffered some knee injuries before the season began, and also had some issues with ankle sprains. The team considered redshirting him, but Benjamin fought that. Now, after the big game, he is trying to do the humble thing.
"It's been a long time coming," said Benjamin, a 6-foot-2 leaper who led Mt. Vernon High to a state title last season. "I know a lot of people heard the hype about me, that I was supposed to come in and pick up where (former star shooting guard) Julius Page left off. And I know there was doubt in people's minds about me. I just wanted to thank Coach (Jamie Dixon) for the opportunity and not looking me off and believing in me as a player, so that I could show everybody what I was made of."
His teammate and coach on the other hand will show him some love.
"I felt all along that he was going to be a guy who would just continue to get better, progress as the year has gone on," Dixon said. "And that's what he has done, even with the injuries and everything that has happened to him."

Dixon has spoken about Benjamin's progress in recent weeks. But Saturday was the first evidence that Benjamin was capable of performing in a big game.

According to senior Chevon Troutman, Benjamin is capable of more the rest of the season.

"He's a beast," Troutman said. "He's always on the other team in practice, and I hate that. He never misses. You can foul him, slam him and it still goes in the hole."
"It just seemed like the last two days when he was out in practice that he really looked comfortable," Dixon said.
If Benjamin remains free of injuries and develops the way we hope, he could not only give Pitt another good perimeter shooter, but a second guard who can penetrate and create his own shot along with Krauser. The one casualty, will likely be playing time for Antonio Graves who has really struggled in Big East play, and has already seen his minutes dropping. Graves has struggled on defense, and it seems to have effected his confidence.

Now that the Steelers are history and enough of a post-mortem has been done. You can expect the local columnists to start paying more attention to Pitt. What? You think they want to talk about the Pirates?

Ron Cook sends a love letter to Chevon Troutman.
The Chevon Troutman striptease.
Uh, I did say love letter. This is a family paper, isn't it?

Pitt is a staggering 45-3 at the Petersen Events Center, the latest victory a 76-69 dandy against No. 4 Syracuse Saturday night. That means Troutman has pulled off his jersey 45 times at midcourt as the "How Do You Like Me Now?" song blares from the arena speakers, revealing not just his linebacker-sized upper body but also much of his character.

Before Troutman gets to the runway leading to the Panthers' locker room, he turns the jersey just so in his hands so he can hold up the front -- the side with Pittsburgh on it -- to the appreciative crowd. "I'm just trying to say something to the fans," he said. " 'I'm here for Pittsburgh. I rep Pittsburgh.' "

Oh. Well, guess that helps to explain Chevy's Bevy, and I did see them on camera during the Syracuse-Pitt game.

Cook points out that Pitt has only 5 home games left in Troutman's fantastic Pitt career. Probably one of the most popular Pitt players. Even fans of other teams in the Big East like and appreciate the way he plays. Hard, tough, physical but not dirty. He may be the hardest player to replace.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Providence-Pitt: Game Notes 

With Providence now the absolute biggest disappointment in the Big East this year, it is vital not to even consider taking this team lightly. One would hope that a team that has lost to Bucknell (who has now lost games to St. Francis-PA and Army -- RPIs of 166 and 323) and St. John's would take every opponent seriously, but I'm not totally sure.

The Big East is tough this year. "Any given night" truly seems to apply, and some teams just haven't put it all together yet. No other way to explain how UConn blew that game to ND today. Saw the last 15 minutes. Can't believe the way UConn let itself be outmuscled in the paint. Saw the second half, and was stunned. ND couldn't sink 3s, UConn out-rebounded and shot better; but what it came down to was that UConn turned the ball over 15 times while ND only 8 -- creating more opportunities for ND.

As for the game tomorrow night. The play calling crew is Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas on ESPN2 at 9pm. Not that wild about McDonough. He's okay, but tends to get lazy and not tell you what is actually happening in the game. He'd rather tell all his pre-scripted stories and storylines. With Raftery at a Pitt game, it will be obligatory to show the "Send it in Jerome" highlight of Pitt great Jerome Lane shattering the backboard on a dunk at old Fitzgerald Fieldhouse. Actually, they have to show it, since that moment back on January 25, 1988 came against the Providence Friars. Has it really been 17 years? I feel old. (You are old.)

Both teams have their game notes available. The Friars and the Panthers (both PDF). Providence last beat Pitt in January 2001. Pitt is 14-3 historically against Providence at home. The last time Pitt lost at home to the Friars was in December 1998.

Providence may also be without their point guard, Donnie McGrath. McGrath hurt his ankle in the loss to WVU yesterday. His status is day-to-day.

The Providence game notes are trying to put a positive spin on an 0-6 Big East record by pointing out how close they were at the end of every game:
West Virginia at Providence -- 10 seconds remaining -- 79-76 -- down 3
Boston College at Providence - 31 seconds remaining -- 77-75 -- down 2
Providence at Rutgers -------- 43 seconds remaining -- 66-65 - down 1
Syracuse at Providence ------- 4 seconds remaining ----72-71 - down 1
Villanova at Providence ------- 17 seconds remaining -- 79-75 - down 4
Providence at Boston College -- 1:39 remaining -------- 61-57 - down 4
I suppose you can look at that as half-full, i.e., they were competing and just having some bad luck and sooner or later it will go their way. Or you can just say that this is a team that continues to fall short, just can't close the deal.

Actually, I'm starting to get terrified for this game. Pitt just upset UConn and Syracuse. Both with huge comebacks. Pitt now faces an opponent they dominate at home. The opponent is reeling from losing every conference game. May be without or limiting their point guard who averages more than 30 minutes a game, their assist leader and adds about 8 points a game. This seems like the perfect script for a huge upset.

For a Providence fan's view of the team, you can go to Let's Go Friars.

I'm Impressed 

I just don't know where Coach Dave Wannstedt is coming up with all these extra scholarships. But as NLI signing day is only a few days away, Wannstedt has secured a couple more 3-star recruits. from Western Pennsylvania. Bill Stull, a QB from Seton-LaSalle, and Earnest Williams, a FB out of Monessen.

Stull had offers from Wisconsin, NC State, Maryland and had verbaled to Kentucky. He changed his mind and committed to Pitt. Rivals.com ranks him #11 in "Pro-style quarterbacks," and Pantherlair ranked him as the 14th best recruit in Pennsylvania.

Williams is considered the 8th best fullback in the country by Rivals and ranked 17th in Pennsylvania by Pantherlair. Williams also played Linebacker on defense. He might eventually convert to that in college.

Both Stull and Williams are ranked in Scout.com's East Hot 100 regional list. Stull at #49, Williams at #57.

That brings the number up to 24. (Williams, though might not be able to qualify academically this year. He just re-took the SAT.) And it looks like Pitt could add 2 more:
Two dozen family members crowded Cedric McGee's home in Plantation, Fla., earlier this month, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Dave Wannstedt.

It wasn't that long ago -- November, actually -- that Wannstedt was head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Now, as the new coach of the Pitt Panthers, he was back in town to pay a recruiting visit to the blue-chip receiver.

"He's a big guy," McGee said. "When he came here, there was a big gathering. Everybody wanted to meet him."
McGee said he will choose between Pitt and Rutgers on Wednesday, and the Panthers also are involved with Miami Central quarterback/athlete Dennis Brown.

Dennis Brown appears to have committed to UConn. Cedric McGee is either a 2-star or 3-star prospect. Regardless, he is considered to be a raw, but promising WR out of South Florida.

The only reason I kind of worry about the number of recruits he is pulling in at the last minute, is that it could hurt the number he can offer next year. And next year is the real test. Right now, you have to think he has a shot to really start pulling in some 4- and 5-star recruits. You just want to have enough scholarships available.

Also a really long piece on Coach Wannstedt. Pretty good read, though.

Syracuse-Pitt: Media Recap 

I'll try to keep this brief (unlike the last two posts?), because there isn't much time to bask in this win. Pitt will be facing a beyond desperate Providence team that has managed to go 0-6 in the Big East, which shocked even me who thought they weren't going to do well in conference but not this bad. Reminder, the game will be on ESPN2 at 9 pm.

Lots of articles, though. Beating a top-4 team will get some attention.

Start with some local recaps.
It's not a formula Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is going to want to patent: Play poorly early, watch your opponent go up by double digits, and then stage a heroic comeback.

Sound coaching strategy? No. Successful? In the past two games, yes.

For the second consecutive game against the best the Big East Conference has to offer, Pitt got behind by 17 points early in the first half only to rally for a thrilling comeback victory.
"I don't know if we'll keep that one in our game plan," Dixon joked. "But it was not a panic situation. The guys responded well and made plays throughout. It's a great sign for us."

Strangely, McNamara seems to be in denial that Krauser took him completely out of his game.

"I just didn't force shots," McNamara said. "If they're going to take me away like that, then we should have other guys to make plays. [Krauser] didn't do anything. I just wasn't as aggressive after they went to that zone. In the first half, I was getting by him and making plays. It's kind of tough to do that against a zone because it's so spread out."
1) you forced some shots in the second half; and 2) once Krauser started playing you, not just helping out, your scoring disappeared. He's right, though, about having other guys make plays.

Another recap gives some love to the new kids who stepped up.

