Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who each Pitt assistant basketball coach has recruited

Often there's more than one coach on a prospect, and in those cases I used the coach that was most responsible.

Jamie Dixon:

Levon Kendall
Antonio Graves
Steven Adams
Aaron Gray
Sam Young
DeJuan Blair
Ryan Luther
Maverick Rowan (not signed)

Barry Rohrssen:

Ed Turner
Carl Krauser
Chris Taft
Mark McCarroll
Julius Page
Dante Milligan
Keith Benjamin
Ronald Ramon
Tyrell Biggs
Levance Fields
Austin Wallace
Shaquille Doorson
Tyrone Haughton
Mustapha Heron (not signed)

Tom Herrion:

Dwight Miller
Jermaine Dixon
Ashton Gibbs
Lamar Patterson
J.J. Richardson
Dante Taylor
Talib Zanna
Cameron Wright

Brandin Knight:

Isaiah Epps
J.J. Moore
Durand Johnson
Chris Jones
Josh Newkirk
Mike Young
Damon Wilson (not signed)

Mike Rice:

Travon Woodall
Darnell Dodson
Brad Wanamaker
Nasir Robinson
Cassin Diggs

Pat Skerry:

Khem Birch
Malcolm Gilbert
James Robinson (Skerry left before signing and Dixon finished)
Jaylen Bond

Joe Lombardi:

John DeGroat
Doyle Hudson
Gilbert Brown
Trevor Ferguson

Ernie Ziegler:

Walter Waters

Orlando Antigua:

Gary McGhee

Bill Barton:

Jamel Artis

This is a combination of what each player accomplished and how some project.

Top 15:

1. DeJuan Blair- Dixon
2. Mustapha Heron- Rohrssen
3. Sam Young- Dixon
4. Steven Adams- Dixon
5. Chris Taft- Rohrssen
6. Carl Krauser- Rohrssen
7. Levance Fields- Rohrssen
8. Aaron Gray- Dixon
9. Maverick Rowan- Dixon
10. Brad Wanamaker- Rice
11. Lamar Patterson- Herrion
12. Ashton Gibbs- Herrion
13. Julius Page- Rohrssen
14. Talib Zanna- Herrion
15. Nasir Robinson- Rice

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jamie Dixon myths and dreams of the perfect Pitt team

Myth: Jamie Dixon can't recruit

Fact: Dixon found a top 10 prospect from New Zealand in Steven Adams, hired ace recruiter Pat Skerry to bring in top 15 prospect Khem Birch, and has top 15 guard Mustapha Heron coming in 2016. If he lands Cheick Diallo for the 2015 class, and right now most predictions are he will, then Dixon will have eventually landed four top 15 prospects in six years.  He also landed top 25 prospects Dante Taylor and Chris Taft, top 50 prospects DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, plus top 100 prospects James Robinson, Tyrell Biggs, Levance Fields, Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, Nasir Robinson, Talib Zanna, and Mike Young. He also has two top 75 caliber players coming in with Maverick Rowan in '16 and Damon Wilson in '15.

Then there are players not in the top 100 that were great additions. Jamel Artis and Josh Newkirk are current steals, and players like Durand Johnson, Cameron Wright, Lamar Patterson, Ashton Gibbs, Travon Woodall, Gary McGhee, Ronald Ramon, and Aaron Gray were lower ranked prospects that contributed greatly to a lot of wins.

Dixon held off the likes of Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Maryland for Taft after Ben Howland left for UCLA.  He also won battles for Young (Georgetown), Blair (Florida and then powers Kansas State with Bob Huggins, Tennessee with Bruce Pearl, Indiana, and Florida, Taylor (UConn and Maryland), Birch (Arizona, UConn, Florida, Ohio State), Johnson (Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Maryland), Robinson (Georgetown, Virginia, Marquette, Notre Dame), Young (UConn, Florida, Memphis), and Newkirk (Arizona, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Missouri, NC State, Tennessee).

Myth: Jamie Dixon can't get players because his system won't let the players thrive offensively.

Fact: Not only do a lot of the great programs (Michigan State, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Ohio State, San Diego State, and wherever Ben Howland coaches as just a few examples) play the exact same style, but some of the best coaches ever (Bobby Knight, Rick Majors) used the same style. It's not the style. When he's had good offensive players they did well in this system, just like they do in the aforementioned schools.

Myth:  Jamie Dixon concentrates too much on defense because having great defense doesn't even matter.

Fact:  Top five teams in scoring defense in the regular season this year includes Virginia, Florida, San Diego State, and Arizona. All are in the Sweet 16. Three of the four are No. 1 seeds.

Myth: Pitt's offense was awful this year.

