Ray Fittipaldo's Pitt basketball chat transcript: 3.2.2010

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bubs:I know Pitt has a first round bye in the BE tourney, but what seed do you think they'll end up with?Ray Fittipaldo:I am thinking the No. 3 seed. I believe Villanova will win its last two against Cincinnati and West Virginia and Pitt will win its final two. But if Villanova loses one and Pitt wins two, Pitt is the No. 2 seed. Be careful what you wish for, though. The No. 7 seed as of today is Georgetown, the only team to beat Pitt at home this season.Missing Chad Varga:Finding myself in the pinch-me this really happened column for an overly successful 2009-2010 season, should I remain guarded for 2010-2011 season in my optimism or will this young team logically get better and be ready for next steps, like a top 10 start to finish type of season? Never too early to talk about the unknown future, right?Ray Fittipaldo:It is too early to talk about next season, but I'll oblige. Everyone except Jermaine Dixon returns so it will certainly be an experienced team. I think it will be a team that is ranked between No. 10 and No. 20 all season. And if the freshman class contributes some, it could elevate into the top 10.PittFanDave:There was an article recently where Dixon stated that the structure of the Big East tournament was being reviewed. Dixon stated he didn't feel the double bye was an advantage, and some unnamed coaches considered it a disadvantage. Those are some of the most absurd comments I have heard regarding college basketball. Of course you still have to battle some tough teams to win the Big East tournament, but you get to avoid those hungry teams that are playing hard to extend their season. Your players also get some much needed rest. The current structure is the only logical set up to include all of the teams. I could understand if the coaches came out and said that didn't feel all teams should make the conference tournament, but suggesting a double bye is not an advantage is just absurd to me. What are your thoughts?Ray Fittipaldo:I tend to agree, but Dixon never said he did not feel like the double bye was an advantage. He merely said he was not sure based on what happened last year. Apparently, Jim Calhoun felt the same way because the topic was discussed among the coaches during the offseason. I do not like the idea of a top seed having to play four days to win the title, and I don't think most coaches do either. Let's see what happens this year. Maybe the top seeds will win and it will be a dead issue for a while.PittFanDave:I just don't understand why Richardson is not getting more minutes. He played well in the OT game when some starters fouled out. In no way am I suggested he should crack the starting line up or log 20+ minutes a game, but 5 to 7 minutes per game seems justified. He didn't make it off the bench in the St. Johns game, and I believe he played only 1 minute each in the prior two games. If we go deep in the NCAA tournament, there is a good chance we will have a game where we are forced to go deep into our bench. It sure would be nice if Dixon was preparing some of these players more.Ray Fittipaldo:Richardson is the third-string center. The only way he plays minutes is if Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor are both in foul trouble, or if Jamie Dixon is not pleased with Taylor's performance. Taylor seems to be getting a little more comfortable with his role, so Richardson might not have to play. I understand where you are coming from, but it is the players' jobs to be ready to play no matter what the circumstances are. That's what practice is for. If they're not ready to play when called upon then shame on them. They have to seize the opportunity when it is presented. And to Richardson's credit, he has done exactly that this season in his limited minutes.GGG:A lot of my pals say Pitt puts too much emphasis on the Big East Tourney to the detriment of their NCAA performance. I LOVE the Big East tournament and love to see Pitt play well there. What's your take on how they approach the BET?Ray Fittipaldo:I really enjoy the Big East tournament as well. I don't really buy the argument that is wears a team down physically or mentally. Pitt wants to be the best team in the Big East and sets the goal of winning the tournament title every year. That's the way it should be. I don't think you ever want to go into a competitive situation not thinking it was the most important thing at the moment.GGG:Team Pitt MOST does not want to see at the B.E.T. (before