Monday, February 16, 2009

Pitt Hoops: They're Kind of A Big Deal

Hey college basketball fans, Don't act like your not impressed.

Aaaaaaand that's enough Anchorman for one post.

Anyway, how about those Panthers, ehh? The performances by DeJuan Blair and Sam Young really can't be understated. Sam I Am was filling the basket like he was playing Northeastern Missouri Southern College in early December or something. He was superb.

And DeJuan Blair was absolutely dominant. I know I've said it before, but the guy is the MVP of this squad. He's more important than Sammy or Levance Fields. He, along with the stupendous coaching job by Jamie Dixon and company, absolutely shut down Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet was badly exposed as being an all-D no-O player and I'd say his now infamous 20-20 the other day goes down under the fluky category. Against a physical player like the Grizzly Blair, Thabeet just gets run over. He's like a latter day Manute Bol or something. I think this guy is going to just get destroyed in the NBA by the big boys down low.

Anyway, Blair proved once and for all something that I have been saying for the past year.  The guy can play against anybody.  It doesn't matter how tall they are.  He has the right mixture of incredible bulk, smarts, strength and arms that are so long you expect him to start swinging up the backboard like an orangutan.  The 7'3 wingspan makes him play more like someone who is 6'10, not 6'7 (probably more like 6'6 in all honesty).  Because in all honesty, why is it important how high off the ground your head is?  Doesn't seem to be too relevant to me.  

One thing that surprised me about Blair tonight was his attempt at developing a range.  It made a bit of sense as Thabeet makes it so very difficult to score inside (though Blair made a number of power moves to counter-act Thabeet who I thought was too aggressive at times).  However, it doesn't help anyone to have Blair chucking up 18 footers.  He makes that shot 10% of the time, maybe.  12 footers, fadeaways, and jumpers off screens are more than fine.  But he shouldn't be within a few feet of the 3-point line. 

On the flip side, it was great to see Sammy's long range game really working.  The guy was hitting the 3's early on and forced UConn to try all sorts of different matchups against him, and even better, none of those things worked.  The Huskies had absolutely no one to put up against Young and everyone on the court knew it.

The one thing that concerned me a bit was seeing Levance getting taken by the much quicker Kemba Walker.  Walker is a youthful freshman who is still a long from being a decent point guard, but he has a lot of talent and incredible speed.  And although Walker didn't have a big game on either end, he was easily able to neutralize Fields until the final desperate moments, even though its unclear if he had any idea what he was doing.  We all know that Fields isn't the quickest point guard in the league.  No surprise there.  But I never realized how big of an edge pure speed would give an opposing point opposite Fields.  this was probably his worst game of the season.  5 assists, 4 turnover, very un-Levance-like.  

Still, this is just me nitpicking, and I will stop now.  After all, we just took down the number 1 team in all of the college basketball world and have what is probably the best-equipped team for a title run that we have ever seen at this school.  Being that we were number 4, it follows we should have a pretty good claim for the number 1 spot.  That probably isn't likely though.  I'd guess either 2 or 3 unless both UNC and Oklahoma surprisingly go down.  


Patrick said...

Thabeet is SOFT! Blair is crazy good out there. What do you think his draft status might be? I hope he stays another year.

Ryan said...

I think Blair stays another year. In fact unless Pitt wins the national championship or maybe comes close to it I have almost no doubt he comes back. He is a great player already, no question, but he still has some growing to do. Just like he's added a lot to his game this season he could grow again next season by adding more range to his game. That would enable him to really succeed at the power forward position in the NBA.