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Written by PSB Bryan | 02 June 2012

Even if you don't consider the departure of Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia to be the ruination of the Big East, it will certainly never be the same, especially in basketball. 2006-2011 were incredible years for the conference, filled with incredible players. Check out this fantastic read by the Marquette Blog Cracked Sidewalks, who took the time to rank the top 40 players of the Big East during the "Golden Era."

Do yourself a favor: sometime this weekend, pour a drink, open the list in one tab and YouTube in another. Read the list and watch highlights as you go. Really a reminder of how fantastic the league has been in basketball and how fortunate Pitt has been to be a big part of it.

Speaking of, Sam Young is 24, DeJuan Blair is 17, and Levance Fields is 9.

Roy Hibbert is number 1. Well deserved, except for that 2008 Big East Championship Game....

I kid, I kid.

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Written by TFW Bryan | 01 June 2012

In case you missed it on Facebook this afternoon, this happened...

Facebook-BIGEAST

OK, it may not have happened that way (although it's not that far of a stretch).  It happened more like this... 

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Written by PSB Bryan | 31 May 2012

HCampingFSU

Remember Harold Camping? Probably not. He's a crazy person. But unlike most crazy people, Camping had a platform to amplify his ramblings to the world. See, Camping was a radio evangelist who - for whatever reason - kept predicting the world was going to end. And - for whatever reason - people believed him. Or at least they acknowledged his crazy predictions and therefore somewhat legitimizing them.

Camping had predicted that the world would end on May 21, 1988. Fortunately for George H.W. Bush and the rest of humanity, Camping was wrong. But never fear! It was a simple mathematical error. How embarrassing! The world is actually going to end on September 6, 1994. But then that didn't happen either.

Undeterred, Camping once again predicted the end of the world: May 21, 2011. But a funny thing happened between 1994 and 2011. A thing called "the internet" and "social media" became widely available. So when May 2011 came around, this prediction got a lot of attention. And when it once again didn't happen, well, that got a lot of attention too. Camping was rightfully mocked as someone who incorrectly predicted the end of the world, not once, but three different times.

And that's pretty much exactly where we are with the "impending doom" of the ACC.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 30 May 2012

Two of the biggest recruits in western Pennsylvania - lineman Dorian Johnson and receiver Robert Foster - moved in the new Rivals top 250 rankings, one up and one down.

But perhaps more importantly, the recruiting network 247 labelled Pitt as the "favorite" for Dorian Johnson. Take that for what it's worth, but I'd rather Pitt be the "favorite" than not. They have Johnson as the number 12 player in the country overall and the second best tackle. Rivals, on the other hand, slid Dorian Johnson to 233 overall and the 33rd (!) offensive tackle from an unranked four-star player. That's a fairly drastic discrepancy, but I suppose evaluating the potential of teenagers is an inexact science.

Robert Foster is the number one wide receiver in the country according to 247 and a top 10 player nationally, while Rivals slid him from the number 24 player to 34. He's the top wideout in the class for 247 and the fourth for Rivals.

Foster is another local guy who seems to be interested in staying home, but with any player his caliber, there's the siren's song of the SEC, and in this case, Alabama (via AL.com):

"Alabama may be his only official one definitely," said Mark Lyons, Foster's head coach at Central Valley (Pennsylvania) High School. "I think we're going to let the summer finish out, and by the end of summer when we get into our official camp, he'll have an idea of where he's going to take those five official visits."

While the appeal of playing close to home is believed to be a factor for Foster, some analysts believe the Crimson Tide may be well-positioned to lure the five-star playmaker away from the Northeast.

"If he leaves the East/Midwest area, Alabama is the school I think has the best shot of pulling him," 247Sports analyst Steve Wiltfong said in regards to his report on Foster. "I think the bells and whistles at Alabama, all the tradition, Nick Saban, his spring game experience, have the Tide near the top of his list."

Finally, Ken Gorman has some names to watch in the WPIAL for 2014. Most notably, Blackhawk QB - and Pitt commit - Chandler Kincade, Gateway defensive backs Anthony Davis, Delvon Randall and Montae Nicholson. The Quips will also have their share of offers with Dravon Henry, Jaleel Fields and Donovan Cobb all expected to get FBS offers.

