Ronald Ramon Ticketed For Inciting A Riot

It has been a recurring topic for debate during the past several years that Pitt fans never storm the court. Last night, Ronald Ramon sent the Zoo, and from what I can see in the videos, nearly the entire Pete, into a riot like which the arena has never seen.

We have had some close victories, but part of our allure is that our home court advantage tends to help us get some big wins in great fasion (e.g. beating #5 Georgetown handily). This is the first game ever decided by a buzzer-beater in Petersen Event Center history.

The closest atmosphere I can remember was an overtime victory against Notre Dame a few years back. What this win more resembled was the blur of emotion following Fields’ game-winner this year over Duke.

Having seen both the high of that Duke win and the low of the turnover at Villanova, I am certain that Ronald Ramon and our Panthers are a much improved team since then. I think our record is deceptively poor at the moment. The losses to Cincinnati and Rutgers are inexcusable, although Cinci is actually still holding up fairly well. The loss at UConn was a tight one. People are now really taking notice to the surging Huskies, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them play pretty well this post-season. The loss at Villanova can be almost entirely blamed on lack of chemistry at that point in our season. Ronald was not ready to be the leader, or the point guard, or the last second shot taker. I think last night he showed that he has matured in each of those roles.

Our remaining games are all pretty big matchups. We still have a rematch with Cinci at home. We have a resurgent Louisville at home. We have Notre Dame and Marquette on the road. Our next contest is a very winnable game against Providence at home. They are only 4-6 so far. It would be another good win to lift us up in the standings.

For those of you that are interested in taking some of that intense hatred of WVU on the road, there will be a bus trip to Morgantown on March 3. Details are still being worked out, but tickets will be available for $25. The price includes a ticket and the transportation to and from WVU. This will be the third consecutive year that Pitt has provided us the opportunity to invade Moutainqueer country, but this time a lot of the preparation has been done by your Zoo leaders. Make sure to let them know you appreciate their effort and mark your calendar and stay tuned for more information.


Pitt Beats Duke!!!

Got a chance to go to Madison Square Garden to see Pitt against Duke. Because they don’t have internet, tonight’s post is going to start off with thoughts I had throughout the night, followed by a recap after seeing how everything unfolds- not exactly a live blog, but the best I can do:

7:05pm: Game starts off with Dejuan inside, followed by a rebound on the defensive end. Hopefully this will set a theme for the night.

7:10pm: Mike Cook seems to be trying too hard…already a travel and a bad pass in the first three minutes of the game. Score’s 5-3, we’re not giving Duke too many easy shots so far. Duke is playing a little wild, already has 4 team fouls four minutes in.

7:20pm: Game pace is definitely picking up- score’s 14-11 with 8 minutes gone, but the teams are really starting to run the transition. Pitt’s going small, but still not doing a great job on their rotations to the open shooter. Duke already has 6 team fouls, and hopefully this trend will continue.

7:30pm: Really sloppy play on both sides of the ball- lots of travels, missed shots, and fouls on both sides. Duke definitely with the upper hand so far, as Pitt has suffered an inability to get the ball to the basket. Down 19-13 but it could be a lot worse. Really just a bad game so far, we’re not playing like a top-10 team at all.

7:40pm: This is really just awful- we’re down 24-13, having only scored two points in the last seven minutes. It’s a very uninspired performance so far- nothing going on offense, no real energy on defense. I know that Pitt is a second-half team, but this is not going to work if we want to be successful in the Big East.

7:55pm: Halftime, Duke winning 34-22. This was one of the most un-energetic, un-inspired halves of basketball I’ve seen in a long time. There are a few things to work on: first of all, Duke can shoot the 3 very well. We need to stop double-teaming, leaving shooters open on the wing. If we can stay on our man, we’ll take away a lot of their open shots. I’m not going to post again unless some sort of comeback starts. Duke is a very good basketball team, but we are a top-10 program is well, and just not playing like it.

8:45pm: Well, with ten minutes left in the second half, Pitt’s finally made a bit of a comeback. We’ve been playing much better defense and playing more uptempo, energetic basketball. Down 6, Blair gets called for an awful intentional foul, but it was really just fighting under the basket between Blair and Singler. Blair’s got 12 points and 13 rebounds, and both teams are already in the bonus with 9 minutes left in the half.

9:16pm: Overtime! This has actually been an incredible game so far, Pitt came storming back in the second half and avoided a putback attempt by Singler as time expired in regulation.

9:36pm: Hail to Pitt! 65-64 in overtime- full recap later on tonight.

