Big Lead Sports Bar



Jim Colony has always been one of my favorite Pittsburgh sports media personalities, and he was kind enough to share his thoughts with us this morning on the state of Pitt basketball following Monday night's game:

Thoughts on Pitt Hoops
by Jim Colony

As great as Saturday afternoon’s win was at Syracuse, Monday night’s at Cincinnati may have been more impressive. Yancy Gates is a man, Lance Stephenson is a lottery pick, and Deonta Vaughn is as explosive as almost any Big East guard and, with the game on the line, they did next to nothing … unless you want to credit Vaughn for taking the lay-ups he was basically given. Cincinnati may have shot 49 percent but, for the most part, Pitt’s defense – and rebounding - was very good when it mattered.

Speaking of which, it’s nice to see Jamie Dixon – while maybe not embracing a zone defense - recognizing that it’s okay to mix it up every once in awhile … like when Stephenson started going off toward the end of the half. (Hey, it works against his team, right?) So, let’s take it a step further. Since Pitt is now smaller, at least with certain line-ups … i.e. Gibbs/Dixon/Wannamaker or Gibbs/Woodall/Dixon … the zone of choice might often be a 3-2.

While obviously the Panther would be better had DeJuan Blair stuck around, at least Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor don’t commit that stupid illegal screen 35 feet away from the basket at the beginning of each half (although as I had jotted this down, McGhee got called for one). McGhee still has his limitations, but not as many as I had thought coming into the season, and Taylor has steadily improved against better competition.

Ashton Gibbs is absolute money and now he and, maybe more importantly, his teammates know it. Gibbs reminds me of Sidney Crosby (I know it’s a reach, but hang on). Like Crosby, Gibbs has made a concerted effort to get better where he needed to get better. Just as Sid now takes more shots, wins face-offs and can score in shootouts … Gibbs, known as a stationary shooter, worked on his game off the dribble and it’s become a part of his arsenal, when needed. He is also perfecting the lost art of using screens properly to give himself just enough room to get off a 15-footer or get fouled (even though Burr, Kitts, et al missed 2 such calls in Cincinnati). Plus, his coaches are thrilled at his improvement on defense and rebounding. Still, his main asset is shooting and, as other teams go about taking that away, it opens thing up for his teammates in the paint.

But maybe the real reason for Pitt’s emergence is the obvious one - the return of Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon. Brown is a nice X-factor who is valuable off the bench since he can adapt to the situation at hand. He is miscast as a PF but can jump with taller opponents and also expose them with his quickness. Brown’s best asset is if opponents go zone and cheat out on Gibbs, he can hit the foul line jumper or, if contested, drive and/or dish. Dixon, now healthy, is emerging as a Jaron Brown/Julius Page-type lock-down defender who can guard anyone 6-7 and under. Dixon’s penchant for the 3-pointer can be trying at times (he’s better off as a slasher) but the trade-off is worth it.

As always, Jamie Dixon (and his staff) must be given full credit … even though Dixon’s Time Out calls after made baskets continue to mystify me. Nonetheless, while I’m not sure the Panthers are the 23rd or 26th best team in the country (and they’ll move up I the polls with no game this weekend), this is clearly a team on the rise … and a team that has a chance to accomplish a lot more than most of us probably expected.

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jtads14 said...

great article jim. gotta agree with everything you said. loved your work on the air. every think about making your own blog?

i'm still a little concerned about our inside game. we need more scoring. our offense is completely focused around the guards. we never look inside for points.

but i can't really complain considering the fact i never thought we would have beaten both cuse and cinci on the road based on our play earlier in the year.


BurressWithButterflywings said...

It's become pretty clear at this point that Jamie Dixon just knows how to get the absolute most out of his players and utilize their strengths in the right areas.

This certainly isn't the most talented bunch he has ever had just yet, but while they are sharpening their swords they are also learning how to outwork their opponents.

I agree with whatJim said concerning Sid and Gibbs here; when talented guys work that hard to get better, the sky's the limit.

bochamps said...

Nice article Jim. Miss your updates and bantering with MM on ESPN. I second a Kernelberg Blog. If Smizik can do it, why not you?

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Taylor is slowly developing into the inside presence we lack.

And I think Gil Brown can help out by possibly being a Sam Young-like presence eventually.

And Gibbs is on his way to becoming one of the (or the) best guards in the Big East.

This team has a good coach, maybe a little bit more talent than some of us think, and should make some noise this year.

And wait until next year when this group has another year under their belts and Dixon's best recruiting class to date comes in.