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.

98 comments:

  1. Chris - Thanks for a thoughtful presentation based upon facts. Unfortunately, the casual fan only focuses on the Final Four. As they say, "you can't please all of the people all of the time . . . . especially if most of them are morons" Enjoy the spring weather!!

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    1. I could not agree more. It is like talking to a brick wall with Pitt fans and non. Appreciate what we have Pitt Fans!! Would you want to be Wake Forest or Vtech right now?

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    2. Great post Chris! Jamie is a lot better coach than his detractors think.

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  2. Your valiant attempt at logic is futile… We are dealing with a superior breed of species known as the “Neanderthal Yinzer”

    There are certain beliefs embedded in the beer soaked brain of the average Neanderthal yinzer. Those beliefs cannot be changed, no matter how much empirical evidence you present. The average yinzer has ALL the simple answers to the perplexing problems having to do with their favorite sports team. No experience is necessary.

    They can prepare a team better. They are the “all knowing masters of time and space”; when it comes to game day play calling and adjustments. . They also have a keen sense of knowing a certain play or strategy would not work albeit after the fact. BUT THEY KNEW ALL THE TIME! As for recruiting, they have suave and magnetic personality that can land any recruit in the country. So if a certain coach can’t land a certain player, it’s because he is lazy or stupid.

    But most of all, they DEMAND a championship while watching the game from the comfort of their living rooms. Supporting their team financially by going to the game, buying team merchandise or donating to the cause does not enter their minds.

    Yes, hopefully someday we can all live up to their lofty high standards…

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  3. I remember about a year ago when Kane was rumored to come here. All of the so-called experts were bashing Dixon on the message boards, acting like Kane was a lost cause who wasn't even wanted by lowly Marshall. What's funny is those same people probably now blame Dixon for not having a player like Kane to push Pitt deep into the tournament.

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  4. A fair and thorough analysis, Doke. Pointing out the very ordinary starting five (Wanamaker, Gibbs, Brown, Robinson, and McGhee) that earned a No. 1 seed a few years back is unassailble.

    What I think frustrates Pitt fans is the kind of "bad luck" that seems to dog this program -- in the NCAAs and at other times -- like no other. And without a better place to vent and apply blame, it is released on Dixon.

    Was the Scottie Reynolds play bad luck? Or could that play have been defended better? The Syracuse 40-footer this year was the defense they wanted -- and OF COURSE a shot that has about a 2 percent chance of falling is nothing but net. In the Florida game Saturday, Dixon puts in a player for the express purpose to foul so there is no shot taken at the end of the half. But he doesn't foul "hard enough" to get a call on the floor and a running 3-point falls at the buzzer. It had to deflate the team, based on their history this year, giving them no chance in the second half. The debacle against Butler in the 2011 tourney? Was it just bad luck that Robinson fouled 90 feet away from the basket with 0.8 seconds left in a tie game? It's hard to fault Dixon for Robinson's stupid play, but shouldn't someone have said "NO FOULS!"? Shouldnt' Dixon have said that? Or is it just Pitt's fate to lose like that so often on big stages?

    I'm sure I'm leaving off many other "bad breaks" and "bad beats" in the Dixon era. Fans and grads like me (BA, English, '92) know how good we have it. But we are simply weary of waiting for, just once, the breaks to go our way. Why do lightly recruited guards at some mid-major school get hot for two weeks, (Mack at Butler, '11) but never Pitt's guards? Why do we always seem to get some "team of destiny" in our way (Butler, Wichita State)? The number of teams in the last five years that eliminated Pitt and made it to the Final Four has to be the most of any team in the country. When do we get to be the one who upsets a higher seed?

    The law of averages says our day will come. The law of Pitt Fandom says it will never come.

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    1. Jim,

      I am and continue to be a Dixon supporter, but that was well said.

