West Region Notebook: Pitt's Dixon dismisses coaching rumors

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's an annual rite of spring. A coaching job in a major conference opens up, and Jamie Dixon is mentioned as a prominent candidate.

Southern California fired Kevin O'Neill in January and there has been growing speculation since then that Dixon is the No. 1 target for Trojans athletic director Pat Haden.

At his news conference Wednesday, Dixon was asked about his name being associated with the Southern California opening.

"I guess it's the time of year," he said. "We don't talk about other jobs. I don't think it's the right thing to do. We're used to it, I guess. And it happens to everybody, I think, this time of the year. It's speculation, I guess, so I don't give it much thought."

A reporter then asked a follow-up question about the rumors affecting his players and future recruits.

"You can't keep them from talking about it," Dixon said. "It's out there, things are written, things are talked about. There are more and more blogs and writers. It's part of college basketball.

"There are so many other distractions that our kids, that we have to be concerned about. They have a lot of things going on. I think they know the task at hand. We can tell by their commitment and my commitment, I think they're pretty sure of what's going on."

International flavor

Dixon has been lucky enough to find quality post players from this country in his tenure, including NBA draft picks Chris Taft, Aaron Gray and DeJuan Blair.

But Dixon and other coaches have found it necessary to look outside the country for quality inside players in recent years because the United States is not producing as many as past generations. The four games this week in Salt Lake City illustrate that.

Dixon's two starting post players -- power forward Talib Zanna and center Steven Adams -- were born in Nigeria and New Zealand.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall starts 7-foot Nigerian Ehimen Orukpe.

No. 1 seed Gonzaga stars 7-foot junior Kelly Olynyk of Canada and has 7-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski of Poland on its roster.

Case of mistaken identity

Marshall was asked about Adams by reporters Wednesday and kept referring to him as "Gray" throughout his news conference.

Marshall might have been confusing Adams with the former Pitt 7-footer, even though Marshall never coached against Gray. When Wichita State played Pitt in 2009, he coached against Dante Taylor and Gary McGhee. Gray already was in the NBA for two years by then.

Marshall also referred to Zanna as "Zomba."

The stat that matters

Players from both teams stressed the importance of rebounding.

Wichita State and Pitt are two of the top teams in NCAA Division I in rebounding margin, and it's an important part of each team's offensive and defensive game plans.

"We have to come ready to rebound," Wichita State senior forward Carl Hall said. "The winner on the boards is going to win the game."

Taylor was a freshman in 2009 when the Panthers played the Shockers. He expects another physical game.

"For the guys who were here, we know they're a physical team from the first time we played them," Taylor said. "Watching them on film again showed how physical and how relentless they are rebounding. It's the type of game we're looking forward to. It's the kind of game we want, a team that's going to bring it aggressively in the same style we do."

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