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Matt: With the exit of Burch and with him a open scholarship, any word of potential recruit for the power forward position?
Ray Fittipaldo: I have not heard of any concrete targets. Most of the elite power forwards were snatched up during the early signing period in November. As I have said in the past that scholarship could be filled by a JUCO if Dixon and his staff cannot identify a high school recruit they like.
Matt: Speaking of the staff, who are the people on Dixon's staff primarily responsible for recruiting? If it is all of them, then any thoughts on their particular abilities in this regard?
Ray Fittipaldo: The top recruiters are Brandin Knight and Bill Barton. They are the coaches on the road. Barton is the former coach at Notre Dame Prep and has good ties to the New England Prep school scene. Brandin has ties in NYC and NJ. Too early to grade Barton. Knight has had some hits and misses as all recruiters do.
Goober: Ray, Last week I made a comment here saying Pitt will beat Georgetown and WVU, then find a way to make the tourney. You told me not to bet my Mortgage. Should I maybe bet a couple of months rent now? STAMP IT!
Ray Fittipaldo: What Pitt has done is put itself in position to make the tournament, but there is little room for error. The game Sunday against Villanova is a must-win in my mind. All of the home games from here on out are must-wins. Then they have to split four tough road games. So, no, don't make that bet just yet.
13 to 9: What % chance would you give this team of getting into the NCAA tournament?
Ray Fittipaldo: Right now 15-20%. It's so hard to go on long winning streaks in this conference. And it's so hard to win on the road. If Pitt does split its road games at South Florida, Seton hall, Louisville and UConn, the Panthers still would have to win all of their home games. It's a tall task. But hey, at least we're talking about the possibility.
Matt: Realistically, how many Big East victories (MINIMUM) does Pitt need to make the Big Dance?
Ray Fittipaldo: I would think a 9-9 record would get the Panthers in, but I did note five teams in the Big East that made the tournament with losing conference records in the past. Most recently, Syracuse did it in '06. Although the Cuse won the Big East tournament to officially get in it would have been in regardless because it was a No. 5 seed. Let's say the Panthers go 8-10. In that scenario, they'd have to win three games in the conference tournament in my mind.
Guest: Any talk on the ability to endure a foul-laden game at WVU or the fact that once Pitt picked up its 7th foul of second half it took 7 minutes to get the 8th and 9th fouls - which helped deter a comeback
Ray Fittipaldo: This team has been battling foul trouble in almost every game it seems. There is a reason for that. The players have a hard time trying to guard opponents one on one. That's why you see Jamie Dixon playing so much zone. I liked the way the team battled all game in a lot of different aspects against the Mountaineers. That was a great road win and put the Panthers in position to make the second half of the season interesting.
Goober: Regarding Khem Birch. If Pitt chooses not to let him out of his scholarship for this semester he has to sit out all of next season. Do you know if they are going to do this just to spite him?
Ray Fittipaldo: Birch transferred to UNLV. He will be eligible the second semester of next season.
Matt: You mention hits and misses with recruits. Care to elaborate on both the recruits and their recruiters? In other words, when is the last time that Brandon Knight had a hit?
Ray Fittipaldo: Knight landed Gibbs and Woodall. I'd say they are two pretty decent players. Gibbs was the Big East POY. Woodall is this team's MVP. I think Epps is a miss. This staff's inability to have a backup point guard ready this season could be the reason the NCAA tournament streak ends. Tom Herrion recruited Cameron Wright, who has struggled. But I think Wright has more upside than Epps at this point. I like the way Wright has been aggressive in recent games in the few minutes he does play. It looks like the light is starting to come on a little bit for him. I'd like to see what he has to offer next season. Not sure if Epps will be back because James Robinson is coming in as the next point guard.
Rooster: With Pitt's lack of strength and toughness around the rim this year, what do you think the odds are of Gary Roberts coming in and earning some major playing time?
Ray Fittipaldo: Skipping this question. I should really try to read these before I post...
Dante: Why is everyone so hard on me? I'm good for AT LEAST one putback slam per game.
Ray Fittipaldo: Actually, Dante you played your best game in quite a while vs. WVU. 8 points and 7 boards helped the Panthers win that game. I suppose everyone is so hard on you because you were a McDonald's All-American.
Goober: Did Pitt have the option of not letting Khem out of his scholarship and making him sit out all of next season at UNLV?
Ray Fittipaldo: If they wanted to play hard ball, yes I do believe that was an option.
Art Vanderlay: I know Adams is adamant on playing at pitt next year, but I think i read somewhere that he technically could go straight to the NBA instead of college is this true?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's not true. Because he enrolled at Notre Dame Prep he must spend at least one year at Pitt.
Matt: Even though a player may have a scholarship, is there a way that they can be "persuaded" to transfer rather than take up space on the bench and an invaluable scholarship?
Ray Fittipaldo: Yes, it happens all the time. It doesn't happen all that often at Ptt under Dixon, but it does happen. Dante Milligan, Ed Turner, Cassin Diggs, Dwight miller, JJ Richardson are some of the guys who saw the writing on the wall or were persuaded to leave as you put it.
Steigerwald Stache: Who's the best pure talent on the team?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's a good question. Not sure what your definition of a pure talent is. If by that you mean the player with the most natural ability I'd have to say JJ Moore, but as we have seen that doesn't always translate into production. He is the best athlete, but he has a hard time getting on the court because he's not an all-around player at this point in his career.
Matt: Why not under Jamie?
Ray Fittipaldo: It has happened more and more under Jamie. I just mentioned Miller and Richardson the past two years. He just doesn't run off players without conscience like other coaches around the country.
