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The Pitt Script Blog - A Pittsburgh Panthers Blog | Page 10

Written by PSB Bryan | 05 April 2012


Thank God for the perennial "Let's go get Jamie Dixon!" talk every off season. Generating content from mid April through late July is tough. Now if it could just wait until spring football ends, this would be perfect.

This year's ridiculous idea/rumor/speculation is that former Horned Frog mid-80s sensation Jamie Dixon will be headed back to Ft. Worth (via Dallas Star-Telegram):

In the past, the idea of luring Dixon away from the tradition-rich Big East Conference to come coach his alma mater in Conference USA or the Mountain West was -- without question -- a long shot.

But how about now?

Several sources at TCU said the school's move to the Big 12 next season, coupled with athletic director Chris Del Conte's assurances that plans of a major renovation to the basketball facilities are in his sights, could be enough to get Dixon listening.

No one would love to pull off the extraordinary coaching coup more than Del Conte. And he has a history with Dixon, who first suggested to Del Conte and Big East officials that TCU should seriously consider joining the Big East.

No. Stop. Really.

To be fair, the rest of the article explains why that's an incredible long-shot. ESPNDallas prefers to go with "ZOMG GO GET EM" approach. (ESPN regional sites! The same crappy writing you're used to, but now with more homerism!)

Obviously, this isn't going to happen. Pay no heed to the fact that Dixon isn't from the Dallas / Ft. Worth area or even Texas or even that quadrant of the country. Dixon is from southern California and happened to spend four years as a player for TCU in the mid-80s. He's lived in Pittsburgh for thirteen years. His children were born in Pittsburgh. He's built #1 ranked teams in Pittsburgh. He can win here and he knows it.

The speculation seems to have not even lasted 24 hours, however, as Dixon was shot down as "not a viable candidate." When your coach leaves to take a MAC job - and not even a particularly good MAC job - you're probably going to do more than match his salary at his Big East / ACC school. Considering Dixon makes nearly three times as much as TCU's last head coach (plus upgraded salary for assistants, facilities and recruiting budget), it would cost TCU several millions in additional costs to even match what Pitt is offering. And I don't think matching would be enough to lure Dixon away from Pitt when he has shied away from interest from programs such as Maryland, Cal, USC, Missouri, Oregon, Arizona State. Hell, even Oregon tried to dig dump a pile of Nike money on him. No luck.

If you're TCU, you had to at least see if he's interested. I get that. That doesn't make it any less silly though.

Its ok. If Pitt loses Dixon, Pederson will just replace him with John Calipari. He's from western Pennsylvania - he must be dying to come home.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 05 April 2012


From Andy Katz last evening (via ESPN):

Pitt and Syracuse representatives won't be at the Big East meetings, but they will be at the ACC meetings in May. The respective coaches will be at the ACC meetings, too.

When will the two schools join the ACC? "Hopefully, we'll get everything worked out here soon,'' Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. "Their league is reconfigured and ready to move, and when you get to that point where everybody is on the next page, everybody should move on.''

Pederson wouldn't commit to the fall of 2013, but that seems to be the goal. The ACC is ready to receive Pitt and Syracuse, and the Big East is ready to move on with its new members.

Well then.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 04 April 2012

There are actual, substantive things going on with Pitt athletics right now, but sometimes life gives you an opportunity that's too good to pass up (via):

TGrahamPitchThe jokes are endless. Really.

So that's about 15 minutes worth.

But let's not forget about RichRod. He must be thrilled. There really aren't that many pairings where he gets to be the noble one. I just hope that his pitch isn't a nightmare.

Never gets old.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 04 April 2012

IEppsMarq12It was a poorly kept secret - mostly because it made so much sense for both parties to happen - but sophomore guard Isaiah Epps is leaving the program (via the PG):

"We have been in constant communication with Isaiah regarding his family's well-being," Dixon said. "We believe that it is best for Isaiah to be close to home and we will assist him in finding the best possible situation to reach his goals-both academically and athletically. He's a great kid, hard worker and good player. We thank Isaiah for his contribution to our program over the last two years and wish him much success in the future."