Interestingly, Gateway coach Terry Smith is claiming five "high end, BCS types" in the class. Those are big words, but something that could be possible at Gateway, one of the nation's top producers of NFL talent.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 29 May 2012

proamlogobig

Now that the heat and humidity have reached unbearable levels, it must be time for the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am - more affectionately called "the Greentree League." Nothing quite says basketball season than sitting in a very hot gym in the dog days of June and July, but it's always completely worth it to get a taste of Pitt sports in the long, long offseason.

June 18th will be the first time we get to see Steven Adams, Trey Zeigler, James Robinson and Chris Jones. The league will once again be Mondays and Wednesdays starting at 7:00. The playoffs run July 16-18th.

No rosters yet, but I'll post them when they're available. Rumor has it that a number of Pitt hoops alumni will be on hand.

Please consider donating to the Pittsburgh Basketball Club if you can. You can find out how to make a 100% tax-deductible donation here. This league has really become something unto itself and keeps Pitt's players in organized, NCAA approved competition. Definitely a worthy place to send some extra bucks to support the Panthers.

In other news, SNY's Adam Zagoria ranked Steven Adams and Trey Zeigler among the Big East's best players next season (via Zags Blog):

Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh– Perhaps no new player will be more intriguing than the 7-footer whom coach Jamie Dixon brought over from New Zealand, where he led the adidas Nations tournament in scoring (22 ppg) and rebounding (16.8 rpg).

Trey Zeigler, G, Pittsburgh — Pitt coach Jamie Dixon scored a major coup when Zeigler received a waiver to play immediately this season after his father, Ernie, was fired as head coach at Central Michigan.  In just two years at Central Michigan, Zeigler scored 1,011 points, or 16.0 per game.

ESPN's Eamonn Brennan took a look at Pitt's expectations after the Trey Zeigler news (via ESPN):

If Adams and a new-look Pitt frontcourt can excel immediately, then Pittsburgh's goal of returning to the NCAA tournament should be little more than a boring expectation. If all goes well, the ceiling should be much higher; this team could compete with Louisville and Syracuse at the top of the Big East. And it will be fascinating to see Zeigler -- a talented player asked to do everything for a team that ranked No. 270 in KenPom at the end of 2012 -- competing in a big-time conference with talented players around him. That alone could improve his play considerably.

At the very least, Dixon has his backcourt back in fighting shape. It took a slightly unusual NCAA decision to make it happen, but the end result is the first truly great news Pitt fans have heard in a year.

Whether Pitt can compete for a final Big East crown remains to be seen. There's a lot of questions. Can Zeigler maintain consistency against markedly better competition. Will Steven Adams come close to living up to the hype? If so, Pitt should be able to make the Big East race at least interesting. And either way, Pitt's 2012-13 title chances are in much better shape that they were a week ago.

Finally, here's a video and write up from SI.com naming Adams their high school player of the week. And here's a pretty fun interview he did back in New Zealand:

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Written by PSB Bryan | 28 May 2012

JDixonLouisville12Not surprising, but interesting nonetheless (via the PG):

The filing -- which covers July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011 -- shows that former head football coach David Wannstedt, who led the team for six seasons until he resigned at the end of 2010, was No. 1 with total compensation package of $1,859,377, including $936,930 in base compensation and $855,000 in bonus and incentive pay.

The pay figures are from calendar year 2010.

Jamie Dixon, who became head basketball coach in 2003, followed at $1,830,176, including $978,154 in base compensation and $681,905 in bonus and incentive pay.

In the topsy-turvy world of higher ed, it's certainly not uncommon for the head coaches of major programs to be the highest compensated employees, even when compared to presidents and top administrators. Of particular interest to me is that Dixon earned less than $1.25 million as recently as June of 2009, meaning in that in a relatively short time span, Dixon's compensation was raised by nearly a third. Not too shabby.

Dixon is still a relative bargain when compared to his peers. Bo Ryan makes over $2 million per year, as does Bob Huggins. Maryland's Mark Turgeon earns a comparable salary at $1.9 million despite being no where near as accomplished as Dixon. Of course, Dixon is still way, way behind the "heavyweights" - at least financially - of college basketball. Pitino and Calipari each make over $3 million a year, while Coach K pulls down a whooping $7.2 million.

