Big Lead Sports Bar

3/07/2009

PITT WINS CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH


Earlier in the week, Dejuan Blair called Pitt-UConn II a "Celebrity Deathmatch". So what if it was a somewhat dated reference to a show that was cancelled seven years ago; the point was well-taken: this was going to be a very hyped showdown of two premier programs. And once again, it was Pitt who came out on top, in very impressive fashion: 70-60 Panthers, in front of a rabid crowd of nearly 13,000 at the Pete on Saturday. Yes, it was a nice way to celebrate the outgoing senior class of Sam Young, Levance Fields, and Tyrell Biggs, and the perfect ending to the Panthers' greatest regular season ever.

Young was off-the-charts awesome on Saturday, scoring a game-high 31 while adding 10 rebounds. Fields turned in a 12-assist, 10-point performance and had me wondering how in the world he was considered questionable for this game. Maybe that was seen in his 4-for-14 shooting, but that was nothing the Panthers couldn't overcome. As for Biggs, he was held scoreless in his final home game, but did grab six boards in 27 minutes of action.

Dejuan Blair had a pedestrian eight points/eight boards, but helped hold the much-heralded Hasheem Thabeet to a grand total of zero points in the entire second half. Once again, foul trouble held back Blair, who sat the last 6:04 of the first half as a result. That remains a concern going into March Madness. The Panthers' only other apparent weak spot on this afternoon was their 20% shooting from beyond the arc, but once again, it was a weakness that they were able to overcome.

It was a tremendously exciting contest in an arena teeming with energy, which the CBS announcers noted on several occasions. As usual, celebrities were spotted around the Pete, and while I missed a shot of the legendary "Send It In" Jerome Lane, I was able to get this pic of Franco Harris and Kevin McClatchy for your enjoyment:

So where does this game leave the Panthers? Well, that should safely seal up a #1 seed, as if their #3 ranking and #1 spot in the RPI weren't enough. And we have the Big East Tournament to look forward to, which starts on Tuesday. Pitt will play their first game on Thursday in the quarterfinals and presumably have another Celebrity Deathmatch on Saturday.

A few other things I noticed:
--Anyone catch Sam Young's postgame interview where he implied that no one from UConn can guard him? If nothing else, he's confident.

--And did anyone notice Jamie Dixon's demeanor after the game? He just took down the #1 team for the second time in a month, and had about as much expression as he would in beating Rutgers. If anyone had any lingering doubts, that should reaffirm the belief that this is a team with a greater goal.

--Fields got some chiding from Bill Raftery for a bit of hot-dogging in the last minute of the game. I guess I could see that, but considering the potential for fireworks today, I'd say the refs controlled the game as well as possible (with the exception of that near-skirmish at half-court).

--Blair is now 13th in a 2009 mock draft, with Young 24th. Thabeet is 2nd, along with UConn teammates AJ Price (28) and Jeff Adrien (35). Which means we saw a lot of potential NBA talent on the floor at one time on Saturday.

--Not to get too ahead of ourselves, but to get too ahead of ourselves, do you know the site of the 2009 Final Four? That would be Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. I think we have some good memories from that location, right?


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24 comments:

Cecil from Cecil Twp. said...

This is it, boys.

This is the Pitt team we've been waiting for.

Can't wait for the Big East Tournament on THU and the NCAA's thereafter.

In case you missed it, Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com has Pitt as a #1 seed playing the winner of the Ariz St-Penn St 8/9 game in Round Two. Wouldn't that be fun...

As for the Final Four, I really hope we're all congregating at The Hockeytown Cafe like we did in Feb 2005.

Adam said...

The bracketology I'm looking at has Pitt playing the 8-9 winner of Texas and UNLV, and PSU playing LSU as an 11 seed in UCONN's bracket, but I guess it might have changed. I'm not an insider, so I wouldn't know if it was updated today.

Before you all jump on me, let me just say that I mean this constructively. I think Pitt is legit, but if I were a Pitt fan, this would concern me.

9 of their 15 conference wins in the Big East are against teams with no shot at the tourny. In the other 9 games against bubble-or-better teams, Pitt is 6-3. Not overwhelming. A deep run in New York could go a long way in changing that, but if I were a Pitt fan, I'd be a tad concerned that my team, for a number one seed, hasn't exactly blown the doors off good teams.

