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Sleeping with the Enemy: The Panthers of Pittsburgh

You didn't think that just because Georgetown didn't know its first opponent in the Big East Tournament until just hours ago that we'd bail on this feature, did you? Oh, to the contrary, we here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON are ushering in our coverage of the 2012 Big East Gala with not just one but TWO perspectives on all things Pitt Panther. Special thanks to Cardiac Hill and Pitt Blather for providing (quick) answers to our hard-hitting questions. Gents, this Iron City is for you.


Kind of looks like a bear to me. via

Jamie Dixon is Ben Howland's disciple. What did you think when you read SI's report on UCLA's program? Do you think Dixon has a similar hands off approach? Or do their similarities stop after basketball philosophy?

I can't speak of Dixon's approach, but I do think he and Howland share similar coaching philosophies. Because of that, I'd think (and I stress the word 'think') that that would spill over, at least moderately, in how they handle players off the court. I don't know if Dixon is quite as liberal, but one thing that's interesting is that when freshman phenom Khem Birch decided he was transferring out of the program, he spoke of a lack of communication between he and Dixon. Dixon, apparently, always said essentially that his door was open, but it's clear there was some breakdown in communication there. I don't know if we can extrapolate from there and say Dixon is hands off entirely, but one thing's for certain - coaches everywhere are going to be paying more attention.

You never say never, but I don't see the same thing happening. Jamie Dixon has been more hands-on in being involved with the players. He was the good cop to Howland's bad cop while at Pitt.

Plus, simply what has happened with Howland and the story (to say nothing of the Khem Birch stuff from this past season) would probably be a strong reminder not to just assume all is well with the players and team chemistry.

I will add that the Howland story seems a bit overblown. It's no secret that Howland isn't the most friendly guy. Outside of Reeves Nelson being everything everyone seemed to think he was, it seems more of a story of team chemistry gone awry to explain how UCLA has fallen.

More fun with the Pitts after The Jump:

Barring a miracle run through the Big East Tournament, Pitt's postseason will end in the next few days (read: today). Which other Big East team are you rooting for in the NCAA Tournament? Who are you hoping flames out the worst?

Wait? End today? You're totally forgetting about the NIT! Okay, jokes aside, man, I haven't given that much thought. If South Florida happens to get in, I'd root for them as an underdog, but that's probably about it. Playing these teams so many times over the years, it's hard to feel good about any of them in particular going far. Maybe Cincinnati since I really like the way Mick Cronin handled his team after that mess against Xavier. Flaming out the worst? There's no love lost between Pitt and West Virginia, so it's safe to say that most Pitt fans are always hoping for a Mountaineer loss.

I really haven't given much thought to the other teams when it comes to rooting for them. I suppose seeing Cinci doing well is relatively inoffensive. It would make my wife (Cinci grad) happy.

Who do I want to see flame out? All of them?

WVU -- always. Syracuse -- Please do. Louisville -- that's always fun to see Pitino stamping around. UConn -- that's a given and expected with this group. Notre Dame -- don't even need to root against them, they'll flame out with or without my hate. Georgetown -- Of course, because then it means Pitt won another game.

I guess what I'm saying is that I have enough hate for all.

Do you think you will have an easier time with your NCAA brackets this March now that Pitt won't be involved? I don't even fill mine out anymore because I am such a Georgetown homer that it'd be more satisfying for me to flush $30 down the toilet.

Definitely - and that's the one positive. I usually am conservative when it comes to Pitt in the brackets, though, so I generally don't have them going very far. Still, it's always hard to pick against them and then watch, obviously rooting for them to win.

I like to tell myself it is possible. I have gotten steadily worse in NCAA pools the longer Pitt has been making the Tournament. I watch more college basketball than ever, and know less. Disturbing trend.

Which player are you most excited to see play next year with another year of experience under his belt? Do you think Pitt and Syracuse will stay one more year in the Big East before going to the ACC?

At Pitt, I'm excited to see what J.J. Moore will do. He's really going to be counted on a lot for scoring next season and while the ability is there, he's struggled much of the year. In the last five games of the regular season, though, he averaged about 16 points a game. He's only a sophomore and as a junior next season, I'm hoping he can turn the corner and turn into a star.

With regards to Pitt and Syracuse, I definitely think they'll be in the Big East next season. The conference (aka, Marinatto) has been pretty adamant that while they're open to a 2013 exit, 2012 is basically off the table.

J.J. Moore.
One more year beyond next year or just beyond this season?

I think Pitt and Cuse are in the Big East for 2012-13, and then will leave for the ACC in 2013. Pitt and Cuse will pay a bit more than the $5 million exit fee, but not even $10 million to leave a year early.

During the St. John's-Pitt game, the announcers talked about how Pitt AD Pederson said Pitt wasn't going to pay more than the $5 million exit fee. That can be viewed a few ways beyond taking it at face value.