Pitt has two scholarships available for the spring signing period, which begins next week. Chris Jones from Teaneck, N.J. verbally committed earlier this winter and is expected to sign a letter of intent.

Epps played pretty sparingly even though Dixon desperately needed a point guard to chew up minutes when Woodall was hurt. The clearest sign came when Dixon went to walk-on Nick Rivers over Epps in the CBI Championship when the game was still very much in question.

As with all players leaving the program, we wish Isaiah the absolute best.

As for Pitt, that's one open scholarship for 2012-13. Let's take a look at the scholarship chart after the jump.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 02 April 2012

Finding the right adjective to describe Pitt football's 2011 is challenging. "Turbulent" fits, but it really doesn't seem gloomy enough. "Disastrous" seems closer to the mark, but maybe a bit over the top considering expectations were generally pretty low for the season. But however you want to describe it, 2011 was a terrible year for Pitt football.

Firing Wannstedt in December of 2010 needed to be done. The program's momentum had stalled out after some moderate success. The off-the-field issues didn't help and actually seemed to be the nail in the coffin. The firing of Wannstedt was messy. The players loved him. A lot of the media liked him. He was a good face of the program and fit the whole "My City. My Panthers." mantra that the athletic department pushes to build a non-Pitt grad fanbase in the region. But it was clear after Jordan Todman converted on fourth down on a November night in East Hartford - and even clearer as WVU dropped the hammer the day after Thanksgiving - that Pitt had to make a change.

But that change has taken Pitt on an unprecedented spiral of bad news, bad decisions and bad luck. With one decision - the correct decision in my opinion - Pitt went from a relatively stable, albeit average program to a national joke complete with colorful characters. Mike Haywood. Penni Graham. The Fraud. Mike Norvell. "High Octane" transformed from a catchphrase to a punch-line. In the course of 13 months, Pitt had six head coaches. Six.

So here we are with coach #6. Paul Chryst. A near universally praised hire. But that doesn't mean huge challenges don't remain. Two years of hectic recruiting has left the offensive line woefully thin. Artie Rowell is the only offensive linemen in two classes. Besides Rowell, there's only two players with even underclassmen eligibility: Matt Rotheram and transfer Tom Ricketts. There are serious question marks at quarterback, receiver and linebacker. Depth remains at huge issue in both lines. There's enough work cut out for Chryst and his staff.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 02 April 2012

It's been done by just about every Pitt football outlet, but the story of Dan Mason's return to Pitt is nothing short of incredible. After sustaining nerve damage to his leg during an injury against Miami in 2010, it seemed pretty likely that Mason would never play football again.

Mason seems like a pretty humble kid (via the PG):

He said he was crushed when doctors told him his career was likely over. But he wasn't about to accept their opinion without pushing himself to work through the long rehabilitation process.

"Yeah [it is a miracle]," Mason said, "but I couldn't stop rehabbing and everything, trying to get back. God put something in me, I just couldn't [quit], I just had to try. It was working hard and faith. I was doubting right after the injury, but that is the only time I doubted. But, once I just got back into it, got my mindset right, it just started coming back.

"But it isn't me, don't get me wrong, it isn't me," he said, then gave all the credit to God.

Obviously, he's become a bit of rallying cry for his teammates and the coaches, all of whom are looking for positive after a 5-7 season (via):

"I salute Dan Mason, I have fallen in love with the kid, he is tough as nails," said Pitt defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. "When I got here, I was told that we probably wouldn't have him. But I'll tell you what, he is making a lot of non-believers [into] believers. He is working extremely hard, and I pray for that kid every night that he can stay healthy and continue to improve because he loves it, he loves this game.

"I think there is still a little bit of limitation there, but I've never seen his head down or use it as an excuse," Huxtable said. "And I've never seen any body language suggesting it might bother him."

A fantastic story. The story-book aspect of it will be complete if he can beat out sophomore linebacker EJuan Price for the inside linebacker starting spot. Price was Graham's outside rush linebacker, but after a disappointing season, this staff has moved him inside to compete with Mason. Ideally, Mason can play at 100%, win the job, and allow the coaches to redshirt Price. That would put two seasons of distance between the two in 2013 (Mason then a RS senior and Price a RS sophomore).