Good win against UCONN today. I was unimpressed by the first victory because Thabeet played so little, but this one was indeed impressive. Just gotta hope that, come tournament time, Sam Young can cover for Blair if he gets in foul trouble like he did today.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

Should I even bother or does somebody else want to take this one?

Adam said...

A couple other things.

-I didn't know the Pete seated so few people, which I suppose makes the atmosphere that much more impressive.

-The people at Pitt need to reverse the camera angle. No one wants to see the odd patio type thing across the way where you're expecting a guy sipping coffee to step out looking for his paper. SHOW THE ZOO!

-Pitt best not get on a high horse like they did after the last UCONN win. Biggs and Fields both came out in the media after the last one saying stuff like "We knew we were #1" and then proceeded to have Providence destroy them. That didn't even come from underclassmen either. It came from the senior leaders of this team. Maybe Pitt would be better off going into New York on with the chip on their shoulder and something to prove like they did last year?

-Preliminarily, I think a Pitt-PSU matchup in the NCAAs would be really interesting. Penn St. has better guards, and the strong, athletic post presence that could get Blair in foul trouble in Jamelle Cornley, but if Sam Young is on, PSU will have no answer for him.

Battle vs. Fields=wash

Pringle/Morrissey/Babb vs. Dixon/Wannamaker=PSU

Jackson/Brooks vs. Young/Brown=Pitt, Pitt, Pitt, Pitt, Pitt.

Biggs vs. Jones=wash

Blair vs. Cornley=Pitt (assuming Blair isn't in fould trouble).

Pitt probably wins comfortably, but, if I were Pitt, I'd probably not want to see a bitter rival having a magical season, and with nothing to lose in the early rounds of the tournament.

Adam said...

Hey, butterfly with wings or whatever. I'm being complementary of your team. Do you tell your host their house smells when you go places?

Ugh, you can't win with Pitt fans can you...

BURGH08 said...

Penn State has a basketball team?

I know they are well known for their volleyball, or drum majors, or something.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

There must be some good drugs floating around State College to make Adam this delusional. Either that, or the Friday night cow-tipping plan backfired on Adam and his loser friends and he got kicked by a heifer.

johnny said...

Every highly ranked team has suspect losses. Which team has a resume' that is so overwhelming?

Consider:

UCLown-Pitt convincingly has beaten them twice.

Lousiville-Solid team that we lost to, but a bad loss against UNLV, blown out by UCLown, and massacred by Notre Dame in a 33 point loss.

Memphis-Who know how good these guys are, as they haven't played anybody in almost 3 months. Losses to mediocre Big East teams Georgetown and Cuse, though admittedly a long time ago.

Jokelahoma-Bad loss against Arkansas, though it was 2 months ago. Losers of 3 of their last 5 heading into the tournament season. Who knows how long Blake Griffin's concussion will linger?

UNC-Lost to an erratic BC team, which helped us to earn #1; close loss to Weak Forest isn't so bad, but lost to an atrocious Maryland team in OT.

Douche-"Good" losses to Weak Forest and UNC; loss to the same manic-depressive BC team; slaughtered by Clemson.

Plus, UNC and Douche play tomorrow, so one of those teams gets an additional loss.

My point isn't that Pitt should cruise through the postseason, since there are a number of teams under the right circumstances that can beat us on a neutral court. Rather, my point is that no teams cruise through the entire season and utterly dominate their opponents the way that the great UNLV teams did under Tarkanian or UCLA under Wooden's dynasty. Last year's Memphis team was probably the closest one since then and KU still beat them in dramatic fashion.

Thus, I won't worry, but sit back and enjoy the ride and have faith in Coach Dixon, the team, and the staff.

Best of luck to Penn State in the Big Dance. A win in the Big Ten tourney should clinch their bid for sure. I haven't seen them play many times this year, so I can't really speak to their level of talent, but keep in mind that Fields is a Cousy Award candidate, so I wouldn't be too quick to declare that matchup a wash. Plus, Aston Gibbs coming off the bench is no joke.

JW said...