1. Negotiations. No tipping the hand how much more they are willing to pay to leave early. For god's sake, they are negotiating against Marinatto. We are talking the same guy who didn't have to take Memphis but did so without getting them to pay big to come a year early and make it easier for football in 2012 -- and would have avoided now scrambling to get Temple to fill the gap. I mean, Memphis has FedEx money backing them. They desperately wanted into the Big East. And he still screwed it up.

2. Message to Pitt boosters. You want Pitt out out of the Big East and in the ACC earlier than 2014? Pay up.

3. It's semantics. Let's say they reach a deal to leave early for $8 million. Pitt pays the $5 million and gives up their cut from Big East football in 2013. Pitt doesn't actually pay the extra money to the Big East, they just don't collect their cut.

When all is said and done, who wins Saturday night in the Garden?

Hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but I think Syracuse. Had they lost even a few games this season, I could make an easier case for Marquette or someone else, but with only one loss, they've pretty much run through everyone they've played so far. Hard to pick against them.

Pitt? I really don't know. I have trouble trusting any of the teams that had to wait out the double-bye. Not really sold on the teams playing tomorrow. This BET seems so wide open.

Who are the four teams going to New Orleans? Who cuts down the nets?

Without seeing a bracket, that's tough, obviously, but my favorite four teams are Syracuse, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Missouri. The one thing I'll say, too, is that in a tournament setting, Michigan State is always tough. Wouldn't be surprised to see them end up there as well.

Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse and UNC? Not very daring, but then this is without even seeing the brackets. In the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see UNC roar through the NCAA Tournament.

What did you think were Pitt's keys to victory in the first game against Georgetown? As a Pitt fan, which matchup(s) do you fear?

I don't remember what I said at the time, but Pitt's keys to victory are almost always the same - shoot and rebound well. Generally defense is a staple of Pitt's game, but the defense has been absent so much this season, that I'm not expecting them to just turn it on with the flip of a switch. The Panthers have turned the ball over a ton this year (even in wins), but they can overcome that sometimes. Pitt shot over 50% from the field against the Hoyas in that game and if they can even shoot 45%, they can be competitive. But they've been under 40% several times this year and that won't get it done.

One player I'm really concerned about is Jason Clark. Clark didn't have a very good game against Pitt the first time out and I think he'll be ready to play this time around. Pitt also hasn't defended guards all that well this season and Clark could pick them apart a little.

Well Georgetown deciding that defense would just be rude if played in the paint certainly helped. I just took a look at the box score to refresh my recollection, and I still don't understand it. Pitt killed inside, made their free throws, couldn't hit 3s, Aside from missing the 3s, the other two just haven't happened too often this season -- which largely explains this season. I fear everything. I fear the Hoyas frontcourt actually playing well. I fear the Georgetown backcourt being competent. I fear Pitt playing like they have for most of the season.

How do you see tomorrow playing out? What is the final score? Considering the massive ass whupping you guys laid on us at the Pete, it is safe to say that we are terrified.

I wouldn't be quite so worried if I were you. I think Pitt can be competitive, but they always get up for big home games. Home games against Wagner and Rutgers? Not so much. That first game against the Hoyas was a big one since Pitt was just getting Woodall back in the swing of things and trying to get focused to make a run. They played really well in that game, but we've not seen them look that good many times the rest of the season.

I really hate to pick against Pitt and I do think they can win. But when approaching these types of things, I always think about who I would take if money were on the line. And in that case, I'd take Georgetown - something like 68-62.

Yeah, I don't see Pitt putting together another game like that. Pitt is so beat-up anyways that even the second game in two days will wear down guys like Woodall and Robinson. I expect Pitt to make it scary for a while, into the second half, but slowly. Painfully, your guys pull away to win 68-55.

*Special Bonus Question for Cardiac Hill:

Last time around, we discussed your last meal in Pittsburgh. You went with Morton's, a chain steakhouse that can be attended across the US and you washed it down with a Shiraz. Would you like to amend your answer to give us something with more Pittsburgh authenticity, or is the local food actually that bad?

First of all, props for coming back to this topic. Despite the fact I took some flak over Morton's, chain or not, it's the best steak I've had in Pittsburgh and since it's my favorite food, that's my pick. I'm not a native of Pittsburgh so the idea of stuffing french fries and coleslaw onto a burger never really appealed to me. As for the Shiraz, it's my favorite type of red, so I'll gladly accept any additional ridicule because of the fact that it's not considered ideal to compliment a steak. As a black guy who listens to 1950s and 1960s country music and watches the WWE, trust me, I've endured worse ragging. Seriously, though - in that post, I also predicted Georgetown would win the Big East on a Hoyas blog and still got slammed for what? Not having the right wine combination? Whatever - tough crowd. As you know blogging for a while, though, people kill you no matter what you write, so it's fine. I could say I think the Hoyas will win the national championship and some guy living in his parents' attic will point out a typo. Goes with the territory, so I get it.


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