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Written by PSB Bryan | 28 February 2012

Brian Batko, whose voice you might recognize from the great work he does for the Panther Sports Network videos, interviewed new Panther Chris Jones this morning on WPTS.

Check it out here.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 28 February 2012

CJonesRecruit12Pitt filled the vacant Khem Birch scholarship last night with news that New Jersey shooting guard Chris Jones committed to Pitt. Pitt was Jones' only major offer. He seems to be a late-bloomer / sleeper type of recruit (via The Recruit Scoop):

On Tuesday, the 2012 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Teaneck in New Jersey verbally committed to Jamie Dixon and the Pitt Panthers.

“I am excited about my future at Pittsburgh,” he said. “I have always had the dream of playing at a major college like that. With the strong academics, coaching staff and exposure I will get from playing in the Big East and ACC, my college experience will be a great one. I am happy to be a Panther.”

Jones, who is commanding an undefeated Teaneck squad at the moment, chose Pitt over offers from Hofstra, Boston, Fairfield, La Salle and Siena, along with some late interest from Virginia Tech, Rhode Island, UConn, Nebraska and Colorado.

He joins the New Jersey Playaz connection at Pitt as former Playa standout Brandon Knight is the assistant recruiting Jones. Oddly enough, Jones’ AAU teammate – Myles Davis – was recruited hard by Pittsburgh at the same position. The cousin of Knight, Davis elected to go to Xavier over Pittsburgh. Although Jones had mid-major looks over the summer, he bolstered his stock in the winter by winning and compiling strong numbers. On top of this, he has elite size and ability for a shooting guard and can also play on the wing.

Rivals.com pegs him at three-stars, while ESPN has him at two. His ESPN evaluation is pretty solid, albeit almost a year old (via ESPN):

Strengths:
Jones is a versatile offensive talent with a number of weapons in his repertoire. He's a good sized swingman who uses strength and athleticism to attack the rim. He can both rise up for pull-ups and make quick changes of direction inside the lane with his jump stops and pro-hops. Jones can also make shots in rhythm to the arc and make the occasional pass.

Weaknesses:
Jones' versatility is one of his biggest strengths and his floor game lacks a glaring weakness. He becomes more dangerous as he continues to polish up his skills and develop his jump shot. He's a straight line driver who could continue to expand his handle to allow him to breakdown a set defender with more consistency as well as handle against pressure.

More recently, The Newark Star-Ledger named him the third best player in the state tournament (which presumably makes him close to third best in the state). Their blurb (via NJ.com):

3. Chris Jones, Teaneck. At 6-4, Jones uses his size to penetrate and create, but he’s deadly from the outside as well. Also rebounds and (defends).

Unsurprisingly, his coach thinks he'll be a great addition (via Pantherlair):

"I think he is the second best player in New Jersey after [five-star guard Kyle Anderson, the No. 2 recruit in the country]", Teaneck coach Jerome Smart told Panther-Lair.com. "That is just my opinion. He handles the ball, he passes, he defends. He does everything at that size. What is so valuable about Chris is that he can defend multiple positions. To a coach, his flexibility is so nice.

"He is such an efficient scorer. He is a low-volume shooter. He has had several games this year in the twenties with ten or fewer field goal attempts. I think coaches like that about him. I think he is definitely a shooting guard in college but he can play small forward in a three guard set as well."

Teaneck is currently 27-0 this season, and Jones is a big part of that success, as he is averaging 21 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.

His late improvement his senior year seems to be the reason for his lack of major recruitment. NorthJersey.com ran a piece on Jones last week (via):

“I guess I didn’t know how good I could be, or how good I was at the time, and maybe I still don’t. But I’m learning and I’m getting there. I’ll do everything I have to do to win.”

Jones has found a way to do just that, also tweaking his skill set and taking his game to another level by displaying the kind of assertiveness on the floor that was not there near the end of his sophomore year.

Now a highly regarded senior, Jones has become a confident leader for Teaneck during its emergence as a legitimate threat to Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley and unbeaten St. Anthony, the favorite to repeat as Tournament of Champions winner next month.

Jones becomes the third member of the 2012 recruiting class with James Robinson and Steven Adams and the fourth member of the graduating class of 2016 with redshirt Durand Johnson. Here's an updated scholarship chart by year and position:

BBallScholarshipBoardYear1

bballScholarshipBoardPosition1

For now, I'm listing Jones as a swingman based on Rivals calling him that. He very well might be in Dixon's system, which tends to play some players a position bigger than their projection. He does seem to be more of a pure guard than Durand Johnson, but for now I feel comfortable calling him a swingman.