Looks like PSU should've worried about those pesky Iowa Hawkeyes again before thinking about their Tourney matchups.

Adam said...

BURGH08,
Your ignorance isn't really that funny.

Hotdog_Zanzabar,
Seems you only think I'm rational when I'm saying good things about Pitt. I can appreciate legitimate success, which is what Pitt basketball has had this season. It'd be nice if you sent a little more back in my direction.

Johnny,
I understand your point, but I think I'd be more impressed by a 25 win Pitt team that played Louisville, Nova, or other tournament teams twice rather than the Depauls and Seton Halls of the world. As a Big 10 fan, I'm used to seeing most teams in the league twice, so I think its kind of hard to gauge just how good the teams are when you only play them once, and in the case of Syracuse and Marquette, at home. I think the better teams should have the tougher schedules year to year, kind of like the NFL. Take Seton Hall off Pitt's schedule next year entirely, and have them play one of the better teams twice.

You do that, and it makes everything more competitive. Is it necessarily fair to Pitt to have a far tougher conference schedule than say St. Johns? No, but considering they'd be one of the theoretical better teams, 1.) You'd assume they'd be able to handle it, and 2.) They'd be more battle tested by the time March rolls around, which allows them to better represent the league when it all really matters, in the tournament.

Just an idea.

JW,
It was a tough loss, but it was less than a 40 hour turnaround, and it was on the road. Iowa is no slouch either. It took us a 13 point comeback in the last 5:30 to take them down in Happy Valley. Jake Kelly is a good player, and he had a great day. It'll hurt our seeding, but, really, whats the difference between 10, 11, and 12? I think we're still pretty locked in after the Illinois game the other night, so I'm not concerned.

BURGH08 said...

Iowa has a basketball team?

Adam said...

No. No one has a basketball team in your ignorant mind unless they're 28-3. People like you are the reason the entire world not only hates Pitt, but the city of Pittsburgh as a whole.

BURGH08 said...

Adam,

A few questions:

* You posted the following: "Pitt best not get on a high horse like they did after the last UCONN win. Biggs and Fields both came out in the media after the last one saying stuff like "We knew we were #1"....."

I read and listen to stories constantly in this area. Can you link me to the actual quote where Biggs, Fields, or any Panther was quoted saying this?

* You also write: "if I were Pitt, I'd probably not want to see a bitter rival having a magical season, and with nothing to lose in the early rounds of the tournament"

You are the one that has posted time and time again (paraphrasing) that Penn State doesn't need Pitt, or diminishing any type of rivalry exists.

When did they all of the sudden become 'bitter rivals'? That's assuming there is actually a Penn State basketball team.

Adam said...

I didn't read it. I was listening to ESPN 1250 on the way home the Monday night the rankings came out, and Joe DeStillo (spelling?) played some clips from the interviews during Sportscenter. It was Biggs that said the what I quoted, but Fields also said something that struck me as pretty arrogant. I'm all for confidence, and expecting to win every time you take the floor, but saying you "know your #1" is just bulletin board material for teams outside the Big East you have yet to face.

As for the rivalry, the same ignorance to Penn State basketball you expressed above is how Penn State fans feel about Pitt football. The rivalry is a lot more intense when the other team is a lot better than you are. In football, we're talking about the last 20 years plus. In basketball, we're talking about a period of 7-8 years that Pitt has been dramatically better than Penn State.

Adam said...

We interrupt this Pitt-Penn State slapping match to bring you breaking news that can unite us all:

I have unconfirmed reports that the next West Virginia Mountaineer mascot will actually be a Mountaiette. Thats right. They're making a girl their mascot.

BURGH08 said...

That's it clown, try to change the subject.

Anyone else want a shot at him?

johnny said...

I believe that I understand the point that you are trying to make regarding the Big East's imbalanced schedule. Obviously it comes down to the league arguably being too large, but that's another topic for another day.

The powers that be want every team to play each other at least once, meaning that in an 18 game league, you play the other 15 teams and then have 3 teams that you play twice. Your argument logically presupposes that you need to play each team at least once, otherwise you could get into a scenario where a team like Louisville rotates off the schedule and there is absolutely no way to compare the two teams at season's end.