While Krauser was the linchpin, he received a lot of help from some familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Senior forward Chevon Troutman pounded inside for 18 points (on 7-of-9 shooting from the field) and nine rebounds. He's contributed 47 points and 21 boards the past two games.

Sophomore forward Levon Kendall, making his first career start, scored all nine of his points on 3-pointers. He also added five rebounds in 29 minutes. Freshman guard Keith Benjamin, who'd been hampered by ankle injuries all season, posted a career-high 10 points (including a key floater and 3-pointer in the first half), to go with five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 21 minutes.

"I feel like I almost played the perfect game," Benjamin said.

Benjamin had a right to feel good about his game.

Keith Benjamin, a seldom-used freshman guard who had scored only two points in Pitt's previous 13 games, keyed the comeback by coming off the bench for 10 points - as many as he had all season.

"It's been a long wait to go out there and show what I could do," said Benjamin, who was slowed earlier by a foot injury. "Coach (Jamie Dixon) gave me an opportunity and I wanted to bring some energy to the team."

And he did. Even the Cleveland Plain Dealer sent a reporter to cover this game. He came away impressed and points to something I can only dream of happening.

Judging from the size and exuberance of the Pitt student section, a potential 150-mile trip to Cleveland, where opening-round NCAA Tournament games (March 17 to 19) are set, will not be a problem.
Oooohhh. Right in my own backyard.

The decision to stick Krauser all over McNamara in the second half, that was not exactly Dixon's idea. It provided some redemption.

Over the past few weeks, questions have arisen about Krauser's ability to lead the Pitt basketball team. His Bronx streetball training began to seep out. He was criticized for being too wild and rarely under control. He was turning over the ball. His passes weren't crisp. His shots were rarely true.
Krauser needed a jumpstart. He had asked coach Jamie Dixon if he could cover Syarcuse sharpshooter Gerry McNamara before, but Dixon ignored him. Krauser decided to ask again. Dixon acquiesced, a bit easily considering McNamara had 10 points in Syracuse's 22-5 spurt to open the game.

"We knew there would be situations where Carl would be guarding him at time," said Dixon.

He just didn't think those situations would be so early, so often.

Krauser needed to prove things to his critics and maybe some things to himself, as well. He may not be the team's best defender, but he was for one 10-minute stretch.

By the time the Panthers switched to the very effective 2-3 zone of defense, McNamara scored four points over the final 10 minutes of the first half. Krauser had been effective one of the top point guards in the nation.

McNamara was so disturbed, so frustrated, that he didn't make another field goal until 2:10 remaining in the game.

"In big games, I want to guard the best players," Krauser said. "It's a big mental and physical challenge. I just wanted to show that I did have that passion and that will."
Krauser really channeled his energy and game into the defense. Defense is about control. By putting that first, it seemed his offense and game direction fell into place.

One Syracuse player knew Krauser would be up for the game.

As Pittsburgh staged a furious rally to erase a 17-point early deficit against Syracuse in the Petersen Events Center on Saturday, SU guard Louie McCroskey was not at all surprised at who was leading the Panthers' comeback charge. It was Pittsburgh's flamboyant point guard Carl Krauser, who hails from the same neighborhood in the Bronx as McCroskey.
"We know that he's a great player," McCroskey said. "He's one of the top guards in the Big East. He's going to make plays. He runs their team. When he goes well, they go well. They were still in the game without him scoring and then in the second half, they got open looks and he made them."

When Krauser wasn't scoring, he was making life tough for SU guard Gerry McNamara on the defensive end. Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon switched Krauser onto the SU guard midway through the first half after McNamara scored 11 points in the first nine minutes.

But Krauser really didn't make a difference according to McNamara. Also turned out that Coach Dave Wannstedt and Bill Cowher were at the game. How could ESPN show so many shots of McNamara's parents, but miss Wanny and Cowher?

Even the Syracuse players know they brought nothing to the game.

The remaining seven SU players combined to score just 18 points, or 2.6 points per man.

"A two-person team is not going to win many games," said senior Craig Forth. "We've been lucky the past 22 games that somebody has always stepped up. Tonight we didn't step up. Nobody stepped up, other than Gerry and Hak. The rest of us have to do a better job of stepping up or doing something out there or else we're just not going to do that well the rest of the season."

The loss is the first of the Big East season for No. 4-ranked Syracuse (20-2 overall, 7-1 Big East).

Syracuse had survived the last five league games with key contributions from the seven players - Forth, Josh Pace, Louie McCroskey, Demetris Nichols, Darryl Watkins, Billy Edelin and Terrence Roberts - besides the two stars.
"Our balance wasn't good tonight," said SU coach Jim Boeheim. "We can't win with two guys. We tried that at the end of last year. It wasn't something that worked for us. We've got to get better balance. Our younger guys, who are getting some opportunities, they have to step up and convert those opportunities."

Pace and Forth are both Seniors. It wasn't just the young guys who didn't step up.

When Pitt started playing their own version of the 2-3 zone, it was what Syracuse wanted.

In preparation for its game with Pittsburgh, the Syracuse men's basketball team hoped the Panthers would play a zone defense. SU head coach Jim Boeheim - the zone's master architect - figured his team would have its best chance for victory against a defense that it employs, and practices against, regularly.

And just as the Orange hoped, Pittsburgh eventually used a zone Saturday night at the Petersen Events Center.

The one problem being, the Orange couldn't score against it.

After Syracuse squandered a first-half lead that ballooned to 17 points, Pitt switched to a zone defense for which SU had no answers. Ultimately, Orange players watched the Panthers snap off a 13-0 second-half run across a six-minute span. That scoreless spout sent No. 20 Pittsburgh to a 76-69 victory over No. 4 Syracuse in front of 12,508, handing the Orange its first Big East loss and ending a 13-game Syracuse winning streak.

"We didn't attack the zone," Boeheim said. "When you don't make shots against the zone, you're not going to beat it. Offensively, we didn't play well enough to win on the road."
Even so, SU's high-scoring duo was far from superb. Though McNamara led all scorers with 26 points and Warrick chipped in 25, much of the scoring came in junk time with the game out of reach.

But as the zone silenced McNamara and Warrick, SU's bench players - most notably sophomores Louie McCroskey and Nichols - failed to hit open shots.

"If they made (the change from man to zone) so someone else would have to beat them, it worked," McNamara said.
McNamara better have a really good rapport with his teammates. He may be dead on about how the other players need to step up, but you just don't call out your guys like he did. Leave that to the coach. So, here I have to disagree with RS's love of McNamara, a bit. You are one of the star players on the team, you have to shoulder more responsibility for the loss whether it really should be on you or not.

Syracuse-Pitt: Player Evaluations 

Not sure what the NBA scouts at the game thought, but here's the way I saw things.

Krauser -- Despite missing a lot of shots and some of them were definitely questionable, he played completely under control. He had 9 assists, 6 rebounds and only 3 turnovers to go with his 19 points (all of which came in the second half). Played the entire 40 minutes, and was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. He didn't try to drive and force when he knew a defender was staying in front of him. In the second half, he was the reason Gerry McNamara was so cold. Krauser was switched onto him for defense, and shut him down.

Troutman -- Slow, very slow start for Troutman. He just got better and stronger as the game went on. Had the toughest assignment of guarding Hakim Warrick. Warrick has such a sweet jumper and fade shot that Troutman adjusted and conceded deeper shots for better rebounding position. Also necessitated by some foul troubles. It paid off. On the offensive end, 12 of his 18 came in the second half, as Syracuse couldn't keep him off the offensive glass (6 offensive rebounds) for put backs and lay-ins. The 5 turnovers were troubling, but he also had 2 steals and an assist. Even went 4-5 on free throw shooting. The foul problems limited him to only 31 minutes.

Benjamin -- You could just see the confidence in the kid increase as he stayed in the game longer. More competent on defense than expected with 2 steals and grabbed 5 boards. His offensive production fueled his own confidence on defense. He knew he was in there to take some shots. 3-5 shooting including 2-3 from beyond the arc. Sank both his free throws. 10 points in 21 minutes.

Kendall -- He does not lack for confidence in his shot. His early 3s not only kept Pitt in the game in the first half, but it helped stretch Syracuse's zone, to allow Pitt to get inside more in the second half. Grabbed 5 rebounds, but always seemed around the ball (part of the reason he picked up 4 fouls). This was his first career start and he played 29 minutes. It won't be his last.

Ramon -- Only took 3 shots, but was a good defender against McCroskey or Edelin. Had trouble with McNamara, but aside from Krauser, all of the Pitt guards did. Good passing, and had 3 assists.

Taft -- Largely invisible in the second half. Only played 26 minutes (10 in the second half). It wasn't that he played poorly, it was that he played without a lot of passion or effort. Not willing to try and back down the defender when he got the basket inside, instead opting to pass out without even looking at the basket. My sense is the Pitt coaches are getting a little frustrated with his on-court effort. Shying away from the contact inside. He seems to be already looking to his NBA future, though the scouts have to be wondering about his desire. Only 2-5 on free throws, which may have been part of the reason he tried to avoid contact -- didn't want to have to shoot free throws.

Gray -- Another solid effort by the back-up center. In 13 minutes he grabbed 4 rebounds (2 offense and 2 defense) and scored 6 points. He also had 3 blocks in the game.