The comparison to the guy whose scholarship he is filling couldn't be starker. One was the biggest recruit in school history, the other barely has a Rivals page. But Jones seems to be an ideal teammate, which should limit their comparisons personality-wise.

Is this a good pick up for Pitt? Obviously it's too soon to tell. Pitt was his only scholarship offer despite playing on one of the most high-profile AAU teams in the country. That may just because he's recently gotten much better or it may because a high-major scholarship is a stretch. But considering Pitt was forced by Birch's departure to pick up the recruiting process again. This late in the year, it seems like Dixon may have gotten a diamond in the rough.

Welcome aboard, Chris.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 27 February 2012

Really procrastinated writing this post. For whatever reason, this loss was more frustrating to me than others. Maybe it's because Pitt had a shot to win it at the end despite playing pretty poor offense for 35 minutes, but this one stung me. After losing 13 times before Sunday, the 14th should be easier.

So much went wrong for Pitt in the Yum! Center (still the worst named venue in America). When the other team turns the ball over 14 times, you should probably win the turnover margin. But Pitt topped Louisville's 14 turnovers with 19 in a sloppy game that ended up coming down a series of poor decisions by Tray Woodall at Louisville that really encapsulated Pitt's season.

Louisville's full-court press did what most presses do to Pitt: make them look panicked, unorganized and sloppy.

Somehow, Pitt had a chance late. But then Kyle Kuric (who else, really?) delivered a body blow (via the AP):

Pittsburgh had one more rally and Moore's basket cut it to 50-48, but Dante Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one with a chance to tie, and Kuric hit a straightaway 3-pointer from 22 feet with the shot clock at 1 to put the Cardinals up 53-48 with 3:25 to go.

"You don't know how big that shot was," Smith said. "There's definitely no punch line to that. Once he released it, everybody on the bench was like, 'Please go in' and it went in. We got some breathing room, and that's what we needed."

Pitt still had a chance after Patterson put the Panthers within three with seconds to go. But then Tray Woodall, did the inexplicable: he dribbled down the court, drove to the basket, and in the face of a near triple team in the lane, threw up a wild shot (via the PG):

Junior point guard Tray Woodall made two of the questionable decisions. The first came when he took an ill-advised shot when the Panthers were down by one and had possession of the ball with 20 seconds remaining.

After Louisville freshman Chane Behanan missed the front end of a one-and-one with 24 seconds left, Woodall got the ball and hurried up the floor. He drove to the free-throw line, turned and threw up a shot that failed to hit the rim.

....

Woodall was not made available to the media afterward, so it's unknown what his thought process was at the time. But there was no reason to want to score quickly. The correct play usually in that situation is to take the final shot of the game, or with enough time to get an offensive rebound if the shot is missed. Woodall let fly with his air ball with 15 seconds remaining.

No problem with Woodall taking the two down by three. The issue was one of too much time left on the clock. But luckily for Pitt, there was still a chance after the fouls (via):

After missing the first time, Behanan made his next two free throws with 13.2 seconds left after he was fouled again. It was then that Woodall made another questionable decision.

Woodall drove to the basket and scored with five seconds left to cut the lead to one again. The Panthers fouled Peyton Siva with four seconds on the clock, but he made both free throws to restore the three-point lead.

Ashton Gibbs took a desperation 3-point attempt as time expired, but his shot hit the back of the rim.

And unlike last time, there was no male cheerleader to bail Pitt out.

Woodall gets a lot of the blame - and deservedly so after a bone-headed sequence from a fourth year player - but there's really so much DERP to go around. Ashton Gibbs scored four points on the heels of his two point performance against USF. Woodall was also terrible shooting - just 2-10 in 32 minutes of game time. Cam Wright gave Pitt only four in 16 minutes, which isn't terrible if you're comparing him against Gibbs and Woodall.

The only bright spots were JJ Moore who once again played impressively (16 points, seven rebounds) and back-from-the-grave starter Dante Taylor who nearly put up 11 and five from the paint.

Pitt is now 15-14 with two games left in the regular season. A win over St. John's at home this week would clinch Pitt a winning regular season, a rather bitter milestone in late February for a preseason top 10 team. Otherwise, it would have to come against UConn Sunday in the Big East's "Disappointment Bowl."