Fact: The Panthers played nine games against the top nine scoring defenses this year (Virginia twice, Syracuse twice, Clemson twice, Cincinnati, Florida, and Miami). Clemson gave up 57.9 ppg in scoring defense this season. Duke averaged 60.5 ppg in two against them but Pitt averaged 79.5 ppg.  Does this mean Pitt's offense is better than Duke's offense? No, but it also shows that they were much better than people gave them credit for. They scored over 80 or more against Wake Forest twice, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame, Clemson, and North Carolina. Seven times Pitt scored 80 or more times in the ACC.  By comparison, Syracuse, with two first rounders, did it once.

Myth: Jamie Dixon has had a lot of bad losses in the NCAA tournament.

Fact:  Year by year, Dixon lost to No. 2 Oklahoma when Pitt was a No. 3, lost to No. 8 Pacific when Pitt was a No. 9, lost to No. 13 Bradley when Pitt was No. 5, lost to No. 2 UCLA when Pitt was No. 3, lost to No. 5 Michigan State when Pitt was No. 4, lost to No. 3 Villanova when Pitt was No. 1, lost to No. 6 Xavier when Pitt was No. 3, lost to No. 8 Butler when Pitt was No. 1, lost to No. 9 Wichita State when Pitt was No. 8, and lost to No. 1 Florida when Pitt was No. 9.

Six times Pitt lost to a team seeded higher then them, but that included a 5/4, 3/1, 6/3, and 9/8.  The fifth was Butler, but when a team goes to back to back championship games I think it's obvious that they were better than Pitt, and just about every other team in those years.  Butler beat Pitt by one point in a game that Pitt practically gave away, then Butler went on to beat 4 seed Wisconsin and 2 seed Florida. With the same team the year before Butler beat 1 seed Syracuse and 2 seed Kansas State.  Anybody that thinks, in retrospect, that losing to Butler is a bad loss is just ignorant of the facts.  That leaves Bradley as the lone bad loss.

Dixon did beat 4 seed Xavier when Pitt was a 1 seed, and 6 seed Wisconsin (in Wisconsin) when Pitt was a 3 seed, but a 2-4 record in games with a close seed is something that Dixon can be rightly criticized for.

Myth: Jamie Dixon won't let his offensive players shoot.

Fact: Lamar Patterson took the fourth most shots in the ACC this season.  Ashton Gibbs took the third most shots in the Big East. Sam Young took the third most shots as a junior and the fourth most shots as a senior in the Big East. You get the point.  When there's somebody on the team that can shoot, they will be allowed to shoot a lot. People complain that Mike Young is not allowed to shoot. No kidding. He's a freshman and the fifth option on the court this season. Of course he's not allowed to shoot a lot. If, and when, he starts hitting a lot of shots he will be allowed to shoot more.

Myth:  Jamie Dixon recruits a lot of kids that don't pan out.

Fact: Do you know these names? Quentin Thomas, Wes Miller, Mike Copeland, Bobby Frasor, Justin Watts, Jackson Simmons, Stilman White and Luke Davis?  Well, they were all scholarship players for  North Carolina since Dixon has been Pitt's head coach. Every school has them.

Myth: Pitt's best days are behind them.

Fact: Pitt was a No. 1 seed and No. 1 team in the country for awhile just four years. After a CBI championship season, the Panthers are 50-19 overall, and 23-13 in the Big East and ACC over the last two seasons. They finished fourth in the Big East last season and fifth in the ACC this season.  And this was with Dixon scrambling with the roster. With a very good young class of Newkirk, Artis, and Young, Sheldon Jeter about to join that class, and some highly rated prospects on the way, the future has never been brighter.  Newkirk, Artis, Young, and Jeter will win a lot of games over the next three years, especially with players like Wilson, Heron, and Rowan, at least, joining them.

Myth:  Jamie Dixon is not an excellent coach.

Fact:  This one is just stupid. He was a No. 1 seed with Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs, Gilbert Brown, Nasir Robinson, and Gary McGhee being the starters.  Case closed.

So what is Dixon's problems? The truth is, Dixon is probably a second from being in the Final Four, and a lot of the criticism of him would have gone away.  He does seem to have a lot of bad luck. Last second losses to Villanova and Butler in the tournament, and having the misfortune of playing Butler and Wichita State, two mid-major programs that suddenly got excellent just as Pitt had to play them.

