Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The most surprising thing about Dayton was that tucked into a little residential neighborhood on the east side of town was probably the best Vietnamese food I've ever had. Everything else about Dayton was pretty much what you'd expect.

Yes, five of us trekked three hours southward last night for that most inexplicable of March Madness rituals, the play-in Opening Round game. It was a fun trip that left us with a greater appreciation for the Steak 'n' Shake side-by-side--especially if you find yourself in Findlay, Ohio at midnight on a Tuesday with another hour to drive--and a strong sense that Kansas is going to beat the shit out of the play-in winner, yooooooour Niagara Purple Eagles.

Other high-and-low-lights:

  • I had been told I should cheer for FAMU due to their famous band and certain personal proclivities that I may or may not concede are true. Unfortunately, FAMU did not bring a band, cheerleaders, or any noticeable cheering section. So much for that.
  • Your "that's why they're playing off for the #64 spot" sequence of the night: FAMU gets fouled, misses both free throws, gets the rebound, gets fouled, misses the front end of the one-and-one, gets the rebound, gets fouled in the act of shooting, makes one free throw, misses the second, gets the rebound, gets fouled for the double bonus, misses the first free throw, and makes the second so that possession finally changes. If you're counting, that's 2 of 6 from the charity stripe and three horrendous box-outs. Niagara may not get a single rebound on Friday.
  • Erin Andrews in person. Believe the hype.
  • I went back and forth for two days on whether I could, in good conscience, complete one of my goals of the trip: buying Wright State University T-shirts for myself and some family members. I had a WSU T-shirt I loved for years that finally got too worn out to keep, and I was hoping to replace it. Then this gets announced. I was completely torn on whether I could follow through, or whether it would be a horrible jinx to do so. Luckily I didn't have to make the decision, as we didn't have time to stop anywhere, and none were available at U. of Dayton's arena.
  • Niagara's band kept playing Our Director, which you probably don't know better as the fight song of Beth-Center High School. Hadn't heard that one in a long, long time.
Speaking of that, here's my take: I think Pitt is properly seeded and is getting a bad rap nationally. They went 27-7, including 12-4 in the Big East, and six of their losses were to tournament teams seeded #8 or higher. The seventh was to an Oklahoma State team that looked like gangbusters at the time but fell apart later, and that game was on a "neutral court" in Oklahoma City. Yes, they did not do quite as well late, but only had two ugly losses all year--at Wisconsin and the G-Town debacle in the Big East tourney--and they didn't lose to anyone in conference who they didn't also beat, Hoyas included.

This team is better primed for tournament success than previous Pitt teams in a couple of ways. One is that Levance Fields is a better pure point than Carl Krauser, especially in assist-turnover ratio. Another is that they have a much more fluid offense--they can pound down to Aaron Gray, go inside-out, penetrate from the wings (Cook and Young), and hit open threes. They only get in trouble when Gray starts missing a lot of chippies, which he will do at times, but he will dominate against much smaller opposition and go straight to the basket without having to worry about whether he's hitting lay-ups and jump hooks.

The weakness compared to previous Pitt squads is that there's no guard who will just take a game over when he has to, as Brandon Knight and Krauser could do at times (but never seemed to in the NCAAs). But they do have guys who can carry the scoring for stretches--Cook, Ramon, Graves, and occasionally Fields. The other big weakness is the one consistent bugaboo of the entire Howland/Dixon era--mediocre free-throw shooting. I hope they get an assistant who can help out in that regard one of these decades.

What do I see happening? I see another run to the Sweet Sixteen but not beyond. UCLA is a tough draw in the regional semi, and I can't see anyone knocking them off early. I think Pitt is well-built to stave off Wright State, VCU and even Duke, but my hunch is that UCLA is just like Pitt but 10% better in every way. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the student can outduel his teacher, but it's not usually the way to bet.

1 comment:

Brian said...

This post reminded me of "Some Girls."