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.

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.

Oklahoma State Preview

Big day for the Oakland Zoo blog- for the first time in our short history, we were able to send a reporter (yours truly) to the Pitt Basketball media session along with reporters from FSN, ESPN, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (including Ray Fittipaldo), so this preview is going to be a little different than how I’ve been doing the last ones. We heard from Ronald Ramon, Mike Cook, and Jamie Dixon, and the main theme concerning OK State was their guard play.

The Cowboys, at 5-3, are a very tough team to gauge, with a few quality wins (by 25 points against Washington, by 6 against LSU) and also with some bad losses (by 16 at home to Illinois and by 30 at Marquette). The big theme in the interviews was the guard play, with Coach Dixon noting that “(Oklahoma State) can play small, they can play five guards out there and be effective with it…they’re very good.” He said that they would avoid the zone, because of their shooting strengths, instead relying on perimeter defense to contain their shooters.

The main player on the Cowboys is freshman James Anderson- “This kid can really score, he really shoots it well” said Dixon, “(Anderson) can put it on the floor…gets to the offensive boards.” It sounds like they’ll start with Cook guarding him, but Dixon did mention the possibility of rotating defenders on him. Another thing that was brought up was OK State’s huge victory against Washington. When asked if the scoring margin was a sign of OK State being better than us, Mike Cook replied “(Washington) was playing at Oklahoma State, which is a tough place to play…they didn’t have Appleby, and he scored 18 points against us.” After talking to Ronny, I think that Pitt will be fine at home against this team- it’s going to be a tough game, certainly, but we are athletic enough to stop a team that shoots the ball well and we’ll use our transition game against a smaller team to get more rebounds and get the ball inside.

I’ll post later about the rest of the media session and my short chat with Ronny Ramon about the Oakland Zoo.

Washington Huskies "Preview"

Not much of a preview, I apologize, as it’s the weekend before finals and I got caught up in my studies. Things to look out for today:

-Zone defense. The Huskies generally employ a 2-3 zone, which places an emphasis on outside shooting from the wings and the post. With the exception Young, Pitt has struggled with perimeter and mid-range shooting. OK State shot 53% from behind the arc, but they also have consistent shooters like Anderson and Muonelo. Ramon, Fields, Cook, and Young must spread the floor by making outside shots and create opportunities for Biggs and Blair.

-Jon Brockman. Yes, he’s the same height as DeJuan and weighs less, but Brockman is one helluva rebounder, scorer, and defender. Jon has the uncanny ability to find holes in box outs and score major offensive rebounds and tip-ins. His post defense is superb, and he rarely goes for pump fakes and is difficult to beat off the dribble, which has been Blair’s M.O. this season. Brockman’s main weakness is defense outside the post, which he does not have to worry about at all with Blair’s lack of a jumper. I expect DeJuan to bully him on defense, because he lacks the post moves that most big-time centers have. My main worry is that Blair gets into some serious foul trouble trying to shut down Brockman. You can’t shut down Brockman, you can only contain him.

-Quincy Pondexter vs. Sam Young. Although Romar usually employs zone defense, I expect Dixon to match Young and Pondexter up on both sides of the ball. They’re pretty much the same player. Both are streaky, have had a history of bad defense, are about the same height, and are tremendous athletes. Young’s game, as we know, has made great strides. Judging from Pondexter’s numbers from this season, his offensive ability is still there, but the defense has been still lacking. I expect a huge game from Young, as Dixon exploits Pondexters defensive incompetence. This will also be a test for Young, and we’ll see how much his defense has really improved.

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.

Sam Young Disappoints

After all of the outrageous dunks and alley-oops this year, tonight’s performance from Sam Young was just plain unacceptable.

Only one 3-pointer? Come on. 14 points is just not going to cut it from now on. Sure we are playing some lame opponents but what happens when we get to the Big East? You can’t just score in double-digits each game and expect everyone to love you. Aaron Gray would be the first to tell you that.

I have outlined some goals that Sam Young should have for each game from this point forward:
– At least two dunks per half
– Five or more points in the first 5:00 of play
– Make no less than two 3-pointers per game, shooting 70% or better
– Give a shot fake at least 50% of your possessions

In all seriousness, congratulations to Sam for another great night. With a slow start, he was still nearly the leading scorer in a blowout where each player on the roster saw time on the floor.

Personally, I’m glad Sam had a rough start to the game today. I feel like he has been too successful so far this season, and I’d rather see him struggle for the first time against a team whose mascot is a Terrier.

When we get to play against Washington and Oklahoma State, teams that are decent but a bit lacking this season, I’d hate to see some miscues leading to frustration on the floor. Some days the shots fall, or in this case dunks, and some days they don’t. You just have to keep playing, and maybe you’ll end up the leading scorer anyway.

St. Johns WIll Not Win The Big East

I’m going out on a limb after their performance yesterday and say that St. John’s will not need to worry about winning the Big East. The game was never even close, Pitt dominated from the beginning. Like one of my friends said after the game, “Pitt showed how to play like a top 10 team and St. John’s showed what you need to do to miss the conference tournament.”

As far as individual performances, I’m going to go back to what I say after every game, solid performance from Graves. I am the leader of the Antonio Graves bandwagon and anybody who watched the Oklahoma State game can tell you this is the most unexpected thing ever. He is really keeping himself under control and has become a much more solid basketball player. Coach Dixon is rewarding him with more minutes and I am very impressed with his turnaround. Mike Cook put in a pretty solid performance but nothing really jumps out at you. Levon and his closely trimmed hair appeared to rebound a little better yesterday but that may have been due to the lack of any presence.

Let us know what you think about the games and the Zoo and leave a comment on the articles.