Graves -- His minutes just keep going down as the deficiencies in his defense are exposed. They are also taking its toll on his confidence in his shot. He played only 9 minutes and was 0-4 shooting. Could not defend on the perimeter. Was already losing minutes to Ramon, but with Kendall and now Benjamin, it could get worse.

McCarroll -- A personal nightmare of a season continues. Already out after a brief opportunity to start. His shots are just not dropping. His first two shots looked good but would not fall. A tip-in rolled around the rim and out. Given his well known problems at defense, Pitt couldn't wait for him to get his shot to fall. Only played 7 minutes and shooting 0-4. I feel bad for him.

Warrick -- Better than advertised offensively. Did seem to disappear in Pitt's second half run, though. Only took 5 shots in the second half. He wanted no part of trying to guard Troutman, leaving that to the other inside guys. His unwillingness to fight inside, is still a weakness. Against a bigger tougher team inside, Warrick had 0 blocks and only 4 rebounds. While he has a beautiful fade shot, he's too willing to settle for it. Shot better than expected at free throw line, going 10-15.

McNamara -- A huge first half, and getting 3 3's (and one free throw) in the last 2:10 of the game -- when the game as all but over and Pitt let Syracuse have the open looks to just get the rebound -- masked a nightmare of a second half. McNamara torched Pitt in the first half. Taking advantage of being defended by Graves and Ramon in the first half to get 14 points on 3-8 shooting and getting to the free throw line several times (6-7). Then Pitt put Krauser on him, and McNamara couldn't get around him to drive and when he did shoot they were not good shots. He only got one basket in the first 17:50 of the second half -- 1-5 shooting (0-3 on 3s).

Rest -- An embarrassment. No perimeter, and not much inside. The whole team seemed to start shying away from contact. They shot 8-21 (0-7 on 3s) and only 2-4 at the free throw line.

One other thought, free throw shooting wasn't nearly the factor expected. Both teams shot very well -- especially for them. Pitt was 21-27 (77.8%) and Syracuse was only 2 shots worse, 19-27 (70.4%).

The rematch on Valentine's Day in the Carrier Dome is a can't miss. Start bribing and scheming your way around your significant other now, so you can watch it.

Syracuse-Pitt: Game Notes Recapped 

Before the game against the Richmond Spiders, a Freshman Pitt player who hadn't gotten a lot of playing time talked about making that game his "coming-out party." Keith Benjamin was only off by 5 1/2 weeks. Benjamin got in there when Graves was being consistently beaten on the perimeter by Gerry McNamara; and Ramon found out the hard way about the advantages of age and guile as he picked up 3 fouls in only 9 minutes in the first half trying to help stop McNamara. But I'm getting ahead of things.

To help keep things straight. Box score. Pitt press release and Play-by-play.

There was no pre-game. At least not for me. I barely made it home for the game from dinner that ran long. Get the TV fired up, notepad and a New Castle as I hear Dan Shulman say that there are some 25 NBA scouts in attendance. If that isn't incentive for Taft to show what he's got, then he is an even bigger cipher.

Syracuse wins the tip, and as they set up I see that Kendall got the start at Forward. Warrick gets the ball and hits a beautiful fade jumper over Troutman. Pretty.

Pitt doesn't set up their offense well and Troutman turns the ball over. Pitt gets the ball right back when Josh Pace gets trapped down too far and travels. Once more, Pitt looks ill-prepared on offense. They can't get the ball inside, and are unable to find a clear perimeter shot. Krauser actually passed up an almost clean look. Graves ended up with the ball as the clock was winding down and tried to toss one up on the run. Syracuse gets the ball and pushes quickly up court. McNamara tries a 3 -- and Kendall fouls him. Ugh. McNamara drains all 3 and it is 5-0 Syracuse.

Krauser brings the ball up and launches a bad 3. He gets his own rebound but then throws the ball away. You can't pass the ball that hard when your moving inside and only 5 feet from your teammate.

Syracuse misses a couple chances, and when it looks like they'll get a 3rd, Kendall strips Warrick. Warrick was so surprised he fouled Kendall. Graves is pulled for Ramon at 17:20.

Kendall gets rewarded at the other end with an open look and sinks a 3. 5-3.

Warrick hits his second jumper. 7-3.

Krauser tries another quick 3 that misses the mark and Syracuse grabs the board and is running. Warrick slams it home. 9-3. Warrick is now 3-3 shooting. Pitt has to use a time out.

Out of the timeout, Pitt actually gets the ball to Troutman, but he misses inside. Kendall can't get the tip. Warrick gets the rebound, but at the other end finally misses a jumper.

Ramon tries his first 3 of the game, but misses. Kendall gets the rebound and his putback proceeds to roll all around the rim and out. Taft grabs the rebound and is fouled going back up.

A TV timeout at 15:25. Pitt looks totally flummoxed by the Syracuse zone. There is no surprise that it is completely collapsed inside. Syracuse's backcourt is well experienced and fast enough to rarely leave the perimeter shooters a truly open look.

Out of the TV timeout, Taft misses both his free throws. Pathetic. At the other end, Ramon gets whistled for a foul trying to get around a screen. McNamara drops a 3 from about 25 feet out. 12-3 Syracuse.

Ramon tries another 3, and misses again. Kendall gets the rebound and gets fouled as he beat McCroskey to the ball. Gray comes in for Taft at this point. Sadly, Pitt still can't get anything for their troubles as Graves whiffed on an open look for a 3. Another Pitt rebound but Gray turns it over when he steps on the line.

Showing good ball movement, Syracuse gets it inside to Pace for an easy lay-up. 14-3 Syracuse. Pitt continues to struggle as Gray turns the ball over when he bobbled the pass and traveled. McNamara decides to take it himself and gets Ramon to foul as he was driving inside. Ramon has to come out. McNamara sinks both to make it 16-3.

An 11-0 Syracuse run. Pitt hasn't scored in over 4 minutes. 3 points in 7 minutes.

Pitt finally gets some points. Gray moves along the baseline and gets fouled as he goes to the basket. He sinks both free throws. 16-5.

Pitt actually gets a stop, but does nothing as Graves airballs another 3 point attempt. Taft makes a spectacular block at the other end. Swatting the ball 3 rows deep. There is a TV Time Out.

Out of the timeout, Graves steals the ball from Edelin, but McNamara steals the ball right back from Krauser, and McNamara lays it in. 18-5. The crowd which was trying to use the block to stay into the game goes dead.

McCarroll, who is in the game, makes his first attempt. His jumper rims out. McNamara grabs the rebound and drives the court and makes a fantastic pass to Roberts for the jam. 20-5. Pitt takes another timeout.

ESPN graphic shows that Syracuse is shooting 7-12 and Pitt is 1-12. No need to mention Syracuse going 5-5 at the line while Pitt is 2-4.

So right out of the timeout, Krauser hoists yet another 3. Truly a WTF moment? No setting up the play. No trying to get the ball inside. Just throw one up. Naturally Syracuse rebounds and Roberts gets another dunk. Make that 8-13 and 1-13 shooting. 22-5 Syracuse, at the 10:31 mark.

Syracuse starts to get a little sloppy. Taft hits a jumper to give Pitt its first points in almost 3 minutes and its first bucket in 7 minutes. McNamara decides to take it himself inside and misses the lay-up. Pitt is able to run and Taft gets a slam and is fouled by Roberts who was late. Taft sinks the free throw to make it 22-10.

Roberts turns the ball over as Syracuse just doesn't seem to be taking care of the ball. McCarroll gets an open jumper. Looks good, but it rims out once more. McCarroll just can't buy a score. In an obvious bit of frustration and embarrassment, McCarroll fouls Warrick at the other end. Warrick hits 1-2. 23-10.

Keith Benjamin hits a runner to make it 23-12. Pitt is actually on a 7-1 run and the crowd starts making some noise.

Syracuse turns the ball over, then commits a foul. You almost start to feel hope again going into the TV timeout with 7:47 left in the half. Then Krauser throws the ball away on the inbounds play. Syracuse scores an easy lay-up. 25-12.

Ramon hits a needed 3. His first points. 25-15. Len Elmore, though, is all over Chris Taft. Just ripping his game. Showing how Taft doesn't even try to look at the basket when a man is on him.

Syracuse answers with a Warrick lay-up. 27-15.

Then Benjamin hits an open 3. 27-18, and Pitt actually has it within single digits.

Ramon, though commits his 3rd foul trying to stop Edelin. Ramon has to come out and Edelin hits 1-2. 28-18.

Troutman answers with a jumper from the FT line. It's 28-20, and suddenly Pitt is playing better and the crowd is getting loud. Syracuse misses its shot. Pitt gets the ball, but Kendall launches a quick 3 that misses.

McNamara does his best to silence all and snuff hope when he sinks a 3-pointer. The lead goes back up to 11, 31-20.

Krauser gets blocked from behind on his shot by Edelin, but stays with it to grab the ball and pass to Kendall who now sinks the 3. 31-23.

Warrick misses a jumper, and Pitt runs. Taft misses with a jumper, but Troutman gets the tip-in. 31-25. Syracuse takes a 30 second and then a TV timeout. Immediately off the inbounds play, McNamara launches a 3 that misses. Both teams miss opportunities, then Troutman with a nice pass inside to Gray for the lay-up and the foul. 31-27. Gray misses the free throw.

Of course, Warrick answers with a nice move to get a lay-up.