Also of note, Chancellor Nordenberg made $707,190 and Steve Pederson made $596,595. Both men are worth every penny in my opinion (as unpopular as that may be).

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Written by PSB Bryan | 27 May 2012

Huge, huge news. And not just because Jamie Dixon tweeted for the first time since 2009 (via):

JDixonTweetZeigler

No idea how or why Zeigler's appeal was granted. The NCAA always seems to be saying that players need to commit to the school and not the coach, but with Zeigler's father being the fired coach, it seems to have reversed course.

Trey Zeigler will play this season as a true junior. He scored over 1,000 points in his first two seasons at Central Michigan.

Pitt was always confident that he would be granted a waiver (via the PG):

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon credited associate athletic director Dan Bartholomae for researching other cases involving players whose parents were dismissed. The highest profile case involved a baseball player being granted immediate eligibility at Miami after his father was fired at USC.

To Dixon's knowledge, Zeigler is the first men's basketball player to be granted immediate eligibility in such a case.

"We felt like there was a really good chance this would happen," Dixon said Friday night. "After Dan did all of the research, we were very hopeful based on what he was telling us. We expected this decision."

A heartfelt job well done to the athletic department as a whole and Dan Bartholomae in particular.

The Trib was first to get quotes from Zeigler (via the Trib):

“It was a surprise that it happened this early,” Zeigler said. “We kind of knew I had a shot at it before I even committed.”

Dixon recruited Zeigler but knew the teen’s opportunity to play for his father would be difficult to overcome.

“There are certain things you don’t recruit against,” Dixon said. “One of them is a guy coaching his own son.”

Zeigler is no stranger to Pitt; Ernie Zeigler worked as a Panthers assistant from 2001-03. The younger Zeigler was 10 years old when he met Dixon.

“Without question, it’s home,” Ernie Zeigler said, explaining how his son grew up watching the emergence of Pitt basketball. In both seasons the elder Zeigler served as an assistant, the Panthers made it to the Sweet 16.

Pitt fans have been craving a slashing two guard ever since the Kemba Walker Show at MSG in 2010. Here he is. And like Walker, Zeigler is a high-volume shooter, averaging over 15.6 13.5 attempts per game - and only a .462 .395 FG% (EDIT: looked at freshman stats orginially)- as the one-man show at CMU. How he adjusts to a team with scoring threats Tray Woodall and JJ Moore remain to be seen.

But this is very, very good news. Pitt should now not only be expected to return to the NCAA tournament in 2013, but should be expected to contend for a final Big East championship.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 26 May 2012

rimingtontrophyPitt's Ryan Turnley made the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

This is the first appearance on the watch list for the returning starter. Turnley is representing the Big East with Louisville's Mario Benavides and Syracuse's Mackey MacPerson. Of 2012 opponents, there's Notre Dame's Braxton Cave and Virginia Tech's Andrew Miller.

While an honor to be among the top fifty at the position, the award seems to already be wrapped up, barring an injury to Alabama's Barrett Jones. Jones is the reigning Outland Trophy winner (given to the top lineman in the country), a unanimous All-American and a two time All-SEC first team player.

Regardless, Turnely was one of the one bright spots on last year's line and the Hopewell alum should anchor a pretty strong middle for Pitt that includes sixth-year senior Chris Jacobson.

Congratulations, Ryan.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 25 May 2012

Pitt fullback Derrick Burns is recovering well after suffering a stroke Tuesday (via the PG):

"He was doing fantastic [Wednesday]," Dan Burns, his adoptive father, said Thursday. "He was very upbeat. He's still very weak on the right side, but his prognosis is very good. He has massive blood clots in his brain, and they're working to dissolve those."

Dan Burns said doctors elected not to perform surgery because they deemed it too risky. Doctors have not given a timetable for Derrick Burns' release from the hospital, but Dan Burns said it could be a matter of "days or weeks."

Dan Burns also said Derrick Burns will be on blood thinners the rest of his life.

It goes without saying, but we wish Derrick the best as he deals with this condition the rest of his life. Paul Chryst agrees (via ESPN):

"Paul Chryst, the class act that he is, says, 'Derrick, I don't care about football right now. We just got to get you better,' " Dan Burns said, referring to the Panthers' coach.

The bad news is that it's likely Burns will never take a snap as a Panther. Of course, that's small potatoes compared with his health and his life.