The Greentree Summer Leage can't come fast enough.

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Written by Victory Lights | 27 February 2012

A big thanks to everyone who voted in the last round of the 2012 Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament, it was a great match up and in the end we were able to upset the #1 seed in the Kip Miller division, Empty Netters.  Empty Netters proved to be a fierce competitor, but Pitt has escaped the elusive Sweet 16 this time.

But now we're onto the Elite 8, and another tough opponent lies ahead.  Voting started this morning, we're already pretty far behind so we need your help.  Head on over to Sean's Ramblings and vote for The Pitt Script Blog.  There's no Scottie Reynolds to get in the way this time, but this battle may be harder than our last. 

Voting ends Tuesday Feb. 28 at 9pm, so click the big "Vote Here" link below.  Hail to Pitt!

#5 Pitt Script Blog

vs.

#2 Raise the Jolly Roger

rtjr

VOTE HERE

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Written by PSB Bryan | 25 February 2012

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Written by PSB Bryan | 24 February 2012

Troll hard, Buzz. Troll. Hard.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 24 February 2012

Technically, the season isn't over yet. There's still two weeks of the regular season, the Big East tournament and some sort of post-season assuming Pitt can win another game or two. But really, it's over. Chas wrote up a fantastic obituary of the season over at Pitt Blather, so check that out if you haven't already. Because I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, I'll just ignore that this season is still hobbling along on its last leg and begin focusing on 2012-13 and beyond.

Pitt still has one scholarship available for 2012 due to the Khem Birch departure. Pitt could also get another scholarship if there's a JJ Richardson / Dwight Miller situation where there player is nudged out in favor of an incoming player. Whether there's enough talent left available in the class of 2012 to justify the move is unclear, but Pitt could possibly have two scholarships remaining after Steven Adams and James Robinson for next season.

Here's Pitt's current roster broken down by class.

BBallScholarshipBoardYear

Easy to forget how young this team was with only four upperclassmen. Next season, Pitt will be replacing graduating seniors Taylor and Woodall. After that, there's the possibility of a player being nudged out and the open scholarship not being filled in 2012 and pocketed for 2013. Plus the whole Adams thing.

So assuming no early departures, which will probably not be the case, here's what Pitt's scholarship board broken down by position looks like.

BBallScholarshipBoardPosition

A big man is going to be a huge priority for 2013, particularly if Steven Adams is as good as advertised. In fact, with the very real possibility of Gilbert and Zanna being the only two post players on the team for 13-14, two of the three or four open scholarships should probably be big men. The good news is that if Adams is a one-and-done lottery pick, Pitt should have a lot of help recruiting a second big man.

That would leave two more open scholarships for 2013. Isaiah Epps was particularly underwhelming this season, despite having a year in the program and being two years older than his class. Epps could surprise me and develop into a solid contributor, but I'm not counting on it. So assuming James Robinson as the only true ball-handler, a point guard should be a big priority for 2013, if not 2012.

Small forward doesn't seem to be much of a concern, although Beaver Falls' Sheldon Jeter for 2012 or one of the 2013 prospects below would be nice to round out the class. With Patterson, Moore, Wright and D. Johnson all able to man SF, there isn't the need that's there at point guard or under the basket. But once Moore and Patterson graduate in 2014, that would leave Durand Johnson as the sole small forward on the roster, although Cam Wright can fill in in a pinch. So Pitt needs to get another small forward in the system soon, but it shouldn't be a huge priority.

So who's available? Well for 2013, center BeeJay Anya seems of Maryland like he'll be a top target. He's a teammate of James Robinson, so that certainly can't hurt (although he's also teammates with current 2012 Syracuse commit Jerami Grant). Another early top big man in Pitt's traditional recruiting grounds is New York's Jordan Washington.

At forward, Chester Pennsylvania's Rondae Jefferson seems like a Pitt kind of player, as does New Jersey's Tyler Roberson and Maryland's Junior Etou.

