by Terrence Mayrose
Pitt Basketball In Good Hands
It seemed pretty clear entering this season that Pitt would be “rebuilding” after losing a veteran core of Levance Fields, Dejuan Blair, Sam Young, & Tyrell Biggs that was seconds away from the Final Four. It would be hard to blame the Panthers for a mediocre season after losing so many talented players; although it seems as if Jamie Dixon, 2009 Naismith Coach of the Year, had other ideas. Off to a 13-2 (3-0) start behind 17.2 PPG from sophomore Ashton Gibbs and another 12.2 from junior Brad Wanamaker’s , the #20 Panthers are quietly becoming a force in the Big East, and the nation.
Recently seeded as high as four in ESPN’s Bracketology, the Panthers certainly have the resume to back it. Aside from an inexplicable loss to 7-8 Indiana, Pitt’s only other misstep is to #1 Texas.
Tonight’s game at #15 UCONN could be the most important of the season thus far. A win over the Huskies would solidify them as an elite team in the nation’s toughest conference. Dixon’s crew has made a case to put them in that discussion with a road win over then #5 Syracuse, but taking down another Top 25 conference foe would end any doubts that they are for real. Don’t think the experienced Pitt leader doesn’t know how much this win would mean for his team in the long run. Look for a tough battle between Ashton Gibbs and Kemba Walker in Storrs tonight.
Something to think about if Pitt does win tonight, though, is whether it’s out of the question to name Jamie Dixon Coach of The Year so far . How many coaches could lose so much talent from an Elite Eight team, and be 14-2 and 4-0 in the Big East ? So far, just one. Jamie Dixon.
Time for Purdue Basketball To Sink Or Swim
While Pitt was expected to struggle this season, Purdue was touted as a team on the rise. Seems as if the Boilmakers are reading their own press clippings, as they’ve stumbled to a 2-2 start in Big Ten Conference play. Back to back losses toWisconsin, and Ohio State put Matt Painter’s team in an interesting situation as they travel to overachieving 13-2 Northwestern and an Illinois squad currently sitting atop the conference . We’ll know soon enough if Purdue is a contender or pretender based on the next two contests.
T&Two NCAA Bracket Busters to Watch
Northern Iowa 15-1 (Missouri Valley) – The veteran team already has a win over pre season top 25 Siena.
Louisiana Tech (16-1) (Western Athletic) – 4-0 in conference play, and wins over Houston and Nevada as resume boosters.
Cornell (14-3) (Ivy)- A recent five point loss at Kansas put them on the national radar. Wins over St. John’s, Davidson, Alabama, LaSalle, and UMass show they’re capable of excelling against the big conferences.
Crucial Stretch For Duke Basketball
Duke enters a critical section of its schedule that could go a long way to deciding if the Blue Devils can end their five year stretch without a Final Four appearances . The annual mid-January/early February trek through the ACC has literally been Hell for the Devils. Taking a look at recent years : In 2009-, they were 18-1 on Jan 28th. A loss to Wake Forest started a skid that saw four losses in a six game span through Feb. 15th. The 2007 season found Coach K’s boys at 18-3 before a Feb 1st home loss to Virginia started a four game skein. Duke went 4-8 from that point to finish the season, including first round losses in both the ACC and NCAA tourneys.
Coach K has been quick to remind Blue Devil faithful that this year’s team is much older, and bigger than teams of the past. It will be seen very shortly if the 13-2 Dukies will use their age and experience during a stretch of games including Wake Forest, Clemson, and Georgetown in the next few week
Big Fish in a Small Pond
Hats off to Appalachian State’s Donald Sims, who torched Davidson for 44 points last week.
Games to Watch This Week
Wednesday – Pitt @ UCONN- Typical Big East dogfight. Don’t rule out anything amazing…not even six overtimes.
Thursday– Cal @ Washington State-Preseason top ten Cal is quickly slipping, and needs a win to resurrect its tourney hopes.
Saturday – Syracuse @ West Virginia. Georgia Tech vs North Carolina.
Head Scratcher of the Week
Got an email from Chris Beermann that informed me that he recently attended a COLLEGE game, where a coach :
- -Asked for a timeout while the other team was dribbling the ball
- -Asked the ref “if he could have the foul on #11”, instead of his leading scorer who had just picked up his third personal foul.
It’s not surprising that Chris also informed me that the coach’s team lost.