In Pitt's case, we had a solid WVU team twice and an excellent UConn team twice as well as an admittedly awful Depaul team.

In years past, we've had good Marquette, and Syracuse teams twice as well as undoubtedly lesser teams.

The only way to remedy that problem would be to change the structure of the conference, i.e. kick teams out, which is much easier said than done.

Secondly, you can attempt to alter the schedule in advance to try to get more of the marquee teams playing each other twice, and to an extent I am sure that they do in order to appease the networks. The problem is that the teams are so dynamic from year to year that for every Pitt and UConn who did well this year, there will be teams like Notre Dame or Georgetown who failed to live up to the preseason rankings. Thus, you are back in a position of criticizing one school's schedule as soft relative to another.

That said, I'm not convinced that an additional game against a healthier Marquette or Cuse team instead of the second Depaul game would make much of a difference. The season is already 31 games long and we played enough home and road tournament-bound teams to prepare for the postseason.

Plus, your argument shouldn't be specific just to Pitt or the Big East. Of the other major conferences, such as the Big 12, SEC, and ACC, there is no way to play every team twice, otherwise you would have 22 game conference schedules. As it stands, I think that 18 games is the most that any league has. For that matter, this same criticism is potentially true even for the Big Ten, since there is an 18 game league schedule, thus you would need a 20 game schedule for total balance. The problem just seems exacerbated since the Big East is larger.

Alternatively, the Big East could try to switch to two divisions, along something like geographic or basketball-only/football lines, which still leads to potential imbalances, but give more of a democratic appearance. I think I remember that we actually had two divisions a few years back, right before the conferences re-aligned. Regardless, the New York office doesn't seem to want to go that route either, and it still wouldn't solve your fundamental criticism.

BURGH08 said...

Not sure if Adam will respond. He has a couple birthday parties to work this afternoon.

Adam said...

My solution would be to implement an NFL style system where the teams that finish the previous season at the top play the tougher schedules. Theoretically, Louisville (or UCONN, or whoever), would only rotate off if one of the two teams had a dreadful season. Would the records be as good? Probably not. But if your top teams have 25-26 wins with brutal schedules rather than 28-30 with ho-hum ones, I think the committee will look more favorably on your top teams come seeding time. This year is obviously the exception, as 3 Big East schools have a shot a #1 seeds, but on a year in, year out basis, where more you're fighting with more teams with other conferences, tougher schedules will help you out.

I agree, you need a way to compare all the teams in a league, but for years the Big 10 has operated football schedules under a far less fair system than the one I'm proposing. Ohio St. has to play the next two best teams (historically) in the Big 10 every season in Penn St. and Michigan because they're "rivals" that can't rotate off. Teams like Northwestern and Minnesota didn't face Penn State at all this year, which clearly helped then on their way to bowl games.

My point is, unbalanced scheduling isn't a forgeign concept, and if the Big 10 can operate their football league in such a drastically unfair manner, I'm sure the Big East could come up with something better if they wanted to.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

If we just stop responding to the insanity maybe it will stop because there is no reasoning here.

Adam said...

Butterfly with Wings, and BURGH08, you're both ignorant, plain and simple.

You're little one line insults and name callings just make you look like idiots. Instead of contributing to the discussion Johnny and I are having on here, your just making white noise that doesn't contribute to anything. You're insulting me because I'm a Penn State fan, and I sure hope that you're not shallow enough to act like that to people when you aren't sitting behind a computer screen.

Neither Pitt, nor Penn State are infallible, and I don't think theres any reason that I can't question some of the things Pitt does. In fact, if Pitt fans would spend as much time questioning their own athletic department as they do Penn State's they might have more than a basketball team to be proud of these days.

johnny said...

Interesting point, but I must disagree for reasons that I addressed in the previous post.

As stated earlier, the Big East has 16 teams thus there is no way to perfectly balance the schedule short of declaring a 30 game conference season. Even if we had 12 teams like some other power conferences, it would still be too many. Indeed, any conference larger than 10 teams could not perfectly balance the schedule.

