Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blair a Man Amongst Boys; The Zoo Strings Gottlieb Up From the Rafters

Although Pitt-Siena was slightly marred by refs who had apparently never seen a Big East basketball game before judging by their shock at the Panthers' style of play, and by Pitt's difficulty in going for the jugular, it was still a highly entertaining late night at the Pete for any number of reasons. What follows are some of those highlights:

-DeJuan Blair continues to be an absolute monster underneath the boards. Smaller, less physical teams are going to get absolutely obliterated by this guy. He was brilliant as a freshman, but rarely was he good enough to dominate and become the best player on the court. That has already happened several times this season, and it happened for the entirety of the 30 minutes of playing time he logged last night. He put together 21 points and 16 rebounds and was absolutely hosed by the freakin' refs in this one. He was given the Shaq treatment where, if he so much as breathed in the wrong direction the refs whistled him for a foul, yet down on the offensive end, Siena did everything to stop him short of using pitchforks and torches yet nothing was called because the refs continuously choked down their whistles. Ridiculous. The good news is, the Big East regular season typically gives us competent refs, except of course this guy:For those of you unaware, that's the Notorious T-I-M aka Tim Higgins. Anyway, Blair's progression has been eye-opening this season, and while the stats may not really show that much of a difference from last year, one look at this guy on the court and the difference is unbelievably obvious.

-If there have been any unknown government advances in cloning in recent years, I volunteer Levance Fields' cells be the first to be replicated, because the Panthers NEED to find a way to get him out there for 40 minutes a game come Big East time. I'm sorry but Ashton Gibbs had the complete deer-in-the-headlights look going tonight when Siena put the press on him. In case you weren't aware, the Big East coaches, to a man, are probably 16 of the best defensive coaches in basketball and are guaranteed to be licking their chops at the thought of sicking the dogs on him. If he's doing anything other than running the point in blowout home wins during Big East season, the Panthers are going to have some issues. And I'm not sure what happened with Tra Woodall tonight, though I'd guess he's a bit banged up, as he didn't play despite some promising efforts in recent games.

-I know he made 2 treys, but can someone please tell Tyrell Biggs it's not okay to launch threes and long-range jumpers? He does know he's a role player whose sole reason for being on the court is to grab rebounds and hustle back on defense right? The only way he should score is if Sammy or Levance clank one and he shoves the putback in.

-Jermaine Dixon may start every game this season, but mark my words, in close games he'll be popping a squat the same as Gary "The Koopa Troopa" McGhee, Gibbs, Woodall, Nas Robinson, and the white guy scrubs. That's because Gil Brown's energy, athleticism and versatility will make him the ultimate weapon late against their Big East foes and he'll be the guy playing the two spot instead of JD. Now, you may say, "Well why wouldn't Gil start then?" And my response is this: He's the perfect weapon off the bench. Around that first media timeout when Blair and/or Biggs and Dixon come out of the game and the Panthers have to work in a 2 or 3 new guys into the game for the first time that day, Gil is the ultimate spark plug to keep that lineup going and give them a bit of a different look. Then have Gil move down to the 3 (or even 4) spot when Sammy takes a quick breather and put JD back at the 2. I mean let's be honest, despite the fact that this Pitt team has as much talent as any Pitt team that I've ever seen, there is a definite hierarchy to this team. It really comes down to the Big 6 (the starters and Gil), the Small Big 1 (Gary McGhee whose enormous but small in court presence and ability), the Small Small 2 (Tra Woodall and Ashton Gibbs, who combined weigh roughly the same as the Koopa Troopa), and the Other 2 (Nas Robinson and Brad Wanamaker, both of whom have talent but are too similar to Gil to really merit serious crunch minutes). So the more minutes they get out of the Big 6, the better off this team will be.