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    2. It's not just the last five years with the final 4 teams. Marquette, Oklahoma State, Michigan State and UCLA all made the final four in years they beat Pitt in the tournament. If you look at the brackets in retrospect it's almost as if the committee puts the worst possible matchup in their way just about every time. Even the Pacific loss, to team that had great length and athleticism that gave a more plodding, physical Pitt team fits on both ends, seems now like a bad rub of luck.

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  5. Chris, I couldn't agree with you more. I remember the years before Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon. I believe we currently have the better of the two coaches. Pitt basketball has been consistently good under Dixon. The Panthers are known for excellent interior passing and for playing tough hard-nosed basketball. Yes, there have been some heartbreakers along the way, with Scotty Reynolds' last second basket and the foul that cost them the Butler game. This year in Greensboro they played in their first ACC Tournament and they were one non-call from possibly playing in the ACC Championship game.

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  6. Mostly fair points, good article. One thing on recruiting that I wonder about. You are right that Dixon has brought in some highly ranked guys, but I think what gets me and the people who hold that belief that Dixon recruits poorly upset is looking at other schools who I feel are either equal or below pitt as a program who seem to get even more top players.

    I looked at rivals for next year, Pitt has no top 50 guys but the following schools do: SMU, UNLV (they have 3), Seton Hall(2), Oregon, San Diego State, Maryland(2), VCU, Xavier, NC State, Illinois, Standford, and Miami has a guy in the top 50 who is from Philly. These are all decent schools but I would think the Pitt program is at least equal if not better than most of them. Dixon does recruit some good players, but why do you think these schools seem to be doing better with less to sell at least in terms of having a winning program?

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  7. Well done. One of the most thought out, well reasoned articles posted on this or any site regarding Pitt basketball. As a new reader to this site, I have been amused at the all knowing "experts" who routinely criticize the program and Dixon without offering alleged solutions to their perceived problems. Hopefully this piece will ultimately silence the misinformed, however, human nature tells me it will do nothing more than rile them up into a greater lather. Keep up the great work.

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  8. Doke - Dixon is a flat out good game coach. His record speaks for itself. How he does it with under-sized players that are not very athletic is amazing. Look at this year's team. His starting guards are not known for their ability to shoot the ball? WTF?

    I do have to fault him for not getting the more athletic types with bether size, i.e. Young/Artis/Adams/Jeter, etc . . . is a good barometer for what is to come because once he gets the athletes, along with his smoke and mirrors, then they will be a legit Top 10 team every year.

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    1. If you think Dixon is a good game coach, you haven't watched much basketball. Very rarely does he do anything on defense to alter the game, cause turnovers, rattle the other team. If some coach presses him, he and the team usually wet themselves. Year after year after year.

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    2. Yup....Anonymous 7:57 has allllllllllllll the answers in true yinzer fashion.

      Just go out there and cause turnovers! Rattle the opposition! I'm sure the other team on the court never experienced that before.

      If only Dixon would be smart enough to ask an experienced expert like you, he'd be winning championship after championship..,

      SHEESH!

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    3. Yup. He knows a good game day coach when he sees one. The hell with what Jay Bilas thinks.

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    4. Any national basketball analyst, really, not to mention every college or pro coach in the country. Dixon has IMMENSE respect in the basketball world. If only he was so revered as much by some of his own fans.

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    5. The bottom line is winning championships...i guess if you want to count CBI.

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  9. Well written Chris! Pitt's men basketball has been consistently good for so long now that people expect it and are disappointed when it is not great. If Pitt football had been this consistent over the last dozen years, people would be ecstatic.

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    1. Pitt was - 9 win seasons under Wanny but he was left go. I don't see the difference in terms of failed expectations?

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    2. So you're telling me if PC wins 9-10 games a year for a decade, people won't be on this blog demanding he recruit better players or feel he should make changes to his staff or his plays or his style???

      Now that's funny!!!

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    3. Wanny was left go, because off all the off field issues. Remember we ranked #1 in arrests according to SI.