Troutman seems to be waking up in the last five minutes. He draws a foul from the defender when he was too far under the basket. Hits 1-2 on free throws.

At the other end Krauser then fouls McNamara. McNamara shocks everyone by going 1-2. 34-28 with 1:15 left. Taft threw the ball away when Kendall tried to cut to the basket.

For some reason, McNamara launches an absurdly long 3 that results in chants of Air-Ball!

Troutman draws a foul as he drove to the basket. He goes 1-2 to make it 34-29 with 10 seconds left in the half. Syracuse can't get a shot because Troutman stripped the ball.

The half ends on a definite Pitt upswing. Only down 5 after an absolutely pathetic start.

Syracuse was really a 2 man show of Warrick and McNamara. Warrick had 11 points on extremely efficient 5-7 shooting and McNamara with 14 with almost half coming at the free throw line.

Pitt had no player with more than 6 points (Troutman and Kendall) and 2 more with 5 (Taft and Benjamin). Krauser didn't make a bucket but had 6 assists and only 2 turnovers.

Second Half

Sloppy start for Pitt. Graves missed a 3 when he hesitated first. Krauser throws the ball away on the next possession and then Krauser misses yet another 3-point shot. Luckily, Syracuse only got one point in the same stretch of the first 2 minutes.

Kendall then hits a 3. His 3rd of the night, and Pitt is only down 35-32.

Warrick answers with a lay-up.

Then Krauser launches a 3 from the top of the key. Maybe it was just me, but I thought I heard a collective "Nnnnoo-Yes!" from the crowd when the ball swished through. 37-35 Syracuse.

McNamara tries to answer, but misses his 3.

Kendall attempts a 3, miss. Troutman grabs the rebound and kicks it out to Krauser who shoots another 3 but misses. Kendall fouls McNamara on the rebound, and then Troutman gets whistled for the foul on Warrick at the other end. Warrick makes 1-2 FT. 38-35.

There is a TV timeout at 15:57. Pitt comes down and Krauser drains a deep 3 to tie the game. The Pete is sounding very loud. McNamara answers with a runner to give Syracuse the lead.

Pitt hits a rough patch of bad play. Kendall commits the double dribble. Troutman makes a lazy bounce pass, that McNamara intercepts, and then commits the dumb foul at the other end. Suddenly it is 44-38 and Pitt has to use a time out at 13:46.

Benjamin hits his second 3 of the night after the time-out. Then at the other end, he steals the ball from Warrick. Benjamin's jumper doesn't go, but only Pitt players seem to be around the basket. McCarroll misses a tip-in, but Gray is there to get it down the second time. 44-43. 12:47 left.

Pitt seems to be missing opportunities, as they get close. Krauser seems to be limping from rolling his ankle, and gets blocked from behind on a lay-up. Then McCarroll is blocked on his own lay-up -- is there anyone having a worse season than McCarroll at this point?

Benjamin gets whistled for foul that results in a TV timeout with 11:44 left. Out of the timeout, Syracuse tries another 3 and misses. Both teams have been taking a lot of deep shots, having trouble getting inside. Pitt early, Syracuse as the game got deeper.

Benjamin gets fouled from behind by McNamara. Benjamin sinks both free throws and Pitt has its first lead at 11:20, 45-44.

Edelin hoists and misses another 3-point shot. But Pitt gives the ball right back when Troutman gets whistled for traveling. But Pitt gets the ball back when Benjamin gets a steal from McNamara. You can see the new confidence in Benjamin as he brings the ball up court. He is wanting to take charge.

Kendall misses a 3, but Troutman is right there for an easy put-back. No 'Cuse player was near him. 47-44 Pitt.

Syracuse takes a 30 second timeout. Out of the timeout, Warrick misses a jumper and Benjamin grabs the rebound. Krauser hits a runner to make it 49-44.

Syracuse is a mess. Nichols launches a quick 3 that misses badly. Warrick gets the rebound, and lets Nichols try again. Same result, but this time Syracuse turns the ball over.

Pitt lets Kendall try yet another 3, but again Syracuse didn't box out Troutman who had an unmolested put back. 51-44.

Syracuse takes another quick timeout. Warrick misses another jumper, but Syracuse gets the rebound and Warrick is fouled by Kendall. There is a TV timeout before the shot. 7:28 left. Still plenty of time.

As Warrick goes to the line, my phone rings, Caller ID says it's Lee. Actual conversation.
Me: If you jinx this, I'm going to have to drive to Altoona and kill you.

Lee: Fine. I'm stuck in the Baltimore Ikea

Me: You're not watching the game?

Lee: [annoyed] No. What's happening?

Me: Pitt had another horrible start to be down 17, but now has a (Warrick makes the first) 6 point lead probably going to be 5 in another second or two.

Lee: Really? How much time left?

Me: 7 and a half minutes.

Lee: Damn. Guess I better find a sports bar fast. Bye.
Boggles the mind.

Krauser, who is just feeling so much better about his shot, now drops another 3. 54-46.

Syracuse just seems so out of sorts now. Trying to get quick scores, and not setting for shots or trying to get rebounds. Pitt is doing everything right.

Taft goes up for a slam that Watkins blocks -- but Watkins is called for a foul. Replays make it look questionable that it wasn't a clean block. Taft hits the first, misses the second, but Syracuse wasn't ready and Troutman had an easy tip-in. Giving Pitt an 11 point lead at 6:21.

Pitt just kept extending the lead and at 2:22 Pitt had a 67-52 lead. The game was iced. Pitt was content to let Syracuse take uncontested 3s so they were in better position to grab the rebounds. That was how Syracuse closed the gap as much as they did. In the final 2:10, Syracuse shot 4-6 on 3s. Problem is they shot 0-9 in the rest of the second half and 2-7 in the first.

Pitt wins with the final score 76-69.

After a hideous 1-13 start to shooting, Pitt went 22-41. Syracuse went the other way. An 8-13 start, and a 14-38 finish. Syracuse, clearly lost interest in banging inside as the game went on. Pitt outrebounded Syracuse 39-28 in the game, 21-12 in the second half. Syracuse started taking way too many 3-point shots, and they weren't falling.

Syracuse had Warrick who went for 25 on extremely efficient shooting and McNamara for 26 based on volume. That's 73.9% of Syracuse's scoring in the game. No one else on the team had more than 4. Pitt's efficiency and volume scorers -- Troutman and Krauser -- only accounted for 48.7% of the team scoring.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Syracuse-Pitt: Happy Happy, Joy Joy  

Pitt can't keep getting away with comebacks like this, but gosh is it exciting.

Syracuse-Pitt: The Players 

This is the expected line-up for the game tonight, and the players expected to come off the bench:
Pitt --------- Position ----- Syracuse
Taft ------------ C ---------- Forth
Troutman ------ F ---------- Warrick
McCarroll ------ F ---------- Pace
Graves --------- G ---------- McNamara
Krauser -------- G ---------- McCroskey
Ramon ---------------------- Edelin
Kendall ---------------------- Roberts
Gray ------------------------ Watkins
DeGroat --------------------- Nichols
As far as minutes per game (in conference, as are all numbers used unless otherwise indicated), McNamara and Warrick rarely come out of the game. They are averaging 39 and 37.6 minutes respectively. Additionally, Josh Pace averages 36.3 minutes per game. Barring foul problems or injury, you can expect to see these 3 most of the game.

Billy Edelin is still not starting, but is up to averaging 18 minutes in a game. The last two games he played 26 and 30 minutes, so he can be expected out there more. Daryl Watkins had been limited because of an injury. He should be playing more minutes this game to spell Forth more. Roberts will go in for Pace and Forth, but could lose some now that Watkins is available. Nichols may be lucky to get in there for 5 minutes.

For Pitt, Krauser plays the most minutes at 36, followed by Taft (32) and Troutman (31.8). If Syracuse comes out hitting a lot of jumpers and Pace is able to get rebounds and score, Graves and McCarroll could see their minutes go down. Ramon is already averaging 31.6 minutes off the bench as either the 3rd guard or for Graves. McCarroll also has to contend with Coach Dixon's recent realization that Kendall is a pretty good defender. Unless McCarroll comes out with more offense than he has shown, Kendall could be inserted fairly early for this game. Gray will be in for Taft and maybe Troutman at points. DeGroat and Benjamin might get 7 minutes combined for McCarroll. If they are in for more, then Troutman got in foul trouble.

Hakim Warrick should be the first order of business for Pitt. Obviously he is going up against Troutman. That should be a great battle. Two very different players that put up comparable numbers.

-------------- FG-FGA ----- Field FG-FGA --- FT-FTA ---- Reb/gm -- A - TO - Blk - Stls
Warrick (7) --- 48-91 (.527) -- 46-86 (.535) --- 43-69 (.623) -- 9.0 ---- 11 - 13 -- 2 --- 6
Troutman (5) - 30-54 (.556) -- 28-51 (.549) --- 14-19 (.737) -- 8.2 ----- 2 -- 6 -- 5 --- 5

Warrick puts up about 2 more shots per game than Troutman and gets to the free throw line significantly more often (9.9 versus 3.8). Warrick, though, has struggled at the free throw line in road games. He has gone only 20-39 (.512) in the 4 conference road games. Troutman isn't great in the two home conference games -- 5-8 (.625) -- but since he doesn't take nearly as many FTAs, it isn't as scary a prospect.