-Although I knew Doug Gottlieb has snubbed our Panthers and the Big East as a whole in years past (though his idiocy really isn't confined to a single team or conference), I didn't anticipate the venom spewed his way tonight by the Oakland Zoo. As always I was sitting right smack dab in the middle of things, and was shocked, amused, and at times even a little uneasy over the rioting mob mentality that developed toward him. Good, clean, fun chants like "Where's my Visa?" (A reference to Gottlieb being given the boot from Notre Dame many years ago after, I think, stealing credit cards or some kind of credit card scandal) started the night off. From there, things got crazier in a hurry. Much like the Anchorman fight, "That escalated quickly, I mean that really got out of hand fast...Roc killed a guy..." After some of the self-proclaimed "leaders" of the Zoo put some inflammatory quotes on their little dry erase boards claiming that Gottlieb claimed the Zoo wasn't a tough place to play, a recurring "Gottlieb sucks" chant started and continued for much of the second half. This obviously isn't anywhere near as creative or fun as the Visa trade, and led to only more malicious stuff, such as a number of derogatory sexual slurs directed at himself, his mother, and other family members. Good times all around!

-Gary McGhee, if you can't even freakin' dunk the ball, why are we keeping you around? He was matched up against someone named Josh Duell tonight who was easily 40 lbs. overweight for most of his breathtaking 6 minutes of PT, and it's probably safe to say this clash of the titans wasn't quite what James Naismith had in mind. And the highlight (or more accurately, lowlight) came when Duell took McGhee off the dribble around the 3-point line. And by off the dribble, I mean he stared head down at the ball as he slammed it insanely hard into the ground while slowly moving forward. I'm pretty sure that was the quietest the crowd was all night long as all 12,000+ in attendance gawked in horror at what was taking place. The weirdest part of all was Duell draining two treys despite looking like he would lose to Casey Hampton in wind sprints.

-This Siena team may have been a frisky bunch that played with solid fundamentals and had a smart, if somewhat loathsome, head coach, but I can't figure out how in the hell they ever beat Vanderbilt last year if this was their team. Pitt, if this was a meaningful game, would have blown the doors off of Siena early in the second half instead of subbing in the backups, who allowed the Saints to stay within striking distance. Any half-decent squad could've beat them tonight, and I really didn't see much in the way of potential three-point ability for most of the game that so often characterizes those mid-major Cinderellas. They were 6-23 from downtown, and no one on that team, except for maybe the aforementioned fat guy, looked comfortable shooting it, either, so I don't think it was just an off night.

-Our Panthers are now 11-0, and there is no way rest for the weary, as they play an athletic Florida State team Sunday evening in Tallahassee in what figures to be a very interesting game to keep an eye on. The 'Noles may not be a powerhouse ACC program, but they know how to play with the big boys, and add that to the fact that it's outside of the 4-1-2 area code, and it's probably the toughest non-conference game the Panthers will play this season.


Jonathan Bryant said...

Well obviously you were at the game so you didn't catch this one, but Gottlieb made the claim The Zoo is not a tough place to play last night. It was something to the effect of he wasn't at all impressed by the crowd and thought it didn't live up to its hype. Although if you guys were heckling him like that, that's probably why he said those kinds of things. Maybe when Doug actually starts following college b-ball he'll understand these things a little better, but until then I'll stick with the opinions of the real experts who almost always think the Zoo is a great student section.

Ryan said...

Yeah I've heard that from a few people now. I guess those Zoo guys weren't kidding when they put up the inflammatory quotes from Gottlieb. Seriously what an idiot that guy is. Is he not aware that Pitt's on winter break and the vast, vast majority of students are away from Oakland right now? Does any school, except probably Duke and UNC, have a decent student section when they are on semester break? I doubt it. Although the students who were there last night were pretty rowdy, and were able to chant "Where's my Visa" loud enough for the ESPN telecast to clearly pick it up in the background. ESPN should just have him announce OK State games and nothing else, since that's clearly the only thing topic where he doesn't turn into a complete d-bag.