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    4. @winedog - wanny was not let go because of the arrests. Every team has them. Wanny was let go because he started to gain more power than the AD, which was problematic. Let's not believe what we read all the time.

      Paul Chryst will be just fine. He is building a team the right way. Would be interesting to reconfigure statistics based on actual Clery Reporting which until last year was manipulated by many top programs which kept the athletes protected. The universities cannot protect the athletes as much now. State Penn due to get the largest fine in history from the DOJ in the coming months for their Clery errors and ommissions.

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  10. Is there any chance Uchebo will be physically healthy enough to contribute next year or is he a lost ccause?

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  11. Interesting read Chris and you raise many valid points. I agree JD is a great coach and the best Pitt can do. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be held to a standard equivilant to his abilities.

    You mentioned one of the issues is JD hasn't gotten the right pieces together at the same time. Well, isn't that because he didn't do a good enough job identifying the right kids to start with. Or if he does identify them he's apparently not able to show them the advantages of playing at Pitt and for him vs. other, many times lesser, schools and coaches. Or if he's getting the right kids then he must be doing something wrong with them.

    I feel JD also does an incredible job coaching up some of the players he gets but that typically means Pitt faces similar disadvantages during the NCAA's.
    1. Pitt usually has the least athletic team on the court
    2. Pitt usually has the more physical, but SLOWER, team on the court.
    3. Pitt can't stop penetrating guards.
    4. Pitt doesn't handle pressure defenses well.
    5. Pitt never seems to have dynamic guards vs. grinders. And when they do get a good shooter he's usually a 5 footer.
    6. Pitt isn't a consistently great scoring team.

    To me, those issues have remained pretty constant year over year. Maybe you feel he's addressed them over the years but I don't see it.

    Let's hope the 2015 & 2016 projected players will be able to fix'em. Provided those kids actually continue to develop as planned and do end up coming to Pitt...

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    1. Excellent analysis Kent. Dixon has recruited very few real game changing type players in 11 years. Either he can't or he's a poor judge of talent. Yes some improve, but when they play teams with elite talent, they invariably fail in the important season ending Tourney games. All teams play tough defense when you get to the important games, pinning your hopes on, out toughing, a team that has much better players is a fools game. And year in & year out of these examples can be found. Although we've even be beaten by the Kent State's, Bradley's and Pacific's who had lesser talent, but at least for that game, better coaching.

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  12. Five years and no sweet 16s is a concern. I would think if we hit 7 straight years of that outcome then it becomes time to evaluate Dixon and possibly make a change. We have been very good and on espn in prime time since all these new recruits can remember. It is time to get to the next level and I say give it 2-3 more years. If we do not get there I really think a change would need to happen. I hope Dixon and Slice get it done.

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    1. Anonymous at 7:19 pm--Your ratcheted up standard is way way way too high. Unless Pitt misses the NCAA totally for 3-4 years straight and recruiting is in the crapper--there is no reason to even dream of making a coaching change. If your scenario were to play out and your desire to replace Dixon were followed there would be a greater than 90% probability that Pitt wouldn't even sniff the NCAA tourney for a decade or more.

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  13. Hey, for bad luck, remember 2008 when Mike Cook went down for the season against Duke? That team had a chance to be special.

    What I like about this post is the comparison to the offenses other successful programs run. Name the run and guns that succeed over the long term. Very few.

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    1. In fact, the run and gun teams are usually programs that can't play like the top programs. They can't get big, strong kids. That's why they run so much. It's out of necessity.

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  14. Until he recruits a big-man w/ some offense - he will continue to field mediocre teams.

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    1. Saying Pitt is mediocre is beyond insane.

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    2. OK… middling. They are not elite and and since '09 have been somewhere between 25-45.

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    3. Tournament games are won by 1. strong guard play, 2. strong defense against guards, 3. rebounding, 4. Free throw shooting, 5. coaching. 6. Balanced scoring. 7. A favorable matchup up your strength versus your opponents weakness.