McNamara will be the other major focus for Pitt. If he starts hitting early, expect Ramon to be in there for Graves a lot. Graves isn't as good as keeping the player in front of him. Ramon has shown good speed and better defense. Krauser will probably try to help out if McNamara is showing touch.

For Syracuse, to take the pressure off of McNamara, Edelin and/or McGroskey will need to score on open looks. Pace, Forth and Roberts are all inside players, who generally look for their shots inside. Forth and Roberts, though, tend to have trouble with Fouls. Forth fouled out in 2 of the last 3 games. Roberts fouled out once in conference against Providence.

For Pitt, they have yet to play a complete game in conference. They have played good halfs, but are prone to prolonged lapses in focus -- literally for half of a half. This could be very likely if Pitt is unable to bust Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Syracuse is a veteran, patient team that will likely do what it did last February against Pitt. Collapse inside on Troutman and Taft. Clogging the passing lanes, and force Pitt to make shots from the outside.

So while the Pitt star players, Krauser, Taft and Troutman will be the one the announcers discuss, and the defense will focus attention. The key could be Ronald Ramon. Ramon is Pitt's best outside shooter and can shoot off of screens and pulling up. He is not yet able to create his own shot, but unlike, Graves, does not need to be firmly set to get his shot to fall. If Ramon can drop a few early baskets it will force Syracuse to extend out further and creating opportunities for Troutman and Taft. Not to mention giving Krauser room to drive and penetrate.

I expect this game will be close. Free throw shooting may end up deciding this game. Pitt holds a slight edge here. Syracuse in conference has a large split on home versus away foul shooting. While converting at a .712 clip at home (47-66), they take a real tumble on the road down to (.570).

Pitt is actually worse at home than on the road shooting free throws in conference. The differences, though, aren't as significant. At home, Pitt is shooting .636 (28-44), while on the road Pitt is at .697 (46-66).

Syracuse-Pitt: The Buzz 

Plenty of articles today, and they all seem to be about the Orange. Even the Pittsburgh papers get into the act. Wondering if Syracuse is on a "title run." There are a couple articles on Syracuse players. One on Gerry McNamara being healthy and the fact that he takes a lot of 3 point shots. He has to, he has only a .353 average. Of course it could receive a boost if Pitt doesn't keep him from getting set and comfortable.

The other puff piece is on Hakim Warrick. A bit of playing up the level of highlight reel material. His match-up with Chevy Troutman should be interesting.

"The thing that makes him so tough is his versatility," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of Warrick, a candidate for the Wooden Award, given to the nation's best player. "If you put a bigger guy on him, he can pull away from the basket and make a mid-range jump shot. And if you put a smaller guy on him, he'll take him to the hole."

Thompson added that playing physical defense against Warrick is not always the answer.

"I don't know if he can be pushed around ... you can't push what you can't catch," Thompson said.

Pitt, no doubt, will attempt to bully Warrick by matching him up with the powerful Chevon Troutman, 6-7, 245. Troutman, who is coming off a 29-point, 12-rebound effort in a comeback win at Connecticut, is considered the toughest low-post defender in the Big East.

"When Chevy guards guys, he makes them work," junior point guard Carl Krauser said. "He throws them off and frustrates them."

Warrick fully expects to get banged around by Pitt, but that's nothing new to him. He's faced the Panthers five times in his career and averages 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. He's had 20, 16 and 17 points the past three meetings, two of which produced victories.

"(Troutman) is definitely going to use his body against me, so I'll have to use my skills and quickness to get around that," Warrick said. "I don't want to get out there and get into a wrestling match with them. I have to play my game."

Last year, Pitt got Warrick in early foul trouble but failed to take advantage of it when Boeheim left him in the game. I don't see Warrick getting in foul trouble again, unless he gets frustrated early.

Up in New York, its noted that a win for Syracuse would move them up to #3 in the polls. Syracuse hasn't been that high in the rankings since the 1990-91 season. The "Pitt looking for revenge," theme noted yesterday is also repeated.

As for the game itself, there is this scouting report on Pitt.
"...Their frontcourt's very good. I think that's their strength. (Chevon) Troutman and (Chris) Taft are phenomenal inside. I think for Pitt to win, those guys have to have the ball.

"(Carl) Krauser's a strong, tough New York guard. He's not going to back down. He knocks down big shots. (Ronald) Ramon gives them an elite shooter. They've got weapons. Sometimes they get out of sync, and that's when they'll go through dry spells.

"Defensively, they've played some zone this year, but they're pretty much a man-to-man team. They like to get after you. They pick up turnovers. They can control the tempo with their defense. They feed off their defensive pressure, and if they get a couple turnovers, it really gets that crowd involved. You have to protect the ball and take good shots, but they make you work every time."

For Syracuse, they don't want to fall far behind like they did against Rutgers. Some of this is just Boeheim's poor-mouthing, but he also knows his team has managed to pull out some close games in the Big East.

Pittsburgh grabs an average of 14 offensive boards a game. Syracuse gives up an average of 13 offensive rebounds.

"We've got to do a better job on the boards," Boeheim said. "We're giving up too many second shots lately, and that's going to catch up to you sooner or later."

So will free-throw shooting. The Orange has made enough to win 13 straight games, but its 7-for-15 second-half performance against Rutgers nearly cost them the comeback.

And SU can ill afford to give away points in a tight affair with Pittsburgh, or any other Big East game for that matter.

"In our league, we've struggled every game, practically," Boeheim said. "So we know every game is going to be a struggle. "We know we've got to raise our level of play."

The same can be said for Pitt.

A couple basic scouting reports from the papers.

Other items:

The MSNBC College Basketball Editor thinks talk this early about teams like Pitt not making the Tourney is bunk. If you want to worry about seeding, that's different.

Dante Milligan, the Pitt player who has decided to transfer, has found his spot -- UMass. He will be eligible to begin play in the second semester of next season.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Syracuse-Pitt: Numbers 

What's home court advantage worth in college basketball? 3 points? According to the latest line from the Stardust, Pitt is a 2 point favorite. On a neutral court, this would be a pick-em or Syracuse would be a slight favorite. As usual, the oddsmakers know.

Looking at the basic stats in conference play only, shows similar numbers, with an edge to Syracuse.

Avgs. per game -- FG-FGA ---- 3FG-FGA --- FT-FTA ---- Rebounds -- Assists -- Turnovers
Syracuse, 7 gms -- 28.6-55.4 -- 5.6-14.6 --- 13.7-21.7 ------ 34.7 -------- 15.9 ---- 12.4
Pitt, 5 games ---- 23.6-49.2 --- 5-12.6 ----- 14.8-22 ------- 34.2 -------- 11.8 ---- 12.6

The edge is obviously in shots taken and made. Syracuse has averaged 76.4 points per game in conference, while Pitt is nearly 10 points lower at 67.

Defensively, Syracuse has allowed only a .394 shooting percentage on 159-104 shooting. What stands out, though, is that in those games, opponents averaged 24.3 3-point attempts in a game. Take out the 3-point shooting (a .324 average) and the shooting from the rest of the field was .444 (104-234). It should also be noted that in 3 of the last 4 games, Syracuse has allowed 70 points or more. On the whole, Syracuse has allowed opponents 66.9 points per game

Pitt's defense has not been as good as the past couple years. The Panthers have allowed Big East opponents to shoot .430 overall. Pitt's opponents have taken a significant number of 3-point shots, 18.6 per game, and once those are taken out of the mix, opponents have shot about .461 (88-191). Pitt though, has been more effective at limiting shot opportunities, hence why no BE team has scored more than 67 against them.

Then there are the deeper numbers. Ken Pomerory, has his own set of stats (explanation for them here) for all Division I basketball programs. Through games played on Wednesday, January 26, here are these numbers all are adjusted, except for the last one, the number in parenthesis is the overall rank amidst the 326 teams:

---------- Tempo/Pace -- Offensive Efficiency -- Defensive Eff. -- Shot Att. Diff.
Syracuse -- 69.4 (121) --- 114.6 (14) ----------- 92.4 (46) ------ 1.9 (115)
Pitt -------- 64.9 (289) --- 112.2 (21) ----------- 94.6 (69) ------ 3.6 (77)

The overall edge goes to Syracuse. Both teams are very efficient in taking advantage of scoring opportunities, but Syracuse plays at a faster pace (though the Orange won't exactly be confused with being a running team), and is slightly better on defense. Pitt, though, is better at denying more shot opportunities.

The pace issue may be the biggest factor. It's really one of the major differences between the two teams. Pitt plays a very slow half-court game. Not just on offense, but on forcing opponents to work for their shots. Last week UConn became frustrated with trying to set the play and get the ball inside for good shots in the second half and started throwing up jumpers.

I'll look at the individual players later.

Syracuse-Pitt: Game Notes and Plenty More 

Okay, the Orange have their Game Notes available (PDF) for this match-up. This is Syracuse's first game against a ranked foe since December 7, when they lost to Oklahoma St. at the Jimmy V. Classic. Pitt has them beaten to that by a week, thanks to the UConn game. Since that loss, Syracuse has rattled off 13 wins. They had a huge, gut-check, come from 20 points down win against Rutgers at the RAC. For those Pitt fans feeling cocky about that, consider the RAC Syracuse's house of horrors, much like Pitt playing St. John's in NYC.

