The best thing to do in Dayton? Leave

That’s right. No one here likes this town. The city is terrible, the food is awful and over priced, there is no culture (unless you love chain restaurants), the sports are awful, and there basically no reason to ever come here.

I really don’t see how the NCAA grants Dayton the first round of games. The arena is too small, the views are awful, and it looks terrible on tv. The best part about getting to the arena is that there is only one road that goes in and one road that goes out so that makes traffic really fun.

Am I biased? Sure. The last time I was here I saw Levance fall with an injury that kept him out 2 months and we lost the game to a team we should have crushed. What made it worse were the idiot fans that filled their arena.

I’d like to take the time now to rename Dayton as Morgantown – West.

This year we have the fun of coming back to Dayton for a couple of games. The first against ETSU the second against OK State. Now I get that everyone wants to see the big upset for the 1 vs 16. What I don’t get is all of the Louisville fans rooting for every other Big East team to lose. Maybe they got caught up in the moment and were rooting against us so that ETSU would pull the huge upset. All that means for me is that I will be pulling for Siena to upset Louisville.

A few years ago when we were playing in Detroit, lower seed Bradley was giving us a game. West Virginia was scheduled to play after us. So after hearing all week of how WVU fans were going to root for Pitt, it was interesting to see that all of the Hoopie fans in attendance were pulling for Bradley. Maybe it was a mistake to put conference ahead of personal rivalry, but now I root against WVU in everything whether it is a conference or non-conference matchup.

Now I will add Louisville to that. In fact, it just might be best to say forget about rooting for the conference, just root for Pitt and root against everyone else.

The best part of last night was dealing with all of the arrogant Dayton and Ohio State fans. Most Dayton fans are Ohio State fans, so it was great seeing OSU fall to Siena in double overtime. I guess all of those paid off recruits, goofy Europeans, and guys that couldn’t hack it in the Big East aren’t good enough to beat a team that Pitt had dominated earlier in the year.

Now at the game yesterday I was rooting for WVU to beat Dayton just to mess with the Dayton fans in the arena, but that didn’t happen and I can’t say I’m too upset. I just never feel bad about WVU losing.

Speaking of WVU, there were a bunch of WVU fans at the Pitt game yesterday. Why do they always come to our games? Is it their inferiority complex that they just must be around us all the time? Do they like coming to Pitt events just to mess with us? Either way, it was fun watching them leave yesterday knowing they had just lost to Dayton.

Hopefully tomorrow Pitt dominates Oklahoma State, Louisville loses, and Kansas destroys Dayton.

All three of those would make a perfect day with the perfect ending.

Actually the perfect ending is this, so go ahead and check it out.

Panthers finish non-conference season 12-1

My pick for leading scorer this evening was Keith Benjamin. I have been a fan of his since he donned his #13 jersey in his freshman season.

Since the loss of Levance, I have thought about that season a lot. It was a year where Pitt was predicted to do really well. Stars like Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft were supposed to lead Pitt to success. Carl Krauser was our point guard, and two freshman turned up on the roster: Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin, known then as the “Young Gunnaz.”

We also lost our last non-conference game that season, on January 2, to a Patriot League surprise team out of Bucknell.

With all of the talk recently about Ronald Ramon, well, sucking, I pondered that time so long ago. Ronald Ramon started his first game as a freshman. He was a hot outside shooter, and people loved him for his clutch scoring.

How, three years later, do people turn their nose up when he is our starting point guard? Honestly, he hasn’t been performing. He has given everyone a reason to doubt him. Tonight, however, he silenced his critics with a sharp three 3-pointers and 11 points.

Keith Benjamin, who I have long considered one of the least utilized tools that Pitt has, lit it up with a career high 20 points.

The dark horse of the evening was Tyrell Biggs. He scored 19 points. In games such as the tragedy that was Dayton, when DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble, Tyrell will need to step up. Not only did he score in quantity, he scored in quality. He put up some moves that were seriously impressive. The tandem of Young, Blair, and Biggs is something that every team in the conference wishes they could boast.

I think it is fitting tonight, being the final non-conference game of the season, to pose this question:
Is it the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?

Hopefully to all of those who were able to see the game tonight, Jamie Dixon and the Panthers have given you reason to believe that the season is not over. The players we have left still have lots to prove. We have not yet begun to fight.