Friday): ND, a desperate UConn team, Marquette, G'town?Ray Fittipaldo:Any of the above. To be honest, any are quite capable of beating Pitt on a given night. But I think Georgetown is the worst matchup for the Panthers. Monroe is a tough matchup for McGhee and Wright and Freeman present problems at the guard positions. Wright had 27 when the Hoyas beat Pitt in January.Send It In, Jerome!:Glad you're feelin' better and back at your Post (Gazette). Luckily that ND-Game Flu is short-lived.Ray Fittipaldo:Thanks. The flu is never fun, but I recovered in time to cover the St. John's game. I must be good luck for the Panthers, who played much better against the Johnnies than the Irish.Missing Chad Varga:Did you smile when Woodall said on ESPN.com that he reads the comments about him? Do you think it was in reference to your recruiting comment that Pitt didn't get what it went after?Ray Fittipaldo:I don't think I was the only one who was writing critical things about Woodall when he was struggling. But who knows? Maybe he did read my blog entries and Q&As. More power to him if he uses that for motivation. I give him credit for picking up his play. Pitt will be better in the postseason if Woodall gives the team consistent minutes.Missing Chad Varga:Did the recent wins against Pitt and G-Town save Mike Brey's job at Notre Dame? I hear analysts talk of what they (Irish) have accomplished, but really it has been zero. A Pitt has outshined Notre Dame by 1000% over the past 10 years.Ray Fittipaldo:I was not aware that Brey's job was in jeopardy in the first place to be honest. He has done a nice job with that program. They have been solid, in the NCAAs or NIT every year. Brey still has some work to do make the NCAAs this year. But I give him credit for finding ways to win without Harangody. Anytime you lose the league's leading scorer and you're able to beat two ranked teams in the same week that's a pretty good accomplishment.The Frenchman:I understand that Pitt-Providence is scheduled for 9pm on Thursday in order to get it on ESPN2. But why is the Rutgers game then at 4:30 on Saturday? Not much turnaround time. Couldn't that game have been Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon?Ray Fittipaldo:That game was dictated by TV as well I believe. It is being televised by FSN. The Penguins must be on Saturday night.Send It In, Jerome!:Bill 'The Big Tuna' Parcells famously said, "You are what your record says it is." Different sport, but Pitt has 11 wins and counting in the toughest hoops league (again), and is the only teams with three wins and counting against then top-five teams. Yet we've smooched the pooch against bottom-feeders Indiana and (almost) Wofford -- albeit without Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon -- and looked awful against Notre Dame. So, what are we? A good to great team? or a good to sometimes bad team due to too many mismatched parts? or both?Ray Fittipaldo:Pitt is a good team that can beat any team in the country on a given night. The Panthers are also capable of losing to any team they might face in the first round of the NCAA tournament as well. This team has to be on top of its game to win. It does not possess the individual talent that can overcome a poor team effort. Pitt only has seven losses on the season, so I would say they have done a pretty good job of playing well as a team all year, and it has to continue into the postseason.Tiger Paul:Do you know if Pitt ever tried to get 3 point ace, McConnell from Char Valley? I know he committed to Duquesne as a sophomore, but of course that wasn't official. It would have been interesting having a 6' 2 guard who could light it up from outside.Ray Fittipaldo:Not to my knowledge. Pitt does not typically recruit players of McConnell's playing style. For the most part, Jamie Dixon and his staff recruits physically tough and hard-nosed guards. If they end up as good shooters then that's great. But other than Ashton Gibbs, Dixon has not been someone who seeks out great shooters.Displaced Pitt Alum:Why does the majority of Pitt "fans" continue to bash Jamie Dixon? He has been a positive, stable presence leading the Panthers over the past 7 years. His record speaks for itself. Close to 80% winning percentage. Tops in the Big East for winning percentage, yet many look to criticize his coaching skills (Mr. Lucas and others) figuring they could do a better job. We couldn't have a finer coach and I hope the AD and Chancellor recognize the jewel they have. What is his current contract status?Ray Fittipaldo:He is signed for at