Big Lead Sports Bar

3/07/2011

Weekend Wrapup


Putting a bow on another eventful weekend in Pittsburgh sports:

1. As I watched Saturday night's Penguin game, I can't say I was surprised by the fact that the game went into OT. It was the fifth time in the past six games that's happened, and the seventh time in the past nine games. If these guys weren't already shorthanded, playing all that extra hockey at this point in the regular season couldn't help. 

Thankfully, the Pens' intestinal fortitude once again reared its head in the extra period, when Dustin Jeffrey scored his second goal of the game and seventh of the season at 1:52 of OT. The win meant the Penguins are a mere two points behind Philadelphia for the division (and conference) lead, and that, my friends, is simply unbelievable.

I know this season probably won't turn out the way we had all hoped once it started, but it won't be for a lack of effort. This team does the city proud every time it takes the ice. For them to even be in the playoff race considering what they've lost is a testament to the coaching of Dan Bylsma, the moves of Ray Shero, and the mental toughness present in that locker room.

2. Congrats go out to the Pitt Panthers, winners of the Big East regular season title and owners of a 27-4 record going into the postseason, after their victory over Villanova on Saturday. We're almost accustomed to such dominance after a decade of it, but I'm not too young to remember that this hasn't always been the case. Expectations may be raised, but the season should be considered a good one already.

Ashton Gibbs, who's had a great campaign, was just named First-Team All-Big East, only the ninth time a Panther has received such an honor. He joined Jerome Lane, Charles Smith, Brian Shorter, Brandin Knight, Chevy Troutman, Aaron Gray, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair by doing so. Gibbs leads the conference shooting 46.6 percent from 3-point range and 89.5 percent from the free-throw line, and has averaged 16.4 PPG. In addition to Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker got second-team honors, and deservedly so. The senior leads the Panthers in minutes played, free throws made, assist-to-turnover ratio and steals, and is second on the team in scoring, rebounding and field goals made.

While it's nice to see such individual honors coming this team's way, we all know that to the players, it won't mean as much without the Final Four trip that's eluded this program for so long. If ever there was a year when the sport was wide-open and the Panthers had as good a chance as anyone to win it all, this is it.
3. Speaking of local hoops, Robert Morris, sans Mike Rice, is back in the NEC title game with a 64-62 win over Quinnipiac thanks to a late jumper by sophomore Velton Jones. The Colonials, winners of eight straight, will play at Long Island University for the NEC championship at 7 p.m. Wednesday; the game will be televised by ESPN2. LIU is the tournament's #1 seed, while RMU sits third with an 18-13 overall mark. A win would be the Colonials' third straight trip to the NCAA tournament and first under coach Andrew Toole.

4. There's not much Steeler talk these days, thanks to the limbo-rific CBA discussions (which I have no interest talking about - at all). Most of the web chatter these days is about mock drafts, and the latest one I've seen (from Fox Sports) has the Steelers selecting Derek Sherrod, an OT from Mississippi State. The reasoning is as follows:
Though hardly considered the league’s gold standard last year,  the Steelers offensive line did a pretty darn good job protecting Ben Roethlisberger in 2010. Flozell Adams obviously isn’t the long-term answer at tackle, though, and two other big boys are set to become free agents if a new CBA is worked out. Pittsburgh should go offensive line with this pick. Enter the rather versatile Sherrod. The All-SEC performer helped pave the way for a Mississippi State rushing attack that averaged 227.6 yards per game in 2010. He’s a road paver who can play all over the line. If Sherrod’s still hanging around at No. 31, it’s a solid pickup for the AFC champs.
You're not going to have to sell me on the Steelers taking an offensive tackle.  Sherrod is ranked 30th overall in the insanely comprehensive 1,000-player ranking that CBS put together, so that would put his value right in line with where the Steelers would be making the pick.

5. The Pirates were busy over the weekend, but not in a good way. James McDonald struggled to find his rhythm in 2 2/3 innings, and was pulled due to his pitch count in a 5-0 loss to Toronto yesterday.

We've still got four weeks until Opening Day, so the hurler has some time to iron out the bugs. But make no doubt about it, McDonald is being counted on to play an integral part in this team's perennial hopes for a turnaround. He was falling behind in the count early and often yesterday and that was ultimately what led to his early shower; that's something he will have to clean up in the next few weeks.

Offensively, the Pirates were, well, the Pirates. The team totaled just four hits, with two coming from Pedro Alvarez. If this sounds like a familiar theme, you're not the only one saying so. "We've got work to do offensively," new manager Clint Hurdle said. "We knew that coming in."

The work-in-progress Buccos are back at it today at 1:05 against Tampa Bay at McKechnie Field.

7 comments:

okel dokel said...

What a game by the Pens. Bylsma should be a coach of the year candidate even if they are one and done.

They work hard, cycle down low and maintain their defensive gaps which is paying being dividends.

Niskanen has been awesome and Neal is starting to show what he can do. He needs to score and I feel that will come in time. Once Sid returns he will be a nice addition for the kid.

Corey said...

looks like the pirates are already in midseason form!

Andrew said...

I'm trying desperately to not sound like a pirates apologist, but didn't they also beat the phillies this weekend? And beat these blue jays and the yankees (2-0, by the way) earlier in the week?

But keep bashing them - that's easiest.

Corey said...

i think i heard something like 13 K's?

todd said...

I don't think it is such a general bashing of the Pirates, as much is it is pointing out that hopes of a new era in pitching is linked to McDonald who has a way to go yet, and the only offense is being generated by Pedro. If the pitching staff can not be competative, and the offense is as inconsistent as it has been previously, it's going to be another long year in Da Burg for any remaining Pirate fans...

Nate said...

I agree with Todd. I didn't see that as bashing the Pirates so much as saying that McDonald needs to fix some things in his next start.

That said...half of McDonald's runs were unearned and he only walked one batter. I'm not ready to freak out over one 4.2 inning start. If he's still having this kind of outing when real games start, then it's time to panic about him.

Andrew said...

granted - the second paragraph has to do with McDonald, the third involved their (granted) lack of producers. The first paragraph could've mentioned Overbay being a surprise, could've mentioned we stuck around and beat the phillies. One pitcher's bad 2 and 2/3 does not a bad weekend make...