At fullback, Pitt doesn't have a lot of options at fullback. Burns is the only eligible scholarship player at fullback. Chris Mike (RS Jr), Chris Wildman (RS Jr) and Randy Morris (RS Fr) were all unrecruited and Ohio State transfer David Durham isn't eligible until 2013 under NCAA rules. There's going to be a huge opportunity for the three walk-on players to earn minutes and likely a scholarship. Someone is going to have to step up.

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Written by TFW Bryan | 25 May 2012

scenariofiveanarchy

Expansiopocolypse is everywhere on the interwebs these days...and the "breaking news" on this topic is nothing more than people repeating other people's misinformation and how it effects [insert school here].  We could write about it every day, but Chas over at PittBlather.com does such a fantastic job creating a daily digest post on the happenings that it would serve little purpose for us to do the same.  It's the off season, we need a break too.

But if there is something to report, we will be on top of it.  Steve Pederson speaking on how Expansiopocolypse will/won't effect Pitt?  That's summer blog post worthy.

The conference commissioners, university presidents and even the pundits flirting with a four-team playoff based on four conference champions are fantasizing. Imagine the litigation. Or even legislation. If you thought senators fumed when Utah or Boise State were snubbed by the BCS, just wait until someone tries to close the door permanently on dozens of schools.

"No way," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson responded Thursday when I raised the topic. "We don't know where a lot of this is headed, and we might still be looking at some form of the current BCS setup. But everyone absolutely will have access to the national championship."

As long as everyone has access to the national championship, doesn't an ACC team have an easier road to it?  Dejan Kovacevic makes that argument in his article:

West Virginia will have to plow through some serious heavyweights — Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State — just to stay afloat in the Big 12, much less contend. Pitt's ACC opponents come with some pedigree, particularly Virginia Tech, but won't be nearly as strong. A 13-0 or 12-1 record isn't easy anywhere, but it sure looks more feasible in the ACC than the Big 12.

Would 12-1 in the ACC be enough to make a four-team playoff?

"Oh, I would think so," Pederson said. "Look, it's pretty clear that there are five power conferences and that the ACC is one of them. We control the eastern seaboard, we've got the prestige, the athletics, the academics ... we're thrilled to be where we are."

Some people are assuming that because the B1G Ten, Pac-12, Big XII, and SEC bring in the most television money, they will always be the Top 4 conference champions (the model being pushed for by most all conference commissioners)...but that is certainly not the case.  Let's look at the BCS's history since it was created in 1998.

Using the final regular season BCS rankings, here are the highest ranked four conference champions all-time:

1998: SEC, ACC, Big XII, B1G Ten
1999: ACC, BIG EAST, Big XII, SEC
2000: Big XII, ACC, BIG EAST, Pac-12
2001: BIG EAST, Big XII, Pac-12, SEC
2002: BIG EAST, B1G Ten, SEC, Pac-12
2003: Big XII, SEC, Pac-12, B1G Ten
2004: Pac-12, Big XII, SEC, MWC
2005: Pac-12, Big XII, B1G Ten, (Notre Dame), SEC*
2006: B1G Ten, SEC, Pac-12, BIG EAST
2007: B1G Ten, SEC, ACC, Big XII
2008: Big XII, SEC, Pac-12, MWC
2009: SEC, Big XII, BIG EAST, MWC
2010: SEC, Pac-12, MWC, B1G Ten
2011: SEC, Big XII, Pac-12, MWC

* Notre Dame was ranked #6 in the final 2005 BCS Standings, ahead of the 4th conference champion Georgia (SEC)

Only twice (2003, 2005) have the B1G Ten, Pac-12, Big XII, and SEC owned the Top 4 conference champion positions.  If there there was a Notre Dame clause, as there is in the current BCS format, the Irish would have stolen the 4th spot in 2005.

When all is said and done, history dictates that there will at least be one opening a year in the Top 4 conference champion playoff model for a non-Big Four conference champion...and Pitt, if deserving, would have a shot at it.

(Editors Note: Chas needs to trademark the phrase Expansiopocolypse™, and then print t-shirts afterwords saying "I survived Expansiopocolypse™" in a nice royal blue and mustard colored script.  I know I would buy one.  He should probably do this before Chas down on the corner in Oakland steals his idea too.)

expansiopocolypse

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