Strange article from the Daily Orange about a Syracuse athlete, Xavier Gaines, who quit the football team because he couldn't get far up the depth chart and the team was losing, and rejoined the basketball team where he was a walk-on for a season. He's not going to get off the bench, but...
Gaines will most likely be on the bench - the place he's spent most of this season - when Syracuse faces Pittsburgh on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. He has only appeared in four games for a total of 13 minutes, but Gaines, a junior, is just happy to be on a winning team.

"This is real good," Gaines said of his situation with the basketball team. "Everybody's really nice. And it's a good learning experience with all the coaches and the players."
He sounds like a quality teammate. Quits the football team because he wasn't good enough to beat out the stiffs Syracuse had playing QB, but happy to be on the B-Ball team since they are at least winning.

For information from the Syracuse perspective, there are 3 Syracuse blogs to take a look at. Orange Juice is hosted on Syracuse.com. Also hosted at the same place is O-Zone. The newest, and very promising, is SyracuseHoops. All are worth an unfiltered look.

In Syracuse, they seem to like their chances because of turnovers.
Strength:Chevon Troutman played like a first -- team all-conference pick in last Saturday's win at Connecticut. He scored 29 points — 25 in the second half -- in a breakthrough performance.

Weakness:Carl Krauser hurts the Panthers with his out-of-control play as much as he helps the team when he's on. Krauser averages 4.2 turnovers per game -- 6.2 in Big East games.

Bottom line:If Krauser keeps his turnovers to a minimum, the Panthers can beat anybody. That's especially true if Troutman and sophomore center Chris Taft start dominating up front.
On the national scope, this is on everyone's list of top games over the weekend. Greg Doyel at Sportsline, seems to be giving the edge to Pittsburgh, but his reasoning is suspect.
No. 4 Syracuse at No. 20 Pittsburgh: The Orange (20-1, 7-0) have been eking out wins, scratching past Providence, Georgetown, West Virginia and Rutgers -- but still, they're winning. Now the same can be said of Pittsburgh (13-3, 3-2), which has won three of its past four, including that surprising win at Connecticut. Pitt will win again unless Syracuse finds a way to contain Chris Taft.
I would love to see Taft have a break-out game tomorrow. He let himself be pushed out of position by the frontcourt of UConn, but he should be looking to get closer to the basket for his shots.

At USA Today, the edge is given to Syracuse, because of experience.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh (Saturday)

What it means: The Orange (20-1, 7-0 Big East) have lost only to Oklahoma State and put a 13-game winning streak on the line. They've shown an ability to pull out some close ones. Their league schedule gets dramatically tougher starting now. The Panthers look to secure back-to-back wins against the last two national champions and move closer to the top of the league.

What to watch for: The Panthers (13-3, 3-2) are well-rested and have had the entire week to prepare for this one after Saturday's victory at Connecticut. They will be tough physically and also have a revenge factor working. Syracuse last season gave Pitt its first loss at the Panthers' Petersen Events Center. The Panthers have lost twice there this season, and the experienced Orange should feel good about their chances.

Then it is Seth Davis' turn at SI.com. Davis picked against Pitt last week, and does so once more:

No. 4 Syracuse at No. 20 Pittsburgh We won't know for a few weeks whether Pittsburgh's comeback win at UConn was an aberration or a turnaround moment. (Or whether it simply revealed UConn ain't all that.) A win over the 'Cuse would certainly be another step forward, but I have a feeling it's not going to happen. It will be harder for Chevon Troutman (29 points, 12 rebounds vs. UConn) to go wild against the veteran Orange and their 2-3 zone. (Pitt only made six 3-pointers against UConn.) Meanwhile, Syracuse staged its own comeback on the road Monday, winning at Rutgers after trailing by 18 at halftime. With Billy Edelin providing an increasing lift off the bench at point guard, the Orange is a very good team still getting better.
Seth's Pick: Syracuse 77, Pittsburgh 72
Reader's Pick: Syracuse 75, Pittsburgh 70
I don't mind Davis doing it, but Yoni as the Guest Picker? I'm hurt. Coming off getting named as one of the best basketball bloggers in another SI.com column, he does this. Disappointing.

Great News for Cheap Out of Market Pitt Fans 

If you are like me, living out of the Pittsburgh area, you look forward to the NCAA tournament but with a sense of annoyance already in place. Why? Because you know you won't get to see Pitt's first tournament game and likely their second round game (assuming they advance) unless they happen to play a team that is deemed the best fit for your media market. There is the option of spending $60 for the CBS March Madness package (assuming you have the Dish or they make it available through cable). For me, the wife would veto that in a heartbeat. What does she care? She knows her team -- Cinci -- will get shown locally. That is why this is exciting:
College Sports Television (www.cstv.com) has secured a multi-year agreement with CBS SportsLine.com and the NCAA for the exclusive video streaming rights for out of market game coverage of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship beginning with the upcoming 2005 tournament. Fans will be able to watch the live CBS Sports NCAA Tournament broadcasts from outside their area on their computers, following the action as it is broadcast by CBS Sports announcers such as Jim Nantz, Billy Packer and Bill Raftery.

Beginning March 17th, NCAA March Madness on Demand, powered by CSTV.com, will provide the most personalized, interactive online experience of any sporting event.
NCAA March Madness on Demand,powered by CSTV.com, will offer live and on-demand streaming video of up to the first 56 NCAA Tournament games on an out-of-market basis, through the regional semi-finals, and will also feature streaming video of interviews and pre-and post-game press conferences, in addition to video highlights. Webcasts of games broadcast by CBS Sports in fans' local markets will be subject to blackouts.
Subscription packages are priced at $19.95. Fans purchasing subscriptions by February 8 will receive a 50% discount. Fans can log on to CSTV.com, CBS SportsLine.com and NCAASports.com for additional NCAA March Madness on Demand, powered by CSTV.com,subscription information.

[Emphasis Added.]

Haven't found where to sign up on the sites, yet, or I would have already done so. This is an obvious boon, also to those who have to work, but want to see the game. Not that anyone is endorsing such a strategy. Just one more way to reduce productivity during the first week of March Madness.

UPDATE: Found order info here.

Wannstedt Recruiting Euphoria 

Whether its been retaining commitments of the 2005 recruiting class or luring new commits, Coach Dave Wannstedt has been generating excitement in the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

He met principals and teachers at Woodland Hills High School, signed autographs for some students and did a lot of handshaking. At Baldwin, he did an interview with the school newspaper, walked the halls of the school, met students and teachers and shook plenty of hands. At a few other Western Pennsylvania schools, he smiled and shook more hands.

If you didn't know better, you'd think Dave Wannstedt was running for political office. But the new Pitt football coach isn't trying to win votes. He's trying to win over Western Pennsylvania high school football coaches and recruits.

In his short time as Pitt's coach, Wannstedt has been bouncing around WPIAL schools, meeting with coaches and greeting anyone else that crosses his path. While trying to recruit some seniors, Wannstedt is more concerned with future prospects and Pitt's image with area coaches.

He has gone to a handful of schools that don't have any senior prospects. Wannstedt is showing himself in order to show Pitt wants control of recruiting in this area again. He brings assistant coach Bob Junko with him.

I've said that this is a good thing. A necessary thing. And definitely Walt Harris had fallen off in how close he and his staff were concerning themselves with much of Pennsylvania -- as evidenced by the fact that not one recruit this year is coming from Eastern Pennsylvania. Still, I think back to the piece from Shelly Anderson, about where the program was when Harris got here versus now. Clearly Wannstedt is stepping into a far better situation. It just seems like a little unnecessary piling on Harris. You don't need to denigrate Harris to help promote Wannstedt.

Wannstedt is doing the smart thing and showing as much energy as he promised he would bring. Yesterday he was up in Johnstown to visit with one of Pitt's early commits.

NCAA regulations prohibit coaches from speaking openly about potential recruits, but it was evident that Wannstedt was in town to visit with Greater Johnstown running back LaRod Stephens. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior had given a verbal commitment to former Pitt coach Walt Harris and has told The Tribune-Democrat that he would still like to play for the Panthers. He is expected to sign with Pitt on Wednesday.

Stephens was The Tribune-Democrat's Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 and shared the award with Berlin's Eric D'Carrion in 2004 after he broke Johnstown's career rushing records with 4,597 yards and 57 touchdowns.

The visit was the second of three stops that Wannstedt and assistants Curtis Bray and David Walker made in western Pennsylvania on Thursday. Wannstedt, who previously coached the NFL's Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears, said that he is making an effort to keep the Keystone State's talent in Pennsylvania. He also plans to make sure those recruits pick Pitt over rival Penn State.

Speaking of PSU,

"We're going to. That's the challenge," he said. "They have a great program, we all know that. They're our competition in state. In the great days of Pitt football and the great days of Penn State football, there were great rivalries for recruits between Pitt and Penn State."

Wannstedt said that he will do his part to get the on-field rivalry going between the two schools again.

"Pitt needs to be playing Penn State each year. I'm all for that. I'm going to see coach (Joe) Paterno next week at the coaches convention in Hershey," he said.
Should be a fun meeting.


Is today's theme. Both papers have their primary story to play up the fact that Syracuse was the first team to beat Pitt at the Pete.
"Yeah, we're pretty mad at them," junior point guard Carl Krauser said. "We've got to get those guys back. They're a great team with a great coach and we'll need to follow our game plan and protect our house this time."