13 to 9: Prediction for Sunday's game?
Ray Fittipaldo: Pitt and Villanova both struggle on the defensive end. I think it will be high scoring and because it's at home I'll say Pitt wins, 74-69. Close game. Nova is better than its record just as Pitt.
Matt: Whats going on with jj moore this year i thought he was supposed to have a breakout year
Ray Fittipaldo: He is really struggling with his shot. I think he's something like 5 for his last 33 from 3-point range. And he's not that great at putting the ball on the floor, so he is really limited right now from an offensive standpoint. He has a lot of ability and he's only a sophomore. The coaches atre working to get the most out of him.
Guest: Anyone know more about Durmond Johnson and what he will bring to table next year?
Ray Fittipaldo: It's Durand Johnson, and he's known as a shooter. The Panthers will need some of that next season with Gibbs graduating, so he'll have a chance to earn a role.
Shane: What effect do you think this season will have on Ashton's NBA draft stock?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think NBA general managers and coaches saw all they needed to see last spring when Gibbs went through the predraft process. He wasn't going to be drafted then and he's certainly not going to be drafted now after the disaster that was his experiment as the team's point guard when Woodall was out. Maybe he can play overseas somewhere and make some money. There's no shame in that.
Hue: Can you forsee gibbs beinging a 3 point specialst in the NBA, also do you think he's really improved at all since last year, and since his sophomore year for that matter
Ray Fittipaldo: No. I think the odds are stacked against him of playing in the NBA because of his inability to create his own shot and his inability to defend. You just don't see players like him in the NBA. I've said this about Gibbs for two years now: he's a great college player, but sometimes great college players have games that don't translate to the NBA.
casper: Better coach dixon or howland
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, Ben has to been to three Final Fours. Jamie has not been to one. But if it's consistency you're looking for then Dixon has to get the nod over his friend based on Howland's struggles at UCLA in recent years.
Matt: Starting five for next year?
Ray Fittipaldo: Woodall at point guard, John Johnson at shooting guard, Patterson at small forward, Steve Adams at center and Talib Zanna at power forward unless Dixon lands a JUCO who can play power forward.
Matt: To me, Gibb's had no NBA last year and it is even less this year! He has been the most under-improved Big East player rather than POY!
Ray Fittipaldo: He earned the Big East POY based on his sophomore and junior seasons. Not sure if the POY is a projection of what the player will be or his past accomplishments. I think with Gibbs it was clearly the latter.
Guest: Dickie V said mark it down Pitt will make NCAA during UConn-Gtown game last night. Long way to go to get there but an arguement can be made that in any game they would be a tough 11 or 12 seed and could give the higher seeds trouble - presents an interesting story line with bubble talk and RPI until they potentially go bust with a losing streak. A lot depends on committee view of no Woodall and compensating for those loses - kind of get out of jail free card. They also benefit when UConn loses 4 straight - more mediocre teams losing helps but a Murray St loss in their tourney takes a spot - we are Va Tech!
Ray Fittipaldo: Good post. I'm writing about the mediocrity in the Big East this season in the paper tomorrow. Teams from fourth place through 13th place are in a dog fight for NCAA berths. Yes, it should make for an interesting second half provided the Panthers continue to win.
Austin powers: How tall is steven adams now, i heard he's a growing boy
Ray Fittipaldo: Adams told the PG's Mike White on Sunday that he's 6-11.
Matt: Thanks Ray! Great articles, answers and insights! I always enjoy reading what you have to say!
One eyed mike: What's the best quote or sound bite you've heard from a pitt player or coach this year
Ray Fittipaldo: Been lots of them for sure. I don't know about best, but the most interesting I heard were the differing opinions Jamie Dixon and Tray Woodall had of his abdominal injury that kept him out for so long. Dixon was steadfast that he was cleared to play and Woodall was steadfast he was not cleared to play.
Brian OBill: how bad has big east officiating been recently and what can be done about it
Ray Fittipaldo: The blown call at Syraucse last Saturday was really bad. WVU should have at least gone to overtime with the Orange. And I know Huggins was upset about the technical he received Monday night against Pitt. Those two stand out because they're the most recent. But I have to tell you, good teams overcome bad calls to win games. The technical on Huggins came with 17 minutes left. If the Mountaineers were an elite team they come back to win that game at home. They didn't and they're clearly not elite.
Guest: Chances on % basis that the WVU game at Pitt will end the series - which is answering the question will the "eers by in Big 12 next season for hoops?
Ray Fittipaldo: Good question. I reported in October that Huggins assumes the series will continue but that Dixon would not commit to it. I'm hearing WVU is going to have a hard time winning that case in court. I'm guessing they'll be in the Big East one more year just like Pitt and Syracuse.
KeithArmstrong: is JJ Moore's lack of playing time recently more of an indication of his ineffectiveness or Patterson's effectiveness?
Ray Fittipaldo: Patterson has been playing really well, so I'd lean toward that. But Moore doesn't help himself by jacking up some questionable shots and not making them.
Doc Brown: Why hasn't the big east gotten rid of marinatto yet, he's a joke. The big 12 got rid of their comish bc he's dead weight like him too. I know their hellbent on being a great bb league, but adding smu, houston, and ucf makes it a lot worse
Ray Fittipaldo: Marrinnatto was Tranghese's right-hand man and I think they want to give him more than two years to prove his worth. I'm neither a supporter or detractor, but Tranghese went through something smiliar in 2003 and the Big East came out just fine.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for participating in the chat this week. We'll do it again next week.
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