      Please don't try to tell me that coach k, bohemian and royboy Williams were outcoached. They were not. Those fellows don't get outcoached. They didn't have the above when it mattered. As an example, Wiggins disappeared, only took 6 shots and Kansas lost. He was taken out of the game by the defense. So was Jabari Parker. So was Smart.

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    4. Well said about how tournament games are won! Of course we should listen to an expert like you on how tournament games are won. Please remind us again what exactly your NCAA tournament coaching record is and how many NCAA championships have you won! (Xbox and Play Station does not count)

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    5. Division 1 playing experience was less than 2 years, with no college coaching experience.

      Also a major league baseball scout for the Pirates in the early to mid 80's. That didn't pay the bills. Went to law school at Duquesne and now work with most Big10 athletic directors quite closely with regard to concussion management protocols. This might shock you because you appear to know everything, but there are more traumatic brain injuries in women's soccer and lacrosse, than football. Now go back to the corner son and study your grammar. Your last sentence makes no sense, nor does your comment.

      Typical jocksniffing cyo wannabee.

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  15. Whether you are a fan of JD or not, you have to appreciate his W-L record. The only thing that he has not done is win a national championship. If that is the only way to judge a coach then about 99% of the active coaches stink.

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  16. Chris,

    Do you think Jamie Dixon and the basketball program is paying a price with the fanbase because of their frustrations over the woes of the football program?

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  17. Unless we end up with a legit Center in the '15 class I'm very concerned going forward, despite the good guards he's bringing in. Daillo is 6'8" so despite his extreme talent he might not be the answer even if we land him. This could be another situation where we're a piece or two away from getting to the Final 4.

    I like him a lot, but I don't put Dixon in the category of "very good" or "elite" coaches because he's never been to a Final 4 - in 12 years - and that's the minimum qualification in my opinion. He may be the best coach not to have been to one and Dixon's 48 so he's young and still getting better. I fully expect that before he turns 60 he'll have brought a Championship to Oakland. But today, he's still not one of the top 15 coaches in the college game.

    Again, I'm a big fan of Dixon, I believe he'll continue to get better, and Pitt would be lucky if he stays until he retires. But, regular season records are essentially irrelevant. The regular season serves only two purposes, first to build a resume worthy of being a selected as an at-large team, and second, to prepare your team to win games in the Tournament.

    Jamie Dixon has done an un-arguably poor job scheduling non-conference opponents over the years which is one of the reasons his teams aren't prepared to advance year after year. Now, many will quickly point out the strength of the Big East, but as we've seen with our move to the ACC, different leagues play different styles. That's why it's key to play tough teams from different parts of the country because you want to be prepared to beat the random teams you'll face in the tournament.

    The Tournament is all that matters when measuring a coaches success and that's why Dixon still receives a lot of criticism.

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    1. There have been Final 4 coaches that have been fired two years later. Pitt fans obsession with it is misguided to say the least.

      As for Diallo if you have problems with getting a top 10 player than you're trying too hard to find problems that don't exist.

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  18. chris, is the main issue with mostella grades and can we still get him, also what have u heard about lee from temple. i think that would be a good get, but the problem is we have no more ships available.

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    1. Temple transfer Anthony Lee told ESPN.com that he has narrowed his list to five schools: Ohio State, Indiana, Louisville, Iowa State and Notre Dame

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    2. Ohio St. lost Ammadeus Dellavade to Italy and Laquent Smith to the nba or dleague. Along with craft and others. They will be in trouble and will need to fill a lot of offense which is now gone. On top of that, they just lost a 5 star Mr. Ohio Bball kid to Duke today. Sounds like a 2-3 year dip for the ohioans.

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    3. Anthony Lee spent the weekend at OSU. Expect the commitment as mentioned above.

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  19. Excellent read, Chris!