least three or four more years. And he is very well-compensated. Pitt has stepped up and given Dixon raises every other year or so for the past few years. He's probably in line for another one this year based on the team's unexpected success.Kiere Bulls:Why does this team have a letdown every time they seem to put it together? Is it just being young, or is it a lack of effort? They looked horrible against Notre Dame, who was playing without HarangodyRay Fittipaldo:Notre Dame was a desperate team playing at home. Pitt was coming off an emotional win against Villanova. These players are bet3ween the ages of 18 and 23 and they are susceptible to emotional letdowns. I think that's part of what happened at Notre Dame. The other part was poor defense on the Irish outside shooters and an inexplicable inability to rebound. So perhaps you can attribute some of it to effort as well. It happens over the course of a long season.chicago_pitt_fan:being that i have to be in jacksonville for a wedding sat night of the tourney, i am hoping Pitt plays there, but i was wondering if the dates are set in stone for each location or that gets determined after the brackets are announced?Ray Fittipaldo:The dates for all of the sites are predetermined. Four are Thursday and Saturday and the other four are Friday-Sunday.GGG:Would a move to the Big Ten be a death knell for the Pitt basketball program (as it looks today)? The end of the 'Golden Era'? I strongly think so and desperately hope to not see Pitt join the Big Ten, but I'm curious to hear what you think it might mean for the school's basketball playing future?Ray Fittipaldo:It would certainly be the end of a golden era, but saying it would be a death knell would be saying Jamie Dixon would not be able to adjust. And I don't think that's the case. Pitt would do extremely well in the Big Ten under Dixon. It just might take a while to learn the opponents and the new recruiting ground, etc. I, too, would like to see Pitt stay in the Big East as long as the Big East can maintain an automatic berth into the BCS.Leave it to McGhee:Dixon has said all year that this team could be a great defensive team. Aside from the ND game it seems like this team can be great defensively. Do you agree?Ray Fittipaldo:This is a good defensive team. I don't like to toss around the word great. Dixon's first team in 2003-04 was a great defensive team, the best in school history. This team is good but not great.PittFanDave:How many and which Big East teams do you think will make the tournament? Crazy enough UConn is still getting consideration despite a 7-9 conference record. Georgetown is trying hard to play their way out of it.Ray Fittipaldo:I don't think Georgetown can play its way out of it at this point. The Hoyas probably have done enough. That Notre Dame-UConn game is big. The loser may be out. I'd like to think eight will get in, but some of these teams might have to win a game at the tournament, too. It should be interesting.Send It In, Jerome!:How's your crystal ball? Let's try mine. Hypothetical next year's two-deep line-up: Gary McGhee at C with frosh Mo Walker spelling, Dante Taylor at PF with JJ Richardson or Talib Zanna (TBD) first off the bench; Gilbert Brown at SF subbed by Nasir Robinson; Ashton Gibbs at SG with Brad Wannamaker; and Travon Woodall or a freshman at PG (starter vs. reserve? TBD). How'd I score? With the upgrade at PF plus a year of experience, that's a solid front-court lineup.Ray Fittipaldo:I'm not sure why people are hung on Maurice Walker. He is not even signed and a scholarship might not be available. I think it will be McGhee and Taylor at center with Robinson and Taylor at power forward. Gil and brad at small forward with Brad and Ashton at shooting guard. And Woodall, Gibbs and Isiah Epps at point guard. You can throw JJ moore into the mix at small forward if he qualifies.Leave it to McGhee:I know that Jermaine Dixon is one of the best lockdown defenders in the BE and maybe the country (though he doesn't get much attention). Do you see anyone stepping up next year and taking on that role and being as successful as Jermaine?Ray Fittipaldo:Maybe Gilbert or Brad. Jamie Dixon always seems to find someone to fill that role. But you are right. Jermaine does not get enough credit for his defensive abilities, and he should.Send It In, Jerome!:Please confirm that those dog-breath awful urinal-pool yellows haven't now become our good-luck unis (ala, the ND Irish wearin' their greens for CFB). Although, curiously, I don't despise them quite as much today as I did before