Some of it is also Dixon, obviously.  While overall he is considered one of the best coaches in the country, and rightfully so, he needs to do a better job of landing all of the pieces at the same time. His best team was when he had two excellent players at the same time in Blair and Young, and a third who wasn't at their level but had a lot of heart in Levance Fields. But after that there was not much else. The shooting guard was Jermaine Dixon, who was just okay, and shot just 29.4% from three, not even close to the ideal number for a starting two guard on a Final Four team. The power forward was Tyrell Biggs who averaged just 6.4 ppg and 4.3 rpg.  In other words, Pitt was one player short. Just having good players at those positions would have helped Pitt get even further They didn't have to be all-stars.  The top reserves were then sophomores Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown, and freshman Ashton Gibbs, none of whom were ready to make a major contribution.

I get criticized sometimes for projecting a Pitt team where everything goes right, but the truth is, that is how you go to a Final Four or win a National Championship. It does happen for some teams and while some of it is luck, you can sometimes make your own luck too. Dixon could not have prevented Adams from leaving early or Johnson tearing his ACL, and if those things don't happen then Pitt would probably be at least a Sweet 16 team. But at the same time he has to sometimes take a chance on a DeAndre Kane or land a current transfer like Nolan Cressler.

A senior class with Newkirk, Artis, Young, Jeter, and Cressler, to go with young elite players like Wilson, Diallo, Heron, and Rowan? Maybe that will happen, maybe it won't. Some of it will be out of Dixon's control, but he also has to do his best to make sure it happens, because sooner or later the perfect mix of players will be there for Dixon, and when it does he has to make sure that he capitalizes on that moment.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Panthers win in huge way in first round

It's nice to win in the tournament and not even break a sweat, but at least for the fans that's how it went down as the Panthers beat Colorado 77-48.  And if possible it wasn't that close.  The Buffaloes were terrible and the Panthers were excellent.  No other way to say it.

Talib Zanna led all scorers with 18 points, including 6-7 from the field and 6-6 from the line. He also had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal.  Cameron Wright had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. Point guard James Robinson only had 3 points but he also had 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals. Star Lamar Patterson was relatively quiet with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

The Panthers also shot 50.8% from the field, made 11-12 FTs, and 3 turnovers to Colorado's 17 turnovers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kobe Eubanks commits to Baylor

The Panthers lost out on their biggest remaining target for the 2014 class when 6'6" wing Kobe Eubanks chose Baylor over Pitt.  The Panthers will now hope more than ever that Detrick Mostella will become eligible.  Mostella was always the preferred choice for the Panthers because he's more talented, and more ready to contribute immediately, but he has been battling eligibility issues both in high school and prep school.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Panthers a 9 seed

Pitt is a 9 seed and will play the 8 seed, Colorado, in Orlando, on Thursday.  If they win against Buffaloes they will play the tournament's top seed, No. 1 Florida. Colorado is 23-11 on the year and have lost 4 of their last 7 games, including to Arizona 63-43 in the Pac 12 conference tournament.  In that game they shot 29.4% from the field.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Top 20 PA for 2015 Class (March Edition)

1.  Jordan Whitehead, Central Valley HS (Monaca) CB- Big time athlete with excellent speed and cat-like quickness. Also a superb return man, and can even play wide receiver if need be. Decent corner size at 5'11" and 170 pounds, but clearly he needs to add more muscle. Top four appear to be Ohio State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh.  All four have offered, as have the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Tennessee.

2.  John Reid, St. Joseph's Prep HS (Philadelphia) CB- Not as big as Whitehead at 5'9" and 175 pounds, and doesn't jump out as much as far as obvious physical gifts, but he was born to be a lockdown corner thanks to his anticipation and knowledge of the position. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Arizona.

3.  Andre Robinson, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) RB- Not particularly big at 5'9" and 210 pounds, and not a blazer, but he's strongly built, tough as hell, and he has very good speed and great vision. He also has excellent hands so he can be an every down back. Could be a star at the college level. Committed to PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, and Northwestern, among others.

4.  Ryan Bates, Archbishop Wood Catholic HS (Warminster) OT- Already 6'5" and 285 pounds with the frame to get much bigger.  Great agility and quick feet. Tenacious blocker  and explodes into the defender. Committed to PENN STATE over the likes of Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Auburn, Miami, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia.

5.  Sterling Jenkins, Baldwin Area HS (Pittsburgh) OT- Very large at 6'8" and 305 pounds, and he can get at least 30 pounds bigger. Moves well but hasn't performed up to his ability yet. He has a very high ceiling but he's far from an excellent player right now and consequently he's being very overrated by national recruiting websites. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arizona.

6.  Saquon Barkley, Whitehall HS (Whitehall) RB- Solidly built at 5'11" and 200 pounds. Good speed and even better quickness.  Tough kid who runs hard. Originally committed to Rutgers but changed his mind and has since committed to PENN STATE.  Other offers include Pittsburgh, Boston College, North Carolina, and Syracuse.