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  20. Chris,
    I'm with you. I appreciate the reality check because Dixon was and is the man for the job. I have to admit that I freak out a bit at the number of so-called fans calling for Dixon's job and thinking we can do better. I feel that we are lucky to have him. You guys criticizing, were you fans of the program in the 90's?

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  21. Honestly, I think you can sum that whole article up as "Pitt has been a lottery pick short". Sure, Adams was a lottery pick, but he was selected purely on potential. Pitt has lacked than NBA go to guy that in the NCAA when the game gets tight, he can take over. No better example of this was this year. Lamar Patterson was fantastic this year. However...when an excellent and athletic team like Florida played him, he basically disappeared.

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  22. Like all coaches Dixon has his flaws but he's also had a lot of bad luck too. He's also won National Coach of the Year on several occasions. I'm not sure who Pitt fans think can do a better job all things considered?

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  23. Sorry Chris but you have become an apologist for Dixon. Spin it like you want but PITT has been disappointing in every tournament under Dixon. This year was their first win over a ranked team in a gazillion years. That higher ranked team was without their best player. You like to point out that a top recruit may come to PITT in 2016. That is great IF he comes. Why the heck are we getting a center from Juco next year that can only score if he dunks the ball. A top program with a hole at center should be able to land top talent because they would play early. Blair can't be counted as a jewel on his recruiting abilities because he was local. WE should land the top local kids. Next year will be like this year. The next is projected to be the same. We are above average at best

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    1. You do realize Colorado had been playing without their best player for 2 months before the tournament. Stop trying to use this as an excuse as to why beat dominated them.

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    2. They were 14-3 with him and 9-8 without him.

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    3. I love these guys who point to who is missing from the other team in making their case against Pitt... or any other team for that matter. Its a variation of the "coulda, shoulda, woulda" lame thinking.

      Attrition is a part of sports. Whether its Steven Adams leaving before we wanted him to or Colorado losing its leading scorer. Everyone has to deal with loss of players.




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  24. A great read. This and your piece on Pitt football attendance are some of your best work, Chris.

    I think about Jim Boeheim a lot when people complain about Jamie Dixon. Boeheim has been head coach at Syracuse since 76 and has been past the Elite Eight just four times. Thirty seven years, four times. If you add in those Elite Eight, he has six trips to round of eight or better. In that same span, they missed the tournament six times.

    I think college basketball is a tough gig. The tournament is not a marathon, it is a series of sprints. One stumble and you are gone.

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  25. Thanks Chris - every Pitt fan needs to read and understand this article.

    We are extremely fortunate to have Jamie Dixon as our coach....the very best of times for Pitt BB is coming.

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  26. Myth or Truth... A Jamie Dixon led Team has NEVER pulled an upset in the NCAA Tournament?

    PittofDreams

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  27. Last paragraph, amazing!!!

    Well done!!

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  28. The fans are angry because the expectations are now there. We were angry with Ralph Willard but we didn't think winning was possible. Now that JD has established a winning program we want more. It all comes with the territory in every sport.

    I am going to assume that the haters are very few in number. I hope everyone looks back at Pitt in the 90's. They look at Georgia Tech who hasn't been a factor in how many years? Illinois? Purdue? All schools who were very very good for many years in the 80's and 90's but haven't heard much from since. It doesn't take long for a program to go from where those schools were, and Pitt is, to nothing. And I am not a huge JD supporter.

    Hopefully these players you mention will be coming to Pitt so we can see what he does with more athletes and more talent. But I won't hold my breath until they are on campus as we thought Eubanks was a slam dunk for Pitt

    dUbb

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    1. Chris;
      Thank you for your objective analsysis. Always enjoying reading your comments and feel you give a fair report on subjects that are verrrrrrrrrry emotional to all us Pitt fans. HTP2

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  29. Quote from Rick Pitino during an interview with The Denver Post last week:

    "You hear the expression 'defense wins championships,' " Pitino said. "(But) a lack of offense keeps you from winning a championship.