11:15pm: This was an incredible win for Pitt, but it could come with a great loss. Mike Cook went down hard in overtime, and from his inability to walk off the court, I would have to assume some sort of knee ligament injury. If it is a torn ACL or MCL, that’s his season (as well as, likely, his Pitt career). He could still get a medical redshirt, but we’ll have to see how that all unfolds. He did have his knee in a brace as he exited the stadium, so it doesn’t look good. However, tonight we really need to focus on the positives: Pitt went into a pro-Duke atmosphere, found themselves down 31-15 early on, yet rallied back and stayed tough through overtime despite losing Blair on fouls early in the extra period. Levance, Sam, and Dejuan really carried the team tonight, and winning games like this is what you need to go deep into the season. This bodes very well for games against Villanova and Marquette. Pitt does need to realize that they can’t keep double-teaming players if it means leaving shooters wide open on the wing, but I imagine that they’ll work on it in practice. Overall, I was again impressed by Pitt’s ability to come back in a hostile environment, but the first half still scares me. They need to be more than a great second-half team in order to be a truly top team in the country. If we can put together 40 minutes like we did in the last 25, we will really be a power in the Big East.

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Big test tomorrow night

Big test tomorrow night- the 9th ranked Panthers take on the 6th ranked Duke Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden, in what should be an incredibly exciting basketball game. After coming off a great win against Oklahoma State, I really think the Panthers can beat the Blue Devils, but it will take a great performance from all around in order to do it. Duke, like the Cowboys, is heavy on outside shooting- freshman Kyle Singler and Taylor King, juniors Gerald Henderson and Greg Paulus, and senior DeMarcus Nelson are all a threat to shoot from outside. This team will be similar to OK State in that aspect, but they are a much better shooting team- much less likely to come out and shoot below 30% from beyond the arc. The team average is about 42%, and I would hope Pitt’s perimeter defense will keep them at or below that number.

However, Duke is not a great defensive team, nor are they a great rebounding one- and this is where the Panthers will really have to play their game. We’ll be able to take this if Dejuan Blair can stay out of foul trouble and we don’t get lazy on the offensive boards. It was very encouraging to see the Panthers really put in a strong effort for 40 full minutes last Saturday, and I would expect to see more of the same on Thursday night. DeJuan Blair and Sam Young are our two most important players as usual- they will have to use their size and inside presence to get the majority of the rebounds and score inside, taking advantage of the perimeter nature of Duke. If we can win this game, it would mean huge recognition for Pitt on a national scale- even though we’re a top-10 team, we haven’t been getting that much press nationally, though this game would certainly change that.

Incredible Day at the Pete

Well, after watching the Pitt/OSU video for a second time, I have to say that I am again thoroughly impressed by this Panther basketball team’s ability to respond and react to different looks and defenses, and to adjust to different situations. This was a type of game that we could have easily let OSU shoot us down from beyond the arc, but instead we limited their most productive player, James Anderson, to only 8 points on 2-8 shooting, including only 1-5 from beyond the arc- this from a player averaging 20.8 points on 48% from beyond the arc. Mike Cook and Gilbert Brown did an excellent job of preventing his open looks, and the defense as a whole did a great job of rotating on their shoots and keeping the Cowpokes under 30% shooting from beyond the arc.

This was also the most complete game the team has played this year- after surviving OSU’s 7-for-11 start to the game, the Panthers pulled out to an impressive 18-point halftime advantage, and again weathered a revived Cowboy defensive effort to start the second half to again pull out to a double-digit advantage and put the game away with about five minutes remaining.

The biggest delight today was watching the play of DeJuan Blair- for a team that was supposed to become a fastbreak, jump-shooting team, it’s been incredible to see how Blair has kept the ability to get the ball into the post alive, while still allowing the team to be incredibly athletic and be able to move the ball in transition. It will only be a matter of time before he is recognized on the national level, but putting up a monster game (20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals) on ESPN will certainly help. His inside presence will certainly be a huge factor against the Duke Blue Devils in our next (and most important game so far) matchup, this upcoming Thursday night.

I know it’s not basketball related, but it was great again to see the Zoo give a warm welcome to top football prospect Shayne Hale, and after he donned a Zoo shirt near the end of the first half, it seems like he will follow his cousin (and fellow football star) Cameron Saddler to being a Panther in the fall. Wannstedt is certainly a great recruiter, but it can’t hurt to have a section like the Zoo chanting your name and holding up signs throughout the game.

