Thursday, March 10, 2011

GTOPG: Cleaning up the skid marks; Pitt Loses 76-74

By Finesse

If you tuned in to ESPN's coverage of Pitt's Big East Tournament opener against UConn this afternoon -- and with the amount of publicity ESPN annually puts behind this thing, you couldn't miss it -- you had the pleasure of experiencing the good and the bad of college basketball.  Unless you are Gary McGhee.  Then, it was just the bad.

For those who watched the game, you can come to your own conclusions about the performance of Pitt's big men today, but at this blog, because we have hearts, we will not completely demolish Mr. McGhee as no one could have expected him to be able to stick with Kemba Walker on UConn's final possession -- one is a top flight NBA prospect, and the other is still having his skid marks cleaned off the MSG floor.

(pic will be replaced when the one of McGhee on floor is available)
We don't want to be reactionary here, as we haven't had the pleasure of watching the majority of Pitt's games this season.  But what stood out today, and what has stood out for most of the Howland/Dixon era, is Pitt's lack of a thoroughbred, top-flight, sure-fire NBA prospect. Yes, Ashton Gibbs went for a career-high 27 points today.  But isn't that the problem...that 27 points is his career high?  More on him later, but you can't help leaving this game with the takeaway that this year just might be more of the same for Pitt - a phenomenal regular season built largely on cliches about being a "team" followed up with post-season disappointment because of the lack of a true stud to make a heroic play when it is called for, whether it's a rebound (wouldn't that have been nice with 18 seconds left?) or a buzzer-beater.  We aren't giving up all hope yet, because Pitt does have the horses to make a long run in this year's relatively weak tournament field.  All we're saying is that we won't be surprised if they don't.

More thoughts on the game and Pitt's NCCA hopes after the jump
- Just the other day, a stranger approached me on the street and asked, "Do you know where I could watch 12 straight hours of masturbatory montages of net-less rims scattered across Manhattan's five boroughs?"  I can only hope he found a TV for today.

- I was prepared to write very complimentary things about Nasir Robinson, but it was his man who got the offensive rebound for UConn with 18 seconds left and if you watch the replay, Robinson could have, and should have, boxed him out.  That's the type of play that this Pitt team absolutely has to make.  Once UConn got that rebound and could run out the clock before taking the last shot, this thing was in the bag.

- Much was made of the terrible officiating, or "non-officiating," at the end of yesterday's Rutgers v. St. John's game and there is no doubt that the refs blew the call.  But what is even more appalling about Big East officials - and remember, we are not a blog that complains about bad calls - is the theatrics with which they officiate the games.  No one is paying to go to MSG to watch a 62-year-old man high-step for 15 feet before dramatically pointing left or right to signal which team the ball went out of bounds off of.  Well, except for Jim Burr, one of the culprits of yesterday's disaster, who fired himself from the rest of the Big East Tournament but nevertheless showed up at today's game.  I wonder if he ordered two sandwiches by pointing both of his thumbs up in the air like the jump-ball signal and then gyrating through a series of embarrassing histrionics.

Didn't have enough flair when not blowing whistle
- Ashton Gibbs is a deadly jump shooter, but the glaring weakness in his game is that he either cannot or will not attack the rim.  He seems reasonably quick on the dribble, although certainly not NBA-level quick, but he never goes all the way to the basket.

- Pitt was outrebounded in this game 27-24, which normally wouldn't be considered a huge margin, but is alarming given that Pitt was something like 2nd in the NCAA in rebounding margin (+11, not looking it up).  Here's my theory: Pitt is well-coached and lives up to the cliches about being hard-working in every game, even the most meaningless ones.  Throughout the season, that translates into rebounding advantages even if your big men are Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor.  But, when you get in a one-and-done scenario against a team with superior athletes that is also highly motivated because of the possibility of being eliminated, it's no surprise that the advantage disappears. 

- Pitt plays below the rim.  So do the Sparxx and the Mystics.

- Here are two text messages I received about the game:

     1) "Gilbert Brown equals turnover every time"
     2) "Gary mghee is the worst thing to ever happen to pittsburgh"

- Finally, this heartbreaking loss will suddenly not be so heartbreaking if Pitt can do the one thing that it hasn't been able to do in a long time: make the Final Four.  In fact, they haven't made the Final Four since 1941, when it was also named the Second Round.  The big question -- Can they?

If you thought that Pitt could make the Final Four before this game, then nothing that happened today should change your mind.  Pitt lost to a very talented team on a neutral floor on a last second shot by one of the best players in the country.  No shame in that.  But if you were skeptical about Pitt before this game, then today reinforces a lot of your concerns.  In no particular order, those concerns might be: bad rebounding in big spots, minimal interior scoring, terrible body language when things start to go wrong, Gilbert Brown's hands, history, the tendency to foul too much, and lack of a true #1 guy who, like Kemba Walker, can create space for himself in the closing seconds.  I know Gibbs is great, but what I don't know is whether he can touch rim.

So it's another unsatisfying exit from the Big East Tournament and, more importantly, another trip to the NCAA Tournament with that familiar feeling of impending disappointment.  We've been burned before, but this time, we are still holding out hope. 

Do it.

1 comment:

  1. Finesse - Is Pitt still a #1 seed in the tournament?