What is wrong with the Pittsburgh program? Is it Jamie Dixon and his inability to motivate in an elimination tournament? Is it the fact that he isn’t the greatest in-game coach? What about the talent of the players? All of these have a bit of truth in them.
Pitt was the prohibited favorite to make it out of the Southeastern bracket. People (including me) thought that this was the year they would get over the hump. It set up so perfectly for them too, or at least we thought. They had the number one seed, played relatively close to home and were in arguably the easiest bracket in terms of great teams. But we were O so wrong.
There are a few things that Pitt doesn’t have compared to others who can make a Final 4.
Jamie Dixon is a great coach. He maximizes their potential each and every year. They don’t peak when they need to. They generally peak in early January, when they start out great in the opening stages of the Big East Conference. Dixon isn’t the greatest in-game coach either. Brad Stevens took him to school on Saturday. The last play that he designed was incredible. Everybody knew what Butler did in the second round because it was the first game winner of the NCAA Tournament and EVERYBODY saw it. He took the same concept of that play except the design was slightly different. Instead of the driver shooting the ball, he found the cutter to the basket for the easy lay in. Also, please remember what happened against Connecticut in the Big East Tournament. Kemba Walker even admitted that he knew exactly what Dixon was going to do and Dixon didn’t adjust whatsoever. Adjustments are crucial come tournament time, and Dixon is just plain average.
Dixon recruits players and makes them better overall players when they graduate. Guys like Gary McGhee and Travon Woodall (for example) weren’t necessarily highly recruited out of high school. Woodall wasn’t even a starter on his high school team. Dante Taylor was a highly recruited player that hasn’t panned out quite yet, but has two more years. Khem Birch is coming to Pitt as the number one center out of high school. Hopefully he is a little more forceful than Taylor.
Also, how about you recruit some guys that can shoot? Ashton Gibbs is one of the best shooters in the Big East. He is not a “go to” guy in the clutch. He needs to work around screens to get open, and people cover him like a blanket because they realize that all he can do is shoot. He would be the second or third option on a GOOD basketball team. Gilbert Brown is off and on with his shot, Travon Woodall and Lamar Patterson weren’t very dependable from behind the arc this season.
They needed Brad Wanamaker to be the guy who can create his own shot at any moment, but he didn’t live up to that role this year. He passed up three pointers, played scared and didn’t assert himself enough.
They need to recruit some high talented guards that can score. It might mean they leave early, but so what? They need to have the best player on the floor in an elimination tournament. Look what Walker is doing in Connecticut. This theory is especially true if Dixon is coaching (which he should be). He needs to have the players when it comes time to play in a big time atmosphere to overcome for his coaching liabilities.
Pitt’s BEST team was when DeJuan Blair, LeVance Fields and Sam Young were on the squad. Young was arguably the best player on the floor each and every game. People would argue that Young was one of those players that were developed, which is not entirely true. He was a four star recruit who was the 14th best SF coming out of High School. He also averaged 20 minutes his freshman year. Blair was a guy down low that was special. If Young wasn’t the best on the floor Blair was. Fields was the ultimate assist/turnover ratio player. He was also clutch in late game situations. Even with these talented players, Pitt didn’t make it to the Final 4.
So what is it? What do YOU think the biggest problem is?
I noticed something in the Duke/Michigan game. No announcer or analyst brought it to the attention of the public. Kyle Singler CLEARLY and I stress CLEARLY fouled the Michigan rebounder off the free-throw miss from Nolan Smith. All we heard on Saturday was “a foul is a foul” but CLEARLY there was a foul with no call. Please take a look at the ending of the Duke/Michigan game and tell me if there was a foul. You are seeing things if you think it was legit.
The only difference is that Matt Howard flopped when he was hit. If that was a foul (which I say yes) why weren’t three shots given? The reason why Duke didn’t get called for it is because the Michigan player didn’t flop and Duke is DUKE and you can’t call that on DUKE.
About the Author
Written by Justin Welton
Born in Franklin, PA. Life-long Pittsburgh sports fan + Boston Celtics. Attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Working for WCUC - 91.7 and WCUB-TV. Clarion Call writer for two years.