Eight of 10 starters from the two teams will be back on the floor Saturday night, when No. 4 Syracuse (20-1, 7-0 Big East) returns to face the 20th-ranked Panthers (13-3, 3-2) at 7 p.m. The Orange have all five starters back; Pitt three.

Syracuse star forward Hakim Warrick expects the Panthers to be about as hospitable as Archie Bunker. The Orange are riding a 13-game winning streak, and Pitt wouldn't mind putting it to a halt.

"I know they're looking for some revenge," said Warrick, who averages 20.1 points and 9.0 rebounds. "We know all about breaking their streak and them losing for the first time there. We expect them to be hyped up for us."

Is he worried?

"They're going to come after us, but it's always that way in a game like this," Warrick said.

"I think we'd hate them even if they didn't break our long streak," Gray said, laughing. "They're real competitive games and they're fun games to watch. We get to play them at the Petersen Center, so this gives us another big chance to show people that, after beating Connecticut (last Saturday), that we are one of the best teams in the Big East."

Last year's game was a frustrating and maddening one to watch. Pure ugly. Scoring was minimal.

"What I remember about that game was it just felt like the ball wouldn't go in the basket," point guard Carl Krauser said, recalling that Sunday afternoon when the Panthers scored their fewest points in a game in 22 years. "We had a lot of opportunities. We just couldn't execute our plays. It was a rough game. They broke our winning streak. And we're going to try and get them back on Saturday."
Pitt players are feeling good after the come-from-behind-win-on-the-road-on-national-TV game against UConn. The Big East has been strange, though, 36 BE games and the record is 18-18 for home teams. Syracuse is 7-0 in the BE, including 4-0 on the road. They ended last season with 4 straight conference road wins. A win against Pitt would tie their own team record of 9 consecutive conference road wins. Just one more little incentive.

Yuri Demetris waived his preliminary hearing. His trial is scheduled for February 18. Don't expect him to rejoin the team regardless of the outcome.

Ray Fittipaldo, the Pitt beat writer for the P-G, has his Q&A up. Some good stuff, including a few topics that have been posted here.

Q: Why is Jamie Dixon so reluctant to use his bench? It appears that other teams are more athletic and larger at the perimeter positions. He has size on the bench. Your thoughts.

FITTIPALDO: Dixon has been a coach who has liked to use seven or eight players in his rotation during his first year and a half as Pitt's coach. That has changed somewhat with Yuri Demetris being suspended. He played 10 players during the first half of the Connecticut game. I think he was searching for someone to step up and take advantage of the minutes they were getting. He eventually settled on Levon Kendall, who played 20 minutes in that game and played very well on the defensive end. I don't expect him to play 10 players every game, but I do think you will see him go to his bench more because he needs to match up different players in different situations, taking their strengths and weaknesses into consideration.
Q: Did you read the article on Chris Taft in ESPN The Magazine. What is wrong with this kid? He does not seem to get it. Talk is cheap. How about doing something on the floor.

FITTIPALDO: I did read the article and some of the things Taft said were pretty outlandish. But you also have to understand that outlandish is ESPN's schtick. Taft has been very humble with the local media all season and never once uttered anything close to what he said for ESPN. Maybe Taft got caught up in a national magazine doing a centerpiece story on him. I don't know. But I agree with you. If he said those things, he had better start backing it up with more consistent play.
Q: If I had a dollar for every time Jamie Dixon has uttered the words "We need to get better", well, you know the rest. What is behind Dixon's generic A-Rod-esque responses to every question posed to him? Is he trying to protect his players? Does he realize that this approach is quickly getting old with fans who appreciate honest answers?

FITTIPALDO: There are people in local media circles and some at Pitt who are of the opinion that Dixon needs to take a course or two on media relations. It wouldn't hurt. Dixon is a good man, but he does not come across well in front of the camera. I think part of it is he is being careful with his words because he is a first-time head coach and does not want his words misconstrued by his players. He has never called out one of his players in the media in his short tenure as head coach. He does not use the media in that way. In fact, I don't think he has much use for the media at all. He understands it is part of his job, but he would much rather be poring over game tapes and meeting with his coaches than meeting with reporters. He is that kind of coach. He is not out to sell himself. But, he probably would serve the program better if he tried to use the forum in a more positive manner. That may happen as he grows more comfortable in that role.

I guess one of the positives of Walt Harris no longer coaching football at Pitt, is that the school no longer has the dullest 1-2 coaching pair in Division 1. Now there's something to figure out. Which school has the worst coach-speak copy in both football and basketball?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Syracuse-Pitt: Game Notes 

The game notes from Pitt are finally available (PDF). The game is on ESPN, the second of 3 straight on the WorldWide Leader's mothership (and a 4th will be on ESPN2) for Pitt. Dan Shulman and Len Elmore are calling the game.

Storylines being pushed, so you can expect to hear in the game and read in print pixels.
With its No. 4 ranking, Syracuse enters the game as the highest ranked opponent to ever appear in the Petersen Events Center. The last time Syracuse visited the PEC, it Orange ended Pitt’s 40-game home win streak and concluded Pitt’s 34-0 undefeated record in the PEC as it handed Pitt a 49-46 overtime defeat.

Pittsburgh has won 10 of its last 12 home games and is a combined 60-4 at home over the last three seasons. Pitt is also 44-3 in the Petersen Events Center and 16-2 all-time against Big East opponents at the PEC.

Pittsburgh is coming off one of the greatest comeback victories in school history, a 10-point victory at Connecticut’s Gampel Pavilion.
Ending Pitt's home unbeaten streak will be one of the big, most annoying stories they will likely harp on. It will be even worse if Pitt is losing. Other items you can expect them to mention or drop as factoids:
Pitt's 3 losses came by a total of 9 points.

Pitt is 16-2 at home against Big East foes.

Pitt has taken 5 of the last 7 games from Syracuse.
Of course, Syracuse holds a stunning and tragic 2-1 edge in the series history, leading 60-30 all-time.

Final note, Carl Krauser is now tied for 10th at Pitt for assists in a career with Keith Starr (1972-75) with 329. By the end of the season, he should move up to 7th on the list.

Looking Far Ahead 

Members of Pitt's 2005 basketball recruiting class are in action today. Some big games in the NY/NJ area.
It will be interesting to see how MHS fares on the road tonight at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey. The Ironmen feature Pitt-bound 6-7 forward Tyrell Biggs, one of the more intriguing bigger players in the state since he possesses both both bulk and agility. Biggs can hurt you inside or out, although this year’s Bosco edition is not nearly as strong as last season’s group that won the Bergen Jamboree, but lost a regular-season game at Montclair.
And in another game:

No. 6 St. Mary's of Manhasset with its three Division I players (North Carolina-signee Danny Green and Tyrone Hanson and Tyson Johnson, who are each going to Monmouth) will face Xaverian and Pitt-bound Levance Fields in the first of back-to-back televised games on MSG Network.
Still nice to read articles where the context treats players going to Pitt as not settling or as representative of the how good the players are.

Football Notes 

If you found yourself home early one day this week you may have turned on ESPN to see exciting coverage of the Senior Bowl practices. Any rant that I considered on how ridiculous this is, was preempted since Josh Elliot did it for me.

At this year's Senior Bowl, the only Pitt player on the roster is the Rob Petitti. Rob is on the North team, coached by a true master, Norv Turner and the Oakland Raiders Coaching Staff. Of course it could be worse. You could be a QB on the South squad. That's the Tampa Bay Bucs coaching staff. Your chance to be taught about playing QB by Paul Hackett.

Other item, an interview with new Pitt WR Coach Aubrey Hill.

Just the Puff 

I was hoping Pitt and Syracuse would have their game notes out by now, to add some meat to this post. Ah, well. Just a couple player puffing stories. One that does a little more on Levon Kendall (consider this the human side to the piece that puffed his game, yesterday).
He is about as eccentric as Andy Warhol, a nature-loving 20-year-old who refuses to own a cell phone ("I'm boycotting them."), races mountain bikes, once played drums in a cover band called "The Unknowns," applies some of the practices of Buddhism and periodically meditates to stay centered.
"I'm definitely different," said Kendall, whose on-campus home (purchased by his parents) houses nine other students. "I'm kind of down to earth, with the West Coast style. Being from British Columbia, I like going to lakes and camping, hiking, all of those things. It's hard not to be into nature when you grew up where I did and were surrounded by the outdoors."
And who did they cover? I'm just curious, because there have been a few bands called "The Unknowns" (including one in Canada).

The other puff piece is on Chevy Troutman, and appears in the Syracuse student paper. Focuses on his growing up and looking after his siblings, but also on how his success in college ball has helped rebuild his whole family.

So far, just another slow day for Pitt basketball news.

Apparently There Were A Few Extra 

Coach Wannstedt was looking to be around the number 20 in how many recruits for this class. The class size is now at 22. Pitt added an offensive lineman.

Wannstedt asked [C.J.] Davis to take an official visit to Pitt this weekend, and told him a scholarship offer would be waiting. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound two-way lineman said he will make a verbal commitment to the Panthers.

"Honestly, I really didn't think they were going to offer, so I was about to commit to Boston College," Davis said. "Coach Wannstedt came to see me for the first time and offered me. That really made me want to come."