we beat 'Nova week ago Sunday.Ray Fittipaldo:Nice descriptive language there, but I honestly do not know which uniforms will be used in the final two games.Kiere Bulls:I think Pitt is a legit 4 or 5 seed as they stand now. What do you think?Ray Fittipaldo:If they win their final two regular-season games and one in the Big East tournament I think they are a solid No. 3 seed. Anything less and I'm afraid they fall to a No. 4 seed. I don't see them as a No. 5 seed unless they lose three games in a row. And I don't think that will happen.PittFanDave:Who do you want with the ball in his hands down 1 with the last shot? I want Gilbert Brown in that situation.Ray Fittipaldo:I want Ashton Gibbs despite his recent play.Send It In, Jerome!:Interesting tidbit gleaned from ESPN Bracketology chat yesterday, in which Joe Lunardi suggested the Big East is simply too large, will never get in all its Dance-worthy teams (nothing beyond 8-9 teams no matter what, beyond that number is simply too large). And furthermore, this might lead to the break up of the Big East as we know it. Fine by me and overdue, IMHO we need fewer hoops-only schools and more schools that play D1-A CFB. Thoughts?Ray Fittipaldo:That private Catholic school, two-league proposal has been out there for a few years now. And whenever the Big East powers, such as Mike Tranghese, were asked about it, he always said the league was happy with the current construction. New commish John Marrinatto might be asked the same question, but I have a feeling his answer is the same.SilverPanther:I missed the Syracuse game. ESPN commentators seem to dismiss our victory as a 3-pt shooting display akin to how ND just beat us. How did we play that game and what did we do to beat the current #1 team besides hit from outside?Ray Fittipaldo:Pitt did hit a lot of 3s in that game, but Pitt always plays well against Syracuse so it would be inaccurate to say Pitt had a hot shooting night. Pitt knows how to beat the 2-3 zone for two-pointers, too. And they did a fine job of defending Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins in that game.Send It In, Jerome!:Hypothetical: it's time to hand in your bracket for the Post-Gazette pool. Assuming Pitt is a 3-Seed as currently projected by ESPN's Joe Lunairdi: you have Pitt as a first-round loss? Final Four? Somewhere in between (maybe Sweet 16, per usual)?Ray Fittipaldo:It all depends on matchups, but I'll say second-round loss.PittFanDave:What are your NCAA tournament expectations for this team? Considering they wasn't expected to make it, I personally don't have any expectations.Ray Fittipaldo:Well, if you go in as a No. 3 seed you had better win your first game. But a second-round loss to a No. 6 seed would not surprise me at all.Send It In, Jerome!:Is it just me, or is Gary McGhee getting noticeably better every game? He's now becoming a force in the middle. And in part thanks to him, we're winning monster games (WVU-2, Marquette and 'Nova) that we wouldn't have otherwise. Oh, the half of my kingdom for a true PF to support him on the weakside. I even saw the Pitt's old standard-fare kick-out offense a few times in St.Johns-2.Ray Fittipaldo:McGhee has been much better within the past month or so. He is rebounding well, blocking shots and chipping in with a few baskets a game. He'll never be DeJuan Blair, but who will be? McGhee has been a bright spot.jrvmvp:What is your prediction for the last two home games and how will Pitt do in the Big East?Ray Fittipaldo:Win the final two home games and lose in their first Big East game. Just a hunch.Send It In, Jerome!:I don't know if Maurice Walker will eventually sign here or not. But I know this: if Pitt truly aspires to be a nationally elite program, they must get taller in the front court. Playing 6'-5 PFs every night simply won't cut it. Otherwise we'll continue to fall to teams that are longer (if nothing else, by almost always losing rebounding battles). Thoughts?Ray Fittipaldo:This is the first year Pitt does not have legit frontcourt size. I am sure Dixon wants to recruit big centers, but they have to be good prospects. You don't just sign a player because he is 6-11 or 7 feet tall. I'm not sure if it happens this spring, but Dixon will find those centers again. And Blair ad size because of his girth. He was able to rebound because of his body, so I consider him a big center.Ray Fittipaldo:Thanks for taking part in the chat this week. And don't forget, next week's chat will be one day later on Wednesday. Same time.


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