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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!

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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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Written by PSB Bryan | 22 February 2012

Some somewhat surprising news (via the PG):

Former Pitt defensive coordinator and interim coach Keith Patterson was hired to join the defensive staff at West Virginia today. His specific role on the staff was not yet disclosed.

"Keith has had a lot of successful years coaching at some great programs, both at the college and high school levels," Holgorsen said in a release.

"His years of experience in developing players and defenses will be an invaluable resource to our program, while his background in Texas and Oklahoma will only add to our recruiting efforts."

Patterson, who had accepted a job at Arkansas State last month, resigned from that position last week.

Patterson seemed more than a little upset about the way Todd Graham left so this is a bit of curious move in one sense, but his daughter attends Pitt so if nothing else this he's closer to her.

Anyway, Patterson is a good guy who was put in a bad situation and did right by Pitt. Best of luck to him.

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Written by Victory Lights | 22 February 2012

First we want to thank everyone for voting for us in round one and helping us to a decisive victory.  But let's get down to business: The Sweet 16 is upon us.

Pitt history dictates that the Sweet 16 is a huge hurdle not often cleared, so we kindly request that you check out Sean's Ramblings and give us a vote.  We appear to be the only Pitt Blog left so let's show everyone that Pitt can succeed in a Pro Sports town.

We drew a tough opponent for this one, going up against the number one seed.  Voting ends Thursday Feb. 23 at 9pm, so click the big "Vote Here" link below.  Hail to Pitt!

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#1 Empty Netters

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