And just as it appears that the linebacking core is looking like a real unit with depth, here comes the arrests. Carl Flemming probably wasn't going to be a starter, but he did play in 5 games last season, so he has some experience.

Fleming has been suspended indefinitely suspended from the team. As the unlucky winner of "first guy to get in trouble with a new coach," I'd expect Fleming to win an no expense paid trip back to his home of Maryland and dismissal from the team. Sucks, but precedent must be set. That he's not a star player softens the blow a little.

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Written by TFW Bryan | 31 March 2012

And just like that, the 2011-12 basketball season finally came to its official end.  The Pitt Panthers are the champions of the College Basketball Invitational sponsored by Zebra Pens.

It is in no way the end we imagined or had hoped for, but you know what?  It could have been a lot worse.  Instead of finishing the regular season 2-7 in their last seven games regular season games and BIG EAST tournament, the Panthers finished 7-3 in their last 10.

We can all laugh and argue that Pitt should have never accepted an invitation to this tournament, but the truth is that this is the tournament that this team deserved to play in.  They showed more desire and effort than we had seen in most games this year.  They won a hard fought games against Butler on their court.  They almost pulled out an improbable win Pullman, WA.  They took care of business on their home court (and paid a lot of money to do so).

It was said that the original intention was to keep playing and to get the younger guys some minutes.  Yet Malcolm Gilbert saw the court just under two minutes a game, and even saw less minutes in the finale than Nick Rivers.  Cam Wright saw only two minutes against Wofford, but averaged 15 minutes a game in the remaining five.  J.J. Moore had the switch flip near the end of the regular season and continued his dominance averaging 12 points a game.  And then there is Lamar Patterson.

Patterson was named most valuable player in the CBI following Pitt's 71-65 victory against Washington State in the third game of the best-of-three championship series Friday at Petersen Events Center.

Patterson capped his strong postseason performance with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. For the tournament, he averaged 13.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

How does the rest of the team feel about Patterson's performance?

"Lamar was tremendous this tournament," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

"He's been real confident," point guard Tray Woodall said. "He's a Brad Wanamaker-type player. He instills confidence in the rest of his teammates. Guys are confident he'll make the right plays. Coach Dixon calls sets for him knowing he'll make the right play all the time."

Patterson earned a starting position as a sophomore, but he did not assert himself the way he did in this tournament. He was often in the background as Ashton Gibbs and Woodall dominated the offensive touches.

But in this tournament, Patterson was the focal point of the offense, and it provided a glimpse of what the Panthers will look like next season.

And that is exactly what Jamie Dixon had hoped to get out of playing in a tournament that most people had never heard of, plus maybe a free Zebra Pen or two.

As fans, we can all say that we have now learned what channel HDNet is and that HDNet doesn't come in on standard definition TVs.  Always a win to find a new station that carries reruns of "JAG" during the day.

People will say that it is better to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament than to win another post-season tournament, and I can't disagree with that statement.  But as a fan, I will look back on this post-season more fondly than the post-season run of the 2004-05 team that included loses to Villanova and Pacific in the first round of the BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments.


Hail to Pitt!

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Written by PSB Bryan | 29 March 2012

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Written by Victory Lights | 27 March 2012

The 2012 Pitt football schedule was released today and there are a few nice surprises to it.  Let's get right to it:



Opponent Time TV
Sept. 1 Youngstown St.           6:00pm    
Sept. 6 (Thurs)   @ Cincinnati* 8:00pm ESPN
Sept. 15 Virginia Tech TBA
Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb TBA Hahaha
Sept. 29 Bye
Oct. 5 (Fri) @ Syracuse* 7:00pm ESPN
Oct. 13 Louisville* TBA
Oct. 20 @ Buffalo TBA
Oct. 27 Temple* TBA
Nov. 3 @ Notre Dame 3:30pm NBC
Nov. 9 (Fri) @ Connecticut* 8:0pm ESPN2
Nov. 17 Bye
Nov. 24 Rutgers* TBA
Dec. 1 @ South Florida* TBA ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2   

Home games in bold blue.
*denotes BIG EAST Conference game

Pitt's Athletics website notes that due to Television considerations, TBA kickoff times will be announced at a later date.  They should add in parentheses afterwards "also known as 12pm" but I guess they're being optimistic.