You also failed to address my point which is that what happens one season is independent of what could happen the next season. In other words, while Pitt had an excellent year this season, the losses of Fields, Young, Biggs, and likely Blair, i.e. 4 starters, makes it unlikely that you could compare this year's Pitt team to next November's Pitt team. That is to say that due to attrition from graduation and players leaving for the NBA, the teams are less stable from year to year than in football due to the larger rosters and rules preventing kids from being "one and done." Therefore it is an inexact science to predict how teams will do the following season as my Georgetown and Notre Dame examples showed from the last post.

You compare Big Ten football to college basketball power conferences. In doing so, you bring up the example of imbalanced schedules and especially Ohio State. Thus, you are intuitively conceding my point that the conferences can "game" the schedules to assure certain marquee matchups. For all we know, the Pitt-UConn home and home was one such attempt. For what it's worth, even in a down year, I would rather play the likes of Georgetown or Cuse twice than Depaul due to the more historic nature of the rivalry, but as we noted, you can only play 3 teams twice due to the size of the conference.

Finally, Pitt has the Number 1 RPI in the nation. By definition, the ranking of their schedule cannot get statistically more difficult. As you may recall, we attempted to bolster our out of conference schedule with a game at MSG, but no major teams would bite and the mid-majors who considered the offer were not to the liking of MSG since they would have been inferior draws compared to, say, the Duke team that we beat last season. Instead, we still played the return game at Florida State and the tournament in New Jersey against Washington State and Texas Tech, two schools from a major conference.

To further bolster my point, notice how teams like to schedule conference champs from mid-major and smaller conferences to bolster their RPI the next season. Teams like Vermont, UMBC, and Bucknell come in high demand the following seasons, despite the fact that there is no guarantee that they can duplicate the previous season's success.

Let me digress for a minute and ask you this question since you'd be an impartial person to ask. I have been in favor of the conference trying to set up a sort of format like the "ACC-Big Ten Challenge" with another major conference, most likely the Big 12 or SEC. As a basketball fan with no affiliation to these conferences, would you have a passing interest in something like:

Pitt-Texas
UConn-Oklahoma
Louisville-Kansas

if the games were on ESPN?

Obviously you get some crappier matchups as well, like Depaul-Colorado or something, but it seems like something worth investigating for the revenue and national exposure, plus it saves the AD's the need to schedule a bigger game annually.

Adam said...

-I apologize for omitting the "turnover" argument that you made. I don't see much of a difference between NFL teams losing guys in free agency and college teams losing kids to graduation. Granted, there are only 5 spots on a court at a time as opposed to 22 on an NFL field, but college basketball doesn't have revenue sharing either. The better teams will be consistently bringing in better talent to replace the Blairs and Youngs of the world. And even with "down" years, Notre Dame and Georgetown are still 10th and 11th respectively, and would not be the teams rotating off Pitt's schedule. We're probably only talking about the bottom 3-4 teams.

-Pitt would be better served, as they've done historically, ignoring the Durant's and Beasley's of the world, and if they DO go after them only plan on them staying for a year.

-RPI does not neccesarily reflect SOS either. RPI has other components than SOS. Pitt actually has the 7th ranked schedule. North Carolina is 3rd in the RPI, but has the 27th ranked schedule.

-A Big XII-Big East challenge would be interesting, but you have to ask yourself as the Big East if its worth it. The Big East is a much deeper conference than the Big XII. Much like the ACC regularly beats up on the Big 10, the Big East will probably beat up on the Big XII in most years. The Big XII is much more prone to having a down year than the Big East, and when they do, then the Big East is locked into matchups with them that may take away from their ability to schedule other teams.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

I missed at which point I resorted to name calling. It's also funny you say that yet dont recognize the sheer irony of my Blogger name; connecting the Burress shooting and the Smashing Pumpkins song, considering I find you to be a rather well informed individual regardless of my feelings about your sports teams.

But the reason I have limited my responses to one liners is because I simply didn't want to waste anymore time than that when you honestly can't see how the things you said in your initial posts don't quite come off as compliments. You love your team and we love ours. But don't act like we are the only ones on this post who feel the need to defend our teams when a fan from another school comes around to knock on them. You do the same thing, all fans do.

As for the comment about hiding beind a computer screen, I will be at Cain's on West Liberty Ave Friday night if you would prefer to have a face to face discussion.