    "When we beat Michigan and Wichita State (at the 2013 Final Four), we didn't win because of our defense. Every team can play defense at this stage. You've got to have great offense to win. You've got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things."

    I'm not a fan that want's to see Dixon fired, but I think that Jamie could take a little advice from Rick on this subject.

    MC

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    1. There's no doubt that when you get to the Sweet 16 you need some offense. But he's Rick Friggin' Pitino. He's going to get those offensively talented NBA quality players. It's not like Dixon doesn't want them too. But there's only so many of those guys and when there are they are obviously going to go to the 10 or so programs that have done it for 50 or 75 years.

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    2. You’re right chris, but when we see talented guys like jj moore and khem birch leave the program, I wonder if they become frustrated with Jamie’s micromanaging each offensive possession during games. Honestly, it seems like he is getting more wound-up each season. I think it would help the team if he would just stay off the court, sit down, chill-out and let the players do their thing once in a while.

      MC

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    3. This illustrates the biggest problem of Pitt fans. You are only looking at Pitt because you know the team well. The truth is, players leave at every school. Kids transfer from Duke, Syracuse, and everybody else. And you don't think Krzyzewski or Izzo or Calapari don't micromanage? I can assure you that they do.

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    4. Correct Chris.

      Pitt fans live in a vacuum. All the things Pitt fans complain about happens to other teams as well. As I have said in the past, John Wooden is considered one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. Some consider him THE. Greatest. He didn't make his first Final Four for the first FIFTEEN years as a head coach.

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    5. Beeline is an awesome coach. He recruits shooters, plays good defense, rebounds well, transitions well. They are making a run with their biggest rebounder out. Michigan equals balance!

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    6. Khem Birch hasn't developed into the star that people thought he would. And JJ Moore???? Did you watch Rutgers this year?

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    7. Um, sorry but TALENTED GUYS like JJ Moore and Khem Birch? Moore was here for three years and never panned out, it isn't like he didn't have his opportunity to show what he could do. As far as Birch is concerned, that kid had one foot out the door as soon as Pat Skerry left, and show me what he has done since leaving here to say that he was a loss? The kid plays in a mid major conference and has yet to distinguish himself, I'm sure it's because UNLV hasn't structured their offense around him like Pitt wouldn't do.

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    8. Khem Birch averaged 10.2 rpg and 3.8 bpg. Both are among the best in the nation. The kid is a big time player.

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  30. Despite of what he says, much of Louisville's offense comes from forcing turnovers .. certainly more than just about other team

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  31. Chris
    I often do not agree with you but I am with you on this one. This is an era of Pitt basketball that may never be repeated. People need to appreciate what has and continues to be accomplished.
    NRS

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    1. Hey Mr. Anonymous:
      Huggins just lost his 2nd best scorer for next year at WVU so he could be closer to home. Guess Huggy Bear micro managed this kid in this year's NCAA tourney and he had to leave.(Oh, forgot, they did not make the tourney)!!
      Not sure if Birch ever has made the NCAA since he flew the coop for Vegas and though he is a good player not sure if he will ever make it to the NBA. Loved JJ Moore but by him leaving it gave some of the young players more time to play. $hit happens and Dixon deals with it and still makes the tourney.

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    2. As I said before, I'm not someone who wants to see Jamie fired. I like him too and think he's a very good coach. I just didn't realize until now that he was absolutely perfect and obviously well beyond any criticism. Sorry, it won't happen again.

      By the way, you can't blame the coach if a kid leaves because he wants to be closer to home. Don't think that's why Birch or Moore left Pitt though.

      MC

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    3. How very passive aggressive of you.

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  32. Excellent article chris. people are calling for dixons head as this was his second worst season as pitt hc.. the thing is, if your second worst season includes 26 wins overall, 13 conference wins, and an ncaa tournament victory then the program is in pretty damn good hands..

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  33. Question.
    Why is all of a sudden people are interested in Cressler, but when he was in HS, people (including Pitt staff) were not interested in Cressler. He was good in HS!

