First of all, I have bigger posts in mind but I have so many writing assignments to do beyond just this blog that I've actually developed a nasty case of tendonitis in my arm. Therefore, I've been typing a lot less since it takes forever to type with one hand. I feel like Soul Surfer. But just so I can put another post up where the readers can have someplace else to share their thoughts, I will just hit on a few things that I've been thinking about.
1. By now every Pitt fan knows that the basketball team is in the CBI tournament. In my opinion, being in this tournament does absolutely nothing for the program. Going to the NIT is one thing but this tournament is an embarrassment for a program of Pitt's stature. Pitt even has to pay to be in it, which is ridiculous. Even if Pitt wins it all, so what? Is Pitt going to put a banner up? Are they going to end the season on a high note because they proved to be the best of the mediocre teams, then pose on the court with that highly coveted CBI trophy, which I can only assume is the same quality of trophy that you get by winning your tavern softball league? And will Pitt have to pay for that trophy?
And that's the best case scenario. What happens if they lose to a Wofford or an Evansville? How does the decision to play this tournament make sense then? It's okay to have a down season sometimes and it's okay to feel bad about it. But this reeks of desperation to make this season end well. But this team showed little effort all season. Are we to expect now that suddenly they will try hard and play great? It seems to me that it's more likely that they mail it in again and lose to an inferior team.
The biggest reason to play I've heard is that it will help the players get more seasoning. I find that to be ridiculous. They've played 33 games this season. Is a few more games really going to make the light bulb go on? That seems extremely farfetched that a few more games in an inconsequential tournament is going to be the magic formula to turn some of these younger players into stars.
2. In my opinion, next season will go a long way in determining whether or not Jamie Dixon can adapt enough to be one of the great coaches in the game. I remember after Tom Herrion left I was talking to a very well known national college basketball media member about who the next assistant will be. I was running some veteran names by him as I assumed Dixon would go with a veteran right hand man. This guy told me that he didn't think Dixon needed an older guy beside him anymore because he now has enough experience on his own. Well, I think that guy was wrong. I didn't think Dixon did well this year as a game coach and I think he sorely misses a veteran like Herrion.
I honestly hope that there is a change in the coaching staff. In the current class, Brandin Knight landed Chris Jones, Dixon was solely responsible for Steven Adams, and James Robinson was offered by Pat Skerry, and then was landed by Dixon. I'm not exactly sure what Bill Barton has done yet.
I also hope Dixon shows more flexibility when it comes to playing certain players, meaning specifically freshmen like Adams and Robinson. If Dixon starts Cameron Wright and Dante Taylor next year I'm going to go crazy.
Bottom line, Dixon is stubborn and he believes he can turn anybody into a player. This season proved him wrong. I can't fault them signing Taylor because he was coveted at the time, but look at the guards. Tray Woodall, Ashton Gibbs, Isaiah Epps, John Johnson, and Wright all have one thing in common. They were top 50 prospects as sophs, but never lived to that billing, even while still in high school. All four dropped in stature before Pitt signed them. Villanova stopped recruiting Johnson before his senior season and Ohio State actually stopped recruiting Wright after he already verbally committed to them. Gibbs, Epps, and Woodall also saw their offer list dwindle as their high school careers continued. Yet Dixon still took them as if he felt he could help them recapture what was once expected of them. Obviously Gibbs had a very good career but the others don't look like they are going to reach those heights. The consequence of this is that Pitt is now stuck with a plethora of flawed guards. Even Gibbs was very flawed but at least he had one great skill that helped him have a good career.
The power forward position is also a position where Dixon tried to get blood out of a stone. In his system, Dixon expects a lot from the power forward. He wants him to rebound, be athletic, be able to pass, and maybe even have some range. So why he thinks Taylor and Talib Zanna could ever develop into that is beyond me. Both were taken as centers with the hope that they would turn into power forwards. Both are not even close to that. Zanna can rebound. Taylor can't even do that consistently. The result is that Nasir Robinson started for three frustrating seasons. What a far cry from Sam Young or even Levon Kendall. Time for Dixon to sign a power forward that fits what he wants, or change his style, but this habit of trying to turn players into something they're not definitely caught up with them this season.
People at Pitt flat out told me that as of now, neither Lamar Patterson nor J.J. Moore can guard well enough to be a two. If that changes then obviously the ideal would be to start either at the two. If not, by midseason I would start Moore at the three and Patterson at the four. Patterson can rebound at least as well as Robinson plus he's an excellent passer. Of every possible four he has the most skills that Dixon wants. Zanna can still play a lot at the four because he can rebound but since that's all he can do I really don't see how it benefits Pitt to give him the most minutes there. And like I said before if Taylor starts there then I'm going to lose it because it proves that Dixon just doesn't get it. I would also give significant minutes to Adams at center and Robinson at the point. Woodall can move to the two where he fits better anyway.
3. On Pitt football, it's still at least a year before we have any idea at all how the Paul Chryst era will go, but I admit that so far I'm a little nervous. Before people go off on me I'm not saying that Chryst is a failure or will be a failure. But I wasn't impressed at all how he formed his staff and I have no idea what they're doing on the recruiting trail. Well actually I do know and what they're doing is very little so far. It's not about the amount of verbal commitments they have, which officially stands at zero, but rather the total lack of buzz on the recruiting trail. Part of what I do is to keep in touch with a lot of high school and college coaches, scouting services, players, family, etc., and I can tell you that there just isn't a lot of Pitt talk out there.
That doesn't mean Chyst is definitely failing. He could end up with Malik Zaire, Robert Foster, Paul Orndoff, and Dorian Johnson for all we know, and if that's the case, that's the beginning of an excellent first class. And we know Chryst can flat out coach offense. But he doesn't have those players yet, and combining all the info together, I have yet to see anything that's making the nervousness go away.