Davis chose Pitt over Akron, Boston College, Bowling Green and Kentucky. A three-year starter on the defensive line who was named to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25 and All-Class AAA teams as a senior, Davis said he will play guard or center at Pitt. New offensive line coach Paul Dunn was recruiting Davis for Kentucky.

I'm happier they added an offensive line prospect than the fact that he was another WPIAL product. For the record, about one-third of this class is from WPIAL schools. Davis also had offers from Wisconsin and West Virginia. Davis would appear to be something of a "diamond in the rough" recruit. Not highly ranked nationally, but Pantherlair.com had him in their top 50 players in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Basketball Notes 

Some more love for Chevy Troutman and Pitt. Dick Vitale may not think Pitt has one of the top 5 front courts in the country, but others believe.
Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft (Pittsburgh)

The lowdown: Many would argue that the best Big East post combination resides in Pittsburgh, not Storrs, and they would have some potent ammunition, based on the Panthers' victory over the Huskies Saturday night.

Troutman (14.1 ppg and 8.3 rpg) has been among the most dependable power forwards in the country over four seasons, playing on teams that reached the Sweet 16 in each of his first three years. There's not much flashy about the way he plays — he's a model of low-post economy who is an even better rebounder and defender than he is a scorer.

Taft (13.8 ppg and 6.9 rpg) hasn't enjoyed, so far, the caliber of sophomore season that Josh Boone is turning in for Connecticut. It's hard to dispute the notion that he and his Big East counterpart are pretty much on the same talent plateau, though.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh

Why it's worth watching: The Orange is 7-0 in the Big East (and 19-1 overall). But its past five conference games could have all gone either way. The host Panthers came from 11 points down to win at Connecticut Saturday — easily their most significant victory of the season.

What to look for: Senior forward Chevon Troutman (29 points and 12 rebounds) played, arguably, the best game of his career for Pitt in the win over the Huskies. He'll have his toughest defensive matchup of the season, though, in trying to check Hakim Warrick, who is having a possible John R. Wooden Award-winning caliber senior season for Syracuse.

Speaking of Troutman, here's another little nugget

Stat stuffer:Chevon Troutman will easily surpass Patrick Ewing's .608 career field-goal percentage in Big East games. But Pitt's 6-7 post player with an 86-inch wingspan will not oust the Georgetown giant as the league record-holder. Why? Because the minimum required is five field goals made per game. Troutman (.666, 191 of 287 in 47 games) would need 99 FGs in 11 remaining conference games to average 5.0 per game. That won't happen.
Further interesting factoid. While Pitt may be the worst free throw shooting team in the Big East, Syracuse only shoots .582 away from the Carrier Dome. Something to watch.

Football, Other Views 

Youngstown State is happy to be playing Pitt. The Penguins were 4-7 last year, and as noted in their local paper, this is the first game they are playing that is a "money game," i.e., taking the guaranteed patsy cash payout. At least they are happy.

Speaking of happy, the University of Cincinnati is feeling good about its recruiting class. They beat Pitt for a local QB prospect, and have had their best recruiting class in years. They credit a lot of it to the move to the Big East.

Opportunities and Numbers 

Slow day for news on Pitt.

A puff piece on Levon Kendall. His increased playing time has come, in part due to Demetris' suspension. But also because McCarroll and DeGroat have failed to step up with the opportunity.
It was January 2002, and a little-known freshman with a lot of ability but little experience was thrust into a game against Georgetown. Having not played in the previous four games, this player scored 8 points and had 4 rebounds and 2 assists in a come-from-behind Pitt victory, prompting former coach Ben Howland to admit a mistake.

"I don't look very smart not playing him more," Howland said at the time. "I'm going to have to change my philosophy."

That player was Chevon Troutman, and all he needed was a chance.

Three years later, a similar situation has developed for coach Jamie Dixon.
Kendall had a great summer, starring on the under-21 Canadian national team. But when the season began at Pitt, he was buried in the rotation.

The other story in the papers was one on Pitt's improved 3-point shooting.
Pitt could escape neither its statistics nor its rankings after finishing 320th (out of 326 NCAA Division I teams) in 3-pointers per game last season.

The Panthers have nearly pulled a 360 this season.

Pitt is shooting 42.2 percent (103 of 244) from beyond the arc, fourth nationally and best in the Big East. If the season ended today, it would break the school record of 41.7.

Although the Panthers still rank in the middle of the pack nationally in 3s per game (157th, 6.4), their turnaround in 3-point shooting has been nothing short of astounding.

"Nearly pulled a 360?" They at least corrected the headline of the story. It had previously used the "360 turnaround" line.

The thing is, the numbers (PDF) on 3-point shooting are kind of deceptive to me. The story obviously focuses on the guards: Antonio Graves, Ronald Ramon and Carl Krauser. The 3 have combined to go 75-171 (.439), have taken about 70% of the teams 3-point attmpts (171 of 244) and are responsible for over 75% of the 3-point shots made (75 of 103).

The thing is, this includes the non-con schedule. And I think we all know by now about how bad that schedule and the competition was. Right now, and more importantly, the key should be how things are going in the conference. In the conference, Pitt is below 40% (25-63, .397).

Graves is an extreme example. He shot amazingly well in the non-conference portion. Overall he shot 29-50 (.580). He was remarkably consistent from anywhere. Shooting nearly the same % from inside or outside the arc. Once conference play began, though, it has been a different story. Obviously, Graves couldn't keep shooting that well, and his 3-point shot is still a good percentage. He is shooting more in 5 conference games as compared to the 9 non-cons he played. Still, it is a hard drop and the rest of his shooting is absolutely abysmal right now. From inside the arc, he is well under .200. For Graves, I think the problem is he likes to have a set shot. He does not seem to feel comfortable driving or pulling up. An area he definitely needs to work on improving.

--------------------- FG-FGA ------- 3FG-3FGA --- non3FG-FGA -- Shots/Gm
Graves 14 games -- 38-81 (.469) -- 17-33 (.515) -- 21-48 (.438) ----- 5.8
Non-Con 9 games -- 29-50 (.580) -- 11-19 (.579) -- 18-31 (.581) ----- 5.6
Conference 5 games -- 9-31 (.290) -- 6-14 (.429) -- 3-17 (.176) ----- 6.2

Ramon, unlike Graves, has improved significantly on his 3-point shooting in conference play. He went from under 40% to just under 50%. The number of shots he takes in a game has remained steady at around 6 per game. Ramon has shown with his 3-point shooting to be comfortable setting for the shot or pulling up for it.

--------------------- FG-FGA ------- 3FG-3FGA --- non3FG-FGA -- Shots/Gm
Ramon 16 Games -- 41-98 (.418) -- 32-78 (.410) ---- 9-20 (.450) ----- 6.1
Non-Con 11 Games -- 26-66 (.394) -- 20-53 (.377) -- 6-13 (.462) ----- 6
Conference 5 Games -- 15-32 (.469) -- 12-25 (.480) -- 3-7 (.429) ----- 6.4

Krauser is an extreme example, but in a different way. His 3 point shooting is way down in % and attempts in conference, but his shooting from the rest of the field has improved. Krauser's taken about 3 shots less per conference game than in the non-cons, mostly because he is taking about 2 less 3-point attempts in conference.

--------------------- FG-FGA ------- 3FG-3FGA --- non3FG-FGA -- Shots/gm
Krauser 16 games -- 68-160 (.425) -- 26-60 (.433) -- 42-100 (.420) --- 10
Non-Con 11 games -- 52 -121 (.430) -- 22-48 (.458) -- 30-73 (.411) ---- 11
Conference 5 games -- 16-39 (.410) -- 4-12 (.333) --- 12-27 (.444) ----- 7.8

I'm sure this is a shock to many who believe that Krauser is hoisting way too many shots in a game. The team averages 53.3 shots in a game overall (55.1 non-con and 49.2 conference). Krauser's shot numbers have gone down in conference play in terms of real and as a percentage of the team's shots. Obviously, with Pitt's deliberate half-court offense, they don't make a lot of shot attempts in a game. This is why the volume of Pitt turnovers loom so large.

Keep in mind that this is probably a bit unfair because of the sample size, especially for the conference schedule is very small. So, one game can easily skew the numbers. And there are other factors. Ramon is a Freshman, and improvement as he got confidence and familiar with the system and his role should lead to improved shooting. Conversely, Graves faced less pressure and attention early in the season, as his good shooting and became noticed, teams were playing him differently. Especially when teams realized Demetris was a complete non-factor on the offense. Krauser has had opposing defenses come out further on him as he showed more accuracy on shooting the 3 than he did last year, especially further into the season. His use of the 3-point shot is as much to decoy them to play out further on them so he has room to take his defender off the dribble.

Still, a deeper look at the numbers suggests that if Pitt is going to use the 3-point shot, they have to use it right. Graves shouldn't be expected to take 3s off of screens or with some stop and pop. His shots need to come on open looks from crisp passing and ball movement to allow him to set up. Ramon, is a little more versatile. He can take the 3 off a screen, or in motion.

UPDATE: I see (via College Basketball Blog) that a college basketball beat writer in Philly is surprised about Pitt shooting 3s better as well. The simple explanation is the players change, as do their strengths and weaknesses.

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