At point guard, in-state product Rysheed Jordan and Jaren Sina of New Jersey are early top prospects in the Northeast. Virginia's Stanford Robinson could be a solution for Pitt at shooting guard if they don't add a two guard in 2012.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 23 February 2012

BBollingerSackIt was previously reported that Paul Chryst was looking to fill the last two openings on the staff this week. So while the report that a quarterback coach hiring is imminent isn't a surprise, the selection is: former Wisconsin QB and NFL journeyman Brooks Bollinger (via the PG):

He retired as a player after the '10 UFL season and accepted a job as head coach/offensive coordinator at Hill Murray High School in suburban St. Paul, Minn., which is his current post.

As of Wednesday, Bollinger had not officially signed a contract with Pitt, but, according to one source, barring any last minute snags or changes, he is expected to be named quarterbacks coach in the next few days.

Is this a good hire? Who knows. Bollinger is pretty much a blank slate. He brings no college or pro coaching experience to the staff and likely no recruiting ties.

I'm not going to slam the hire without anything to go on, but my initial reaction is not positive. Bollinger may turn out to be a great coach or recruiter or both, but right now this hire seems highly questionable. My initial skepticism is amplified by the fact that Pitt lost an "Assistant Head Coach" title in the Bostad departure, which presumably freed up some cash to pursue a more... experienced candidate. I certainly don't know the details, but Bollinger's resume doesn't demand a high salary.

Between losing Bostad and this hire, it's not been a stellar week for Chryst in my mind.

 

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Written by PSB Bryan | 23 February 2012

TempleLogoI've generally stayed away from Big East expansion news since for the most part, it doesn't involve Pitt. With Pitt and Syracuse expected to depart for the ACC after next season, it doesn't really matter to me whether Navy joins in 2014 or 2013. But with each remaining Big East team left with two holes in their 2012 schedule (TCU and West Virginia), the hunt is on to find at least one suitable replacement for each team.

There's been a lot of speculation that Boise State would be that team. But today Boise emphatically slammed the door on such an idea. Probably uncoincidentally, it appears that Temple could be coming in sooner rather than later (via CBS Sports):

Temple is close to joining the Big East as an all-sports member in 2012, college football industry sources told CBSSports.com Wednesday morning.

The addition of Temple is imperative for the Big East, which desperately needs a school to replace West Virginia this fall after the Mountaineers reached a $20 million agreement with the league to leave for the Big 12.

One source told CBSSports.com that Temple to the Big East in 2012 "is done."

An announcement could be made as early as next week, sources told CBSSports.com.

The problem, of course, is those pesky waiting periods. You know, like the ones the Big East is so indigent about teams trying to get out of. According to The Philadelphia Enquirer, the MAC - which houses Temple football - requires $2.5 million and 24 months notice, while the A-10 - which houses Temple's other sports - requires $2 million and 12 months.

Pay no mind to the overwhelming stench of hypocrisy. I don't begrudge Temple for trying to leave the MAC/A-10 early. Nor do I begrudge the Big East for trying to keep their defectors until a stable solution can be reached. College football is a business and when business gets down to survival, well then business is ugly. My issue is that the Big East played morality card over and over and over again about the defectors honoring their contract and now seem poised to induce a program to do they very thing they so strongly preached against.

So assuming Temple slides in to replace WVU in the Big East schedule, the Temple Owls will be coming to Heinz Field in 2012. Feel the excitement.

Now if you really want to get conspiratorial, consider this: By 2014, the Big East is scheduled to have 13 football teams and 18 basketball teams. Does this mean the conference plans on adding one more? Or that it expects to lose Louisville to the Big 12 eventually? I expect the later.

An while I'm generally ambivilent to the move, the pain it causes Villanova is worth the price of admission (via Norristown Times Herald):

This is a BCS conference adding an outlet already so deep into an existing franchise’s media market that the same newspaper truck could almost serve both athletic offices.

No, there is not a dramatic cross-over of college basketball fans in Philadelphia. Temple fans are Temple fans, and most Villanova fans couldn’t find the Liacouras Center if you stationed them at 15th and Montgomery. So Villanova will maintain its core base. But there are some sports purists, and they will now have a choice: A Villanova-South Florida game, or Louisville at Temple. Even if it is vice-versa, there is still that choice … and that pull on wallets.

Until now, Villanova has owned the market’s BCS monopoly. But one glance at the empty sections at the Wells Fargo Center anymore reveals that the fringe customers will flee if they are not satisfied. And if Temple is playing the same schedule at Villanova, and if its tickets are more reasonable, then some fans will screech the other way on Broad Street on game night.

So that's fun.

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Written by PSN | 23 February 2012

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