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    1. I'm guessing Cressler's size in high school (6'1") scared Pitt off. Now that he's almost 6'5" in shoes it's a whole new ballgame with him.

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    2. If this is the Golden Era of Pitt basketball, then it compares to schools like West Virginia and Kansas State's runs in football: great records, national attention, but no national titles.

      The Golden Eras of Pitt football in the 1930s and 1970s produced two national titles.

      Dixon's defenders work too hard praising Coach Dixon. They create a division in the Pitt fan base: Either you love Dixon and think he's the greatest or you want him fired.

      Who's calling for Dixon's job? Who is crazy enough to want Steve Pederson to find someone better than steady-eddy Dixon??

      It's reasonable, however, to expect Pitt to win a national championship in basketball based on the historic athletic prowess of the university and its location in the City of Champions.

      Pitt could do much worse than Coach Dixon. Despite the fact that his stock has fallen a bit based on nationally ridiculed non-conference schedules and the glass ceiling his teams hit in March, Dixon surprises and entertains.

      For fans who just want to make the NCAA Tournament, there's no one out there better than Dixon.

      One detriment Dixon and his program owns? Long periods of missed shots detract from the entertainment value of Pitt basketball.

      Dixon deserves praise for providing stability in an athletic department that is led by a moron at a university that refuses to commit all of its rule-abiding available resources to athletic prowess.

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  34. What creates a division in the fan base is too many people who think it's realistic to win a National Championship. As Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News told me the other day about Pitt basketball, "Everybody knows how much I love my town, but part of not being a hoops town is not knowing what they don't know." That pretty much nails it.

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  35. Apparently too many people also think "it's realistic" to make an Elite Eight now and then and maybe, maybe, just once... the Final Four.

    Seriously, if we're not interested in pursuing a National Championship, then the Team might have just as well continued playing at a remodeled Field House instead of teasing the Pitt Fan Base by spending $150 million to build THE PETE.

    The University of Pittsburgh.... Home to an Elite Basketball Arena looking for an Elite Basketball Program to call it Home.

    PittofDreams

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    1. The amount of delusional Pitt fans is disheartening.

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    2. What should our expectations be?

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    3. There are probably 20-30 programs with elite basketball arenas POD... And they don't make the tournament as much as we do... You're living in the Pitt vacuum

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    4. and opportunity compete every yearfor a national championship.most teams don't get invited to the dance because they are not gpod enough.

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  36. On a MORE POSITIVE note...

    Offensive right tackle T.J. Clemmings had two pancake blocks of Bradley and middle linebacker Matt Galambos.

    Jerry DiPaola

    PittofDreams

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    1. It's time for Mr. Hueber to earn his money and field a competent offensive line. It's Year 3. The excuses must end. The O-line doesn’t have to resemble recent Alabama lines, but geez can the group at least pass block as though it takes pride in keeping the QB clean. I’m sure if the unit is bad, Hueber will drop a few one liners and everyone will be talking about how grouchy and funny he is and how wonderful it is that he’s at Pitt.

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  37. I agree about Hueber. However, the success of the line is going to depend on how healthy last years starters remain. The right side should be good. The left side will depend on if they have Biz back or not. If they have to go through another redshirt freshman learning on the job it won't be pretty.

    I keep hearing mention of the new S&C coach, players look better, more heavy lifting, blah blah blah. Can't the Trib or Gazette do a freaking article? There is absolutely no imagination with the sports writers. The biggest story for the football program the last couple months has been winter conditioning and they write nothing.

    NRS

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    1. there's YouTube videos on Facebook

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  38. About this time last year, a prominate college basketball writer was on the Fan morning show when they asked him about the national view of Pitt basketball, he said and I quote, "It is considered a very good job but not a great job. If Dixon where to leave or get fired, Pitt would not be able to land a great coach from another top BCS program. They would end up with some up and coming coach like Andy Toole at RMU and there is no guarantee those coaches would succeed at Pitt."

