Paul Zeise's Pitt basketball chat transcript: 1.14.14

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Paul Zeise: Welcome to this week's Pitt hoops chat. The event is now up and running - so start firing away some questions and we will get started as soon as I have a few to get rolling with. A big weekend - Durand Johnson out, Lamar Patterson player of the week, Pitt ranked finally, 3-0 in ACC. Let's get started.

JAMPitt: Hey Paul, what do you think Dixon's plans for Uchebo are this year? Meaningless minutes at the end of a game, or does Dixon think he could be ready for a serious role come March?

Paul Zeise: I think right now the plan is to see what he is capable of. It is one of these things where, Uchebo is the only one who can determine what Uchebo can contribute this year. He is obviously a big body, he looks like he can rebound and be a force on defense but he can't move well enough yet to show any burst or explosion on offense and so I am sure it is just - keep playing him when it makes sense and see how he continues to progress. See how he moves. The more he moves around, the more he will be pushed up in the rotation as I think the grand plan is he is a legit option at center behind Zanna But we haven't seen that quite yet.

Eric: With Johnson out, will we see more of Robinson and Newkirk on the floor at the same time?

Paul Zeise: Yes, I think that will be a big part of the plan - I think Jones and Newkirk will be the two that benefit most in terms of increased playing time as a result of Johnson being out. And Newkirk has shown he is more than capable of playing at a high level right now, so I don't think they will miss much of a beat here.

Shawn: Paul, what is the deal with Chris Jones' thumb. I have heard it needs surgery. Is that correct?

Paul Zeise: I have not heard or seen that. He is here in Atlanta, went through the workout this morning and is going to suit up and play tonight.

JD: Do you think the addition of slice back on the staff has had a big influence in recruiting?

Paul Zeise: Yes - the kid they recently got from New York - Barry had a large part in that and is also on one of the kids teammates. Obviously he is very good at recruiting, knows the lay of the land and that is one big reason he is back.

Guest: Zeiser, Do you think Chris Jones can fill the shoes of DJ?

Paul Zeise: No, but I don't think he will be asked to. I think he will continue to play his role, see some of his minutes increase and just continue to progress. I think filling Johnson's role will fall on the shoulders of Newkirk, Young, Artis, Patterson and Wright. They will all share in a little increased role to fill what Johnson brought

Sonny: Which freshman do you think will make the most of their increased playing time?

Paul Zeise: Well if I had to guess, I think Newkirk will. I just think he is a mature kid and he has shown already great understanding of the game and he has proven he can play against anyone and doesn't panic or get overwhelmed by the moment. He is a very good player already.

Mike: Hey Paul. Do u think with Johnson out we will see more 2 guard offense with newkirk and Robinson on the court at the same time. Newkirk needs 20 mins or so a game. Way better offensively than Robinson and he adds a different dimension to their offense.

Paul Zeise: Yeah, I think I may have already answered this but according to Dixon that is part of the plan, go to that lineup with Newkirk and Robinson or even Newkirk and Wright with Patterson at the 3 -- and when Patterson needs a blow - move Wright or Artis or Young to the 3 or use Jones. So there are some options but it will take a few games for Dixon to get a feel for what is the best way to go and for the players to sort of adjust to things.

Bizmarkie: PZ - Great work!! Also, do you think that JR will shoot more now that DJ is out?

Paul Zeise: No that isn't really his game, he is a defensive player, he likes to be the floor general and run things and drive and whenever he is wide open he may take a jumper but I've even seen him pass up open shots. He will shoot it but it isn't primary on his mind

Todd: Please explain why you waited to report this potential WVU game in the garden until now. Quite frankly I 100% believe Jamie Dixon is blocking playing a home and home because he is afraid to lose a non conference game

Paul Zeise: Because Bob Huggins was on the air last week saying he "wants to play Pitt" which is all fine and well and good. So I asked Pitt about it and that was the answer I got - that WVU was supposed to play Pitt at the Garden and backed out.

As for who is "blocking" the process -- you are partially correct. Jamie doesn't like to lose nonconference games but that isn't why these two teams aren't playing. They aren't playing because both coaches wonder about the value of the game in terms of a home and home --- it does nothing for either team in recruiting and really does nothing to create a buzz nationally as it is a regional game. If you are going to go home and home in hoops - why go home and home with a team right up the street?