Pitt finally goes on the road

Tomorrow will be Pitt’s first road game of the season. There has been quite a discussion so far about what the Panthers should expect from Duquesne. While I don’t think it will be that close, I think Duquesne is the perfect stepping stone for the next set of matchups that Pitt has to look forward to. With Oklahoma State, Washington, and Duke fast approaching, it is about time for Pitt to try out a decent, if not good, opponent.

There have been times this season that the Panthers have struggled. Tomorrow night, DeJuan Blair can not afford to get into early foul trouble. I think he and Biggs can share the time and be able to handle everything that the Dukes have.

I have faith that Levance will rebound from his awful shooting performance last time, and that he, Ronald, and Mike Cook will be able to play their tempo. Mike, particularly, showed some great energy in the last game, and I expect him to be just as into the game tomorrow.

Hopefully lots of you Zoo fans will be at the game. We will be bringing some Zoo News from the last game so that anyone who wants one can hold it up during Duquesne’s intro. See you there.

Wright St. Thoughts/VCU Preview

Last nights game went exactly how it should have on paper. We dominated an over matched Wright St. team. I wouldn’t take anything out of this game as an indicator of success or failure. The only thing that this game showed me was that the team plane arrived on time in Buffalo and that everyone was on it. Wright St. was absolutely terrible and we exploited all of our obvious advantages.

The VCU game is going to be a legitimate test. VCU outplayed a highly overrated Duke team with tremendous guard play and a disciplined, balanced press. Eric Maynor will be the best player on the court Saturday, believe it or not. This kid has NBA written all over him and he is going to give Graves or whoever we have on him plenty of trouble. Our inside game has to be present, we need a big game (like 20+ points 10+ boards) out of Gray and the combination of Kendall/Biggs/Young. They have a distinct advantage in the backcourt and the way that they press is going to negate our guard play for most of the game. Watching the game yesterday I was praying that Duke would pull it out because we match-up so much better against them. I hate to be a pessimist but VCU is going to give us all we can handle.

I’m not making a prediction for this game because I don’t want to say what I think is going to happen. We couldn’t have gotten a team that matches up better against us this early than VCU. Be afraid Pitt fans be very afraid of this game.

Big Matchups Await

While some may be disheartened by the potential matchups with Duke and UCLA, I welcome them with open arms.

Will these result in Panther losses? Quite possibly. Is that such a bad thing?

The point of the NCAA Tournament, let’s not forget, is to pit the nation’s best teams against each other to crown the top team in the country. This gets lost in the idea of the “easiest path” to the Final Four. Sure, seeing Pitt with an easier route might be nice, if the ends justify the means. That’s just not my character. I tend to believe, and in this case too, the means justify the ends.

Do you really want Pitt to win three games against Wright State calibre teams? I have been wishing for years now that Pitt would get a shot at the Blue Devils. They might be a perennial powerhouse, but they lost last year to Georgetown, and I mean the Georgetown of last year. I think Pitt could have gone toe to toe then, and I think they stand a hell of a chance now. Let’s not overlook the fact that Pitt earned a 3 spot and the judges gave Duke a mere 6.

Then we take the short roadtrip to San Jose, CA. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to take a short academic recess two weeks after spring break and head out to the west coast. So you might have spent a few hundred dollars going to New York for the Big East Tournament, and you might have spent a few hundred more to go up to Buffalo. This team is playing UCLA, that is easily worth a few thousand dollars.

I kid, but nevertheless, about as big of a matchup as we have seen for this team in years. There are always the bigger conference games, the Big East finals, etc. but this is not about that. It is about mentor vs. apprentice. It is about the man who made Pitt basketball what it is vs. the man who keeps it that way. It is something only few teams can fear, or dream. I saw the look on Dixon’s face when he saw he could get matched with Howland. He wasn’t smiling. But, I wouldn’t equate that with fear or disappointment, rather discomfort seems more fitting.

Imagine owing your entire career to a man. A man you worked with for years. A man who taught you what you know. A man who left you a top-ten program for your first head coaching position. Now imagine needing to spend two weeks preparing your team to beat that man mercilessly. Just because he might not enjoy the situation doesn’t mean he won’t be smiling if it happens.

Look at the glass half full for a change. If Pitt can beat these two teams, it deserves to make it that far in the tournament, and nobody should be able to argue that. No matter how sure you are that Pitt won’t beat these teams, I’m sure the players are feeling more optimistic. All they can do is go out and give it “the old college try.” This is college basketball, after all, isn’t it?