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  39. expectations of pitt fans should be 20 or more wins and an ncaa tournament birth every year and that's a high expectation, at least the tournament part. the only non blue blood that gets to the tournament with more regularity than pitt is Gonzaga. even the blue bloods don't make it every year. unc and Kentucky are recent examples.

    its easy to say "every team should strive for national championships". lets face it, probably 300+ of the 350 hoops programs in the country are striving just to not have the floor mopped by them when facing the likes of pitt. very few people in Pittsburgh know anything about basketball and it clearly shows in discussions of pitt hoops

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    1. Have to agree with you PK, and trust me it shows up in more than just Pitt hoops. A lot of people here don't seem to get something when it comes to the Pitt program, which is essentially the program has reached the level that as long as they win 20+ games per year, they're in the tournament just based on reputation at this point. People here equate every sport to the Steelers because of their history and somewhat recent successes, but the fact of the matter is that even the bluebloods do not compete for a national championship every year.

      Look at the schools that are considered college basketball royalty, and tell me how many of them are still playing this weekend? Of all the bluelbloods, only Kentucky is still playing, and quite honestly that's because they were in the same bracket as Wichita State, which was destined to lose as soon as they played a team that actually had talent. The rest for the most part are gone, and usually aren't around on a yearly basis when you're talking elite 8 and final four anymore.

      So to hang complaints on a program that actually makes the tournament every year is nonsense.

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  40. Buzz from Marquette would come here. Come on, Va Tech?

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  41. Without getting into any of the other comments, I would take missing the tourney 7 times in 36 years like Boeheim has in return for his NCAA championships.

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  42. By the way, sometimes recruiting is just good or bad luck. How land and Dixon both desperately wanted the red headed Center who went to Seton Hall and when they lost him had to settle for Aaron Gray, who turned out to be a far better player. Sam Young was Dixon's 8th or 9th choice for PF and we got him only because we lost out on all of those we wanted more. Of those, only one turned out to be a better college player than Young. We slow played Blair because Dixon wanted the prep Center who played in CT and only went after DeJuan after that kid committed to UW. He was a good college player but nowhere near being the player DeJuan was in college.

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    1. Pitt wanted both Blair and Young very much. They were top 50 prospects. But both had grade issues. And Young was at a prep school so he was somebody that only sprung open later. The kid that went to Washington, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, committed very early before anybody even got to recruit him much. So his recruitment would have nothing to do with Blair. I don't remember the specifics with Gray, though. He wasn't somebody talked a lot at the time.

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    2. The issue with Aaron Gray was that he was 7'. The fact that he could tie his shoes made him worth taking any kind of risk on.

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  43. CAM WRIGHT IS A BUM I BEEN WATCHING PITT BB SINCE TIGER PAUL
    HE IS THE WORSE STARTING PLAYER IN PITT HISTORY

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    1. It's in all caps, so you know it's true.

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  44. As Pintino said at the top level all teams play good defense but you have to have players who have good fundamental offensive skills as well as quickness to win
    Look at Pitts players most have significant shooting or quickness flaws, Robinson, Wright, Zanna, Taylor, and Newkirk, have significant flaws in their shooting mechanics. The poster boy from last year who took the most shots and caused the most dissension and turnovers was Woodall. IMO if Boehiem, Pintino, Calhoun, or Calagri had Pitt's roster last year Woodall would have never stepped on the court yet every year Dixon selects a specific player gives him green light. Is this good coaching.
    An example every Pitt play at the end of the half 15 seconds or less or end of game with Pitt in possession the same play is run, and the opposing coaching knows it.
    Two years ago it was Gibbs, last year Woodall, this year Patterson. Off a screen these designated players for that year receive the inbound pass dribble around the perimeter until 2 seconds remain then take a desperate jump shot while tripled teamed. Same play every year the facees simply change.

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