Pitt wanted to do a home and home deal with both Villanova and Georgetown and both declined. The reason - Pitt would love to play in DC or Philly where there are players and both those schools don't see the value of coming to Pitt - a place they have a good chance to take a loss without showcasing their program to recruits.

Look, I think by and large Jamie Dixon exaggerates how tough it is to get home and home deals, I know he has declined some games that would have been good games and potential losses. But he isn't lying when he says it is tough to find teams to come to Pittsburgh, but not because they are "afraid" of playing in the Pete or taking a loss - it is because teams have so few home and homes they want to make sure they get something out of it and usually it is either national exposure or recruiting in an area. Why do you think teams are dying to play in these New York City events?

Dave: What's the deal with Mostella?

Paul Zeise: He isn't school., Coaches hope he enrolls in June but this much I've learned about that situation and that player in particular - it is very unpredictable.

David: I've seen people like Chris Dokish try to overanalyze Uchebos 2 points vs some scrubs from WF. The kid can barely jog and he looks like he has no spring. Do you agree people want to believe he will be good but they aren't reporting what they are actually seeing?

Paul Zeise: I can't speak for what others are reporting about Uchebo - I can only talk about what I have reported and that is this - he looks miles and miles away from being able to move well enough to actually help out in a competitive ACC game. I don't know if he will be able to help this year but they are trying to get him ready and see if he can move around better at some point.

Guest: What's the scoop on Chris Jones? Was he injured earlier this year? Should we expect much from him this year?

Paul Zeise: Again, I have not heard anything about his thumb being a big issue. I suppose we shall see - tonight will be a good test as he is expected to get a "bump" in playing time. If he does, it means Dixon believes he can help.

JAMPitt: Paul, in your opinion, could Artis play the 3 if needed for s significant stretch of a game?

Paul Zeise: I don't think "significant" minutes right now, no. But I think he could handle it in small doses, get comfortable, then maybe a few more minutes here and there and at some point perhaps become a guy who can actually spell Patterson. A big thing is learning the sets at a different spot and showing he can guard smaller guys

Chris: How do you see Pitt faring in the ACC the rest of the season once they start playing the meat of the schedule (ie Duke, Syracuse twice)

Paul Zeise: I said at the start I think Pitt will be 13-5 in the ACC. I think that sounds about right although right now the ACC is a joke. I mean, I think Virginia and FSU could prove to be a little better than we think but Duke and UNC are a mess right now and that is not good for a league who depends so heavily on those two to carry the load. Pitt will lose a couple of games just because it is a competitive conference and that happens, especially on the road, but I expect Pitt to be in the top three or four to be honest.

Matt in Ann Arbor: What's the expected finish of this team, top 3 in the ACC, given results to date? And are you stopping at the Varsity after the chat?

Paul Zeise: I will not stop at the Varsity as the food there is, um, interesting and does interesting things to my stomach....... And like I said, I expect Pitt to be in the top 3 or 4 in the ACC.

DingDongJD: For the OOC games, its not the high level opponents that should be added for a game every year its also adding 2-3 mid level conference teams that do well. Play UMass or Indiana State instead of Howard and now we have a better schedule. Dont you think we need more mid-tier games?

Paul Zeise: Yes, I do agree the mid-level games could be better and Pitt has played some teams like Rhode Island in the past but again, a lot of those teams are very careful about who they schedule and where they travel and then there is the issue that some want either paid or a home and home. It is tricky. It isn't as tough as Jamie Dixon makes it out to be and believe me - please post this in headlines as I am always accused of being a homer -- Pitt needs to do MUCH better in scheduling some nonconference games. But it also takes two to tango and finding that partner is not always easy

LuLu: Mike Young appears to be worn down and regressing. No?

Paul Zeise: No, he is doing what a lot of freshmen do about this time - he is swimming uphill because he is thinking. It is why a lot go through the "freshman wall" - at first he is out there running around against weaker teams and it is easy. Now that they are game planning more, playing tougher opponents, asking more of him he is thinking a lot more than just playing. He just needs to fight through this and keep working and eventually he will start playing more freely again.