7.  Ryan Buchholtz, Great Valley HS (Malvern) DE- An excellent 6'6" and 230 pounds with a frame to easily add 30 or more pounds. Good quickness and very rangy. Could be a big time college player. Committed to PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Maryland, Rutgers, Boston College, Duke, and Northwestern.

8. Shareef Miller, Frankford HS (Philadelphia) DE- Needs to put on a lot of weight but at 6'5" and 220 pounds he has the frame to add a lot of muscle. Great wingspan. Very good speed and an excellent pass rusher. Plays hard all the time. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia, Rutgers, Arizona, Arizona State, Temple, Purdue, and Cincinnati.

9.  Jake Cooper, Archbishop Wood Catholic HS (Warminster) LB- Hard hitting middle linebacker who is tough as hell and athletic. Born to play middle linebacker. Already a rock solid 6'2" and 230 pounds. Could be excellent at the college level. Committed to PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, Boston College, Northwestern, Duke, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Rutgers.

10.  Jay Stocker, Coatesville Area HS (Coatesville) S- Big play safeties are all the rage now and this 6'2" 185 pounder has good length, speed, and athleticism. Makes plays all over the field like a heat seeking missile. Tackles aggressively like a linebacker. He is currently slim, however, and he definitely needs to add a lot more muscle, especially since he plays so aggressively. Offers include Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Virginia, Rutgers, Maryland, and Georgia Tech.

11. Nick Bowers, Kittanning HS (Kittanning) TE- Sleeper with good 6'4" and 235 pounds already. More of an extra receiver currently so he will have to learn to block, but in the passing game he has good speed and great hands. Very good after the catch and wins every jump ball with his tenacity and hands. Committed to PITTSBURGH.

12. Alex Paulina, Canon McMillan HS (Canonsburg) C- A naturally big 6'4" and 280 pounds, he has good strength and feet already. Tenacious blocker who has excelled on a bad team for years. In fact, he was all-conference in Quad A, on a winless team, as a freshman. You have to be really good to do that. Committed to PITTSBURGH early and also had an offer from Virginia Tech.

13. Kevin Givens, Altoona HS (Altoona) LB- More of an athlete than a player now, but at 6'2" and 230 pounds, he's built like a brick house and has very good speed and athleticism. Very interesting prospect that could be an excellent player if it all comes together for him.  Committed to PITTSBURGH.

14. Nasir Bonner, Imhotep Institute Charter HS (Philadelphia) RB- Displays electrifying speed and quickness, while also providing skills in the pass and return game. At 5'10" and 180 pounds, however, he will have to get a lot stronger if he's going to be an every down back. Current offers include Wisconsin, West Virginia, Rutgers, and Arizona State.

15. Kyle Shurmur, La Salle College HS (Wyndmoor) QB- Excellent size at 6'4" and 215 pounds, with the frame to add a lot more muscle. Good arm and can make all of the throws. Possesses nice touch. Son of highly respected offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who is currently with the Philadelphia Eagles, so he is getting a lot of instruction. Offers so far are coming from Pittsburgh, Illinois, and Central Michigan.

16. Olamide Zaccheaus, St. Joseph's Prep HS (Philadelphia) RB- Small change of pace back at 5'9" and 180 pounds, but he's electrifying in the open field with his speed, quickness, and vision. Also runs tough despite his size. Could also help in the pass game as well as special teams. Has offers from Pittsburgh, Miami, and Temple.

17. Josh Adams, Central Bucks HS (Warrington) RB/WR- A big time athlete who is pulling in major offers but it's hard to find a position for him. At 6'2" and 210 pounds, he may already be too tall for running back, so wide receiver may be in his future. He's also coming off of a blown out knee. If he can find a position (maybe even linebacker down the road), he has the talent to be a top college  player. Current offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Boston College.

18. Patrick Anderson, Aliquippa HS (Aliquippa) WR- Excellent size for the position at 6'3" and 185 pounds, plus very good speed and athleticism. If he was on a team that passed more he would probably get a lot more offers. Currently has offers from Miami, Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Purdue.

19. Freddie Simmons, Bethlehem Catholic HS (Bethlehem) WR- Very skinny at 170 pounds, but at 6'3" he has good length to go with excellent speed and quickness.  A game breaker who should be getting a lot more offers. Also a big time return man. Currently has offers from the likes of Rutgers, Purdue, and California.

20. Jon Runyan, Jr., St.Joseph's Prep HS (Philadelphia) OG- Only 6'4" and 250 pounds so he has to get much bigger, but he's very quick and tenacious. Son of former Michigan Wolverine great Jon Runyan, and he has already committed to MICHIGAN.