Ray Fittipaldo: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Pitt basketball chat. Post your questions and we'll get started.
Robbie: Ray, why do you think Cameron Wright has been cut from the rotation (or will receive less than 10 mins a game)?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think it has more to do with the play of Trey Zeigler than anything Wright has done wrong. As I mentioned a week or two ago, Wright is a defensive specialist. He is OK in transition offense and not very good in half-court offense. Zeigler has improved defensively and is a much better all-around offensive threat. Zeigler has a knack for getting offensive rebounds, so he adds a dimension there and he can penetrate to the hoop. I think Wright will have a role, but it does appear it will be a reduced role from what he had earlier in the season because of Zeigler's development.
Tom: Although it now seems predictible, how do you explain Talib Zanna's productivity dropoff every mid-season?
Ray Fittipaldo: Well, the competition obviously improves once Big East games get underway. I think some of the bigger players in the conference are able to alter or blocks his inside shots. That happened against Providence. Also, teams are forcing him off the blocks more and making him take mid-range jump shots. He is capable of making those types of shots, but he's been off recently. He's 7 for 25 from the field in the past four games and to complicate matters he's been shooting poorly from the foul line. When you add it all up, he's in a little bit of a slump.
Tom: Moved Improved Big East Players from Pitt - Knight (2002), Krauser (2004), Gray (2006), Young (2008), Gibbs (2010). Why wasn't Dante Taylor awarded in 2012? Why did Jamie Dixon's system fail? My explanation –according to your reporting, these award-winners devoted 1000 extra hours per year by being first-in, last-out of the gym, shooting 1000 free-throws each day, summer camps, etc. I haven't heard any stories like this since Gibbs left. We may now have more talented players but we've seem to have lost our hunger.
Ray Fittipaldo: Not sure if that's accurate. Taylor is well-liked by his teammates. And don't forget he has had injuries throughout his career that have affected his development. I'm not making excuses for him, but it's hard to develop when you're constantly battling injuries.
Jimmy: Please comment on the ebbs and flows of the season for many of the players like Patterson and Zanna among others. There is no real consistency from game to game. What do you think is causing this?
Ray Fittipaldo: Part of it is they have very capable backups and when they're having an off game guys like Durand Johnson and JJ Moore will see playing time. And lately, they have taken advantage of that playing time and forced the coach's hand when it comes to minutes played. Dixon will not be shy about using Johnson if Patterson is not playing well. Unfortunately for Johnson, Patterson has been playing really well so there hasn't been a lot of minutes coming his way recently.
Robbie: After last year's humiliating loss at DePaul, there's no way Pitt losses to them this year at home... right? Really can't afford it.
Ray Fittipaldo: Don't see it happening. And you're right, the Panthers cannot afford another home loss, especially to an inferior opponent when Louisville and Syracuse await next week. The Panthers have to get to 5-3 because they face a really tough stretch for the next month before the schedule eases up again in the final two weeks.
Jimmy: Which team do you think Pitt will have a better chance of upsetting; Syracuse or Louisville? I think Syracuse - better match up of style and home vs away.
Ray Fittipaldo: Syracuse because Pitt has done really well against the Orange in recent years. Dixon knows how to attack that zone and score against it. Pitt has not played well against Louisville in recent years, especially down there at the Yum Center. I think the last time Pitt won at Louisville was 2006, the day the Steelers beat the Colts in the AFC divisional round.
Vonteego: Will Steve Adams set the record for the worst Free Throw shooting % for a Pitt player in a season? Its hard to watch him at the line
Ray Fittipaldo: That's a good question. I'm going to have to look that up. He's at 34 percent for the season and he does not appear to be improving. It's tough for big guys to shoot well from the line, but Adams really struggles. If you've noticed, he's not a big part of Dixon's rotation late in close games because of it. That's bad news because teams can take advantage of Pitt on boards and attack the interior when he's not in there. He would serve himself and his team well by improving his stroke at the line.
chicago_pitt_fan: where do you foresee the panthers ending up? nit/ncaa? and what is our highest ceiling do you think? 5 seed?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think this team can make the NCAA tournament, but the Panthers cannot afford many missteps. They have to take care of business against DePaul (twice), Seton Hall, Villanova and South Florida. That's five wins, which would give them nine. Then they'd probably have to get just one of the following: Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati or Marquette. If they're 10-8 they're in good shape for a bid. 9-9 would be pushing it although it would depend on where the victories came from. As far as the ceiling goes, 6 or 7 probably although I think they'd likely end up being in the 8-9 range and a tough matchup for a No. 1 seed if they win that first game.
Ryan: Has Lamar stepped up to be Pitts go to guy when down by a bucket at the end of the game? or is that too early to tell still
Ray Fittipaldo: Based on what happened in the Providence game, it's Tray Woodall. With Pitt up three and around a minute to go, Jamie Dixon put the ball in his hands and told him to go make a play. Woodall made a short jumper and boosted the lead to five. It was a big play in that game. If Woodall is defended well or out of the game I think Patterson would be the next in line to take the big shot. He did it late last season in the CBI.
Robbie: Last year people were comparing Steven Adams to Pau Gasol, a guy who