On that optimistic side, all the home games are on Saturdays this season, so get your breakfast tailgates planned now.  BIG EAST play kicks off really early in the season on Sept. 6 when the Panthers travel to Cincinnati to fill that gaping hole left by TCU in the schedule.  Fortunately for Cincinnati there shouldn't be any snow.  Temple is welcomed back into the BIG EAST because few to no other options existed with open arms and travels to Heinz Field, looking to beat Pitt for the first time since 1998.  The weekend usually reserved for brawling in the backyard with hoopies is replaced with a home game against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.  I just hope it's more entertaining that 2011's Pitt-Rutgers <sarcasm> offensive fireworks display </sarcasm>.

There are quite a few nationally televised games, including the big show down at Notre Dame.  It's on NBC, so get your earphones ready to tune out the blatant homerism listen to Billy Hilgrove and Pat Bostick with the call.  The BIG EAST is hoping that Pitt vs. USF can turn out to be a championship match-up, or maybe one of the other games that weekend will if nothing else.  That should fill the void until they can have a true conference championship game, sure.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 27 March 2012

It was a game of runs, inconsistency and poor defense that showed why both teams missed out on the NCAAs and even the NIT (via the Trib):

After an 8-2 opening for Pitt, Washington State (19-16) put together a 15-4 spurt to make it 17-12. Not to be outdone, the Panthers responded with a 13-0 streak over the next 2:23 — highlighted by eight points from Moore — to go on top, 25-17.

Both teams shot better than 55 percent from the floor in the opening half and over 50 percent from 3-point range. But behind seven 3-pointers, including three by Woodall, it was Pitt who jogged into the locker room at halftime with a 38-35 lead.

Washington State came out hot in the second half, but Pitt struggled from the floor, shooting just 6 of 21 (28.6 percent) in the final 20 minutes. That included a seven-minute stretch without a field goal beginning at 14:20.

Despite the dry spell, Pitt rallied in the final minutes. Trailing 65-59 with 1:46 left, Moore was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He promptly stepped to the line and knocked down all three to cut the lead in half.

Like Pitt's season as a whole, last night was a game of missed chances (via the AP):

Pitt (20-17) had a couple of chances to win the game in the final 3.5 seconds. But Tray Woodall’s layup attempt was swatted away by Washington State’s D.J. Shelton. Then the Panthers’ Lamar Patterson missed a long jumper as time expired.

“We had two good looks and came up short,” Dixon said.

Woodall and J.J. Moore led Pitt with 16 points each, while Nasir Robinson had 11 points.

Dante Taylor continues to play terribly. Despite playing 20 minutes, he managed no points or even shots. He contributed five rebounds, but that four of them were offensive makes his zero shots even more troubling. Gibbs continues to play as if the season ended in late January, contributing seven points on seven field goal attempts over 28 minutes.

John Johnson and Cam Wright both were absent from the scoring sheet.

It's always tough losing. It's especially tough losing to a below average team missing their top players (via the PG):

Brock Motum, the Pacific-12 Conference scoring leader, appears unlikely to play in the series. He has been on crutches and wearing a protective boot since suffering what he described as a "severe" ankle sprain Wednesday at Oregon State.

Motum, Washington State's biggest and best player at 6 feet 10 and 245 pounds, leads the Cougars with 18.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Motum is a candidate for the Australian Olympic team this summer.

Washington State's second-leading scorer, guard Faisal Aden (14.5 ppg), was lost for the year with a knee injury in late January. The Cougars' top active scorer entering the game Monday was junior point guard Reggie Moore (9.6).

Pitt's second chance at the Cougars will be Wednesday at 7:00 at the Pete. If they win there, it will come down to game three Friday night, also at home.

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