New Year

Hey all- sorry it’s been so long since my last post, I was out of country (and therefore away from internet and most of civilization) since the day after the Duke game. By now, you all know about Levance’s injury- two to three months on the bench- and the challenges this Panther team has facing it. The Dayton game was, to put it lightly, a disaster- poor shooting, poor shot selection, and poor ball movement will doom a team every time. I’m not using that game as a measuring point, because it’s tough to lose two of the top players and expect to get right on track in just a half of basketball, but this is not a process that Pitt can afford to have take up 10 games in this Big East schedule. Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown are going to have to learn on the fly if we want to have anything more than minimal success in Big East play this year. Hopefully, we’ll have Levance back before the conference tournament, and make some noise past the sweet 16 this March.

Looking ahead, Pitt plays a final non-conference game against 8-4 Lafayette, a game against a team notorious for being undersized and overpowered on the boards, and Pitt will have to exploit this to beat them on Wednesday night. Hopefully, the run-and-gun offense will be stowed away for the Pitt basketball of old- ball control, strong rebounding, and great defense. Tomorrow’s game will tell us quite a bit about the resiliency of this team after getting rather embarrassed at Dayton, and also about our chances for the rest of the season.

Well Now What?

I just realized that it has been two days since I witnessed the loss at Dayton, and I had yet to write anything about it. Perhaps it was shock, or depression, or simply trying to keep it out of my mind.

To summarize the first half for those of you whom ESPN considered insignificant, because WVU obviously has more fans, I have never seen so many fouls called in a single half of basketball. That doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that both teams ended the half with 10 fouls, Dayton was charged with at least two carries, and Pitt must have had half a dozen travels.

Without Mike Cook, the team was in trouble. With over half the team having 2+ fouls, they were in real trouble.

I am not one to usually make excuses, but the officiating was horrendous. If Blair had been able to play his normal minutes, things would have been better. Had Gil not gotten three fouls in the first half, maybe his play would have been better.

But as any good Panther fan would know, that doesn’t begin to describe the real issues at work. Levance Fields, the General, is out 8-12 weeks with an ankle injury. Ronald Ramon is rumored to have injured his shoulder, although not as seriously as Levance.

Some people have claimed that Pitt’s season is over. Some real, die hard Panther fans seem to have thrown in the towel. With hopes of a 1 or 2 seed in the tournament, disappointment has set in.

I don’t imagine that is Jamie Dixon’s response. I don’t imagine that is Sam or DeJuan’s response. I am not naive enough to pretend that the team will keep plowing through opponents like they have so far. People have to be serious though, the season is far from over.

Pitt still has Lafayette, their 12th non-conference victory in hand. That leaves them with a 12-1 non-conference record, and an RPI in the top 10.
This is not the Big East conference that we are used to. UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville are all very beatable teams. We still have Rutgers, South Florida, DePaul, and two games against Cincinnati. We have home games against WVU and Villanova.

If Pitt is able to finish in the top 5 or so of the conference standings, an NCAA tournament berth is still very possible. If Pitt managed to go 11-7 in conference, with a win in their first Big East Tournament game, their record in the tourney selection would be 24-9.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This struggle will not kill our Panthers. You better believe it will make them stronger.

Panthers First Loss Comes On The Road

Yesterday the Panthers fell to 10-1, giving Coach Dixon his first loss ever before January 1. It was the first non-conference loss since the devastating Bucknell game two years ago.

Although no loss is a good thing, there are several things to keep in mind about the Panthers and their tough non-conference schedule this season:

Pitt always gets a raw deal in the NCAA tournament because of their lack of tough non-conference games. This year Pitt has obviously tried to squash that discussion before it even starts. Florida State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Dayton, and Washington are all very good teams. Would I love to see Pitt get wins against all of them? Of course. Is that likely to happen? No. It is only logical that when you add that many tough games to your schedule that you can’t do as well as if you played five teams of the Robert Morris level.

If the Panthers do come out with big wins against these teams, then they prove to everyone that they deserve their spot near the top of the polls. If they drop some, everyone realizes that those teams are good, and the penalty might only be a few spots in the rankings.

The most important factor about these games is RPI. Of course Pitt’s conference RPI is fantastic, but come March Madness, they do go back and check out that pesky non-conference stat as well. I try to check this site for the RPI rankings every day or so. Yesterday before the loss, Pitt’s RPI rank was 9 and their Strength Of Schedule (SOS) was somewhere in the 60s. Today, after a loss, their rank went up to 6, and their SOS went up to 40.

It was definitely a disappointing loss. The Panthers played pretty well, lots of credit to Ronald and Aaron for that. That’s basketball. You can’t win every game, you just have to get pissed off and take it out on Oklahoma State now.