Blucher: Will Jamie shorten his bench as he gets deeper into ACC play?

Paul Zeise: Not now with Johnson out. We have seen some evidence of it as we have seen less Derrick Randall and Chris Jones, but with Johnson out he is going to have to play eight guys (which includes Jones) and use Randall as he has in recent games. He has no choice but to use the three freshmen off the bench a lot now

Mp: What do u expect from Pitt tonight at GT?

Paul Zeise: I could be way wrong, which I have been in the past, but I think this will be Pitt's toughest ACC game to date. I think the Panthers should win but it won't shock me if they have to battle more than they have. Georgia Tech is much better at home than on the road, much like Wake Forest.

Critic: When do you think you will turn up the critical analysis on Jamie Dixon and a final four? Its getting to the point where his resume has a gaping hole on it.

Paul Zeise: Yes, it does - he hasn't won enough in March and he doesn't schedule tough enough games in the nonconference. These are two criticisms of him that are fair. By the same token - like they used to say about Bill Cowher not winning a Super Bowl -- if you are knocking on the door every year and giving yourself a chance every year, like Dixon has, eventually you get that run of a few teams that finally get you through the door. I think Dixon will get to the Final Four at some point -- let's not forget he almost did in 2009 when he had his best team so it isn't like he has never made a run at it.

Goober: I thought Pitt should have been in the Top 25 after their win over YSU, but I guess I can be content now that they are ranked. It's kind of late, but any projection on their final record in the ACC this year (along with a possible NCAA tournament seed)?

Paul Zeise: Like I said at the start of the season - 13-5 and top four in the league is my guess and maybe like a 5 seed

TrueMoo: What makes anyone think Zanna won't melt down this year like he did last year?

Paul Zeise: Because history is all we know. Now he is re-writing history and showing that he isn't going anywhere. He has played well.

NCAAs: Isnt it all about the NCAAs for Dixon at this point? He hasn't won a quality NCAA game since...?

Paul Zeise: So if he wins the ACC and ACC tournament it doesn't matter? I don't understand fans - Dixon has won a ton of big conference games and conference tournament games. He has the Panthers in the hunt every year. Yes, he hasn't won "the big one" but are you saying that watching Pitt beat Georgetown when they were ranked high, or UConn when they were No. 1 or Louisville or Syracuse when they were Final Four teams - you mean those games aren't "big games" and aren't lots of fun for fans? Only four teams out of 350 get to the Final Four every year, it is not easy

Kyoto: Can you tall about the ACC Tournament? It's not coming to MSG correct?

Paul Zeise: Not likely - but it is headed to DC

Scottfromrobinson: Can you explain what happened with Deandre Kane? He said hr chose ISU over Pitt. Others are reporting Dixon never wanted him. Clarify.

Paul Zeise: There was clearly mutual interest at one point and then at some point all parties agreed it was just best if he went elsewhere for a variety of reasons. It has worked out for him obviously

Changes: If you were JD what would you change to your program to put yourself in a better position to make a final 4? Because what he is doing now isnt working.

Paul Zeise: I think he has made some changes already - he is recruiting a little different player, they are more offensive minded, they are playing a little bit of zone which they may need in some tournament games --- I am telling you this and I mean it -- he is doing everything people have criticized him for not doing over the years. He is letting his guys play more and he is recruiting some guys who are more offensive minded.

John: Paul, in my opinion, for the first time in what seems like forever, Pitt looks like they'll struggle against teams with size. Zanna is a capable center, but Pitt lacks that physical body in the post and a capable rebounder who can get physical. I think Young could be that guy down the road, but this year it's a serious weakness. Your thoughts?

Paul Zeise: I thought this too but I will say this - sitting courtside and seeing them matchup with some of these teams like Maryland - which did have some big bodies - Pitt is fine size wise. Nobody will push them around and they are bigger and stronger than you think. Size won't be there undoing -- speed could be because I'm not sure how good they match up with faster guards.

Paul Zeise: I have had a lot of fun but I have to run now - thanks as always and we will do this again next week at the same time!!! Who knows, Pitt could be in the top ten by then with a win over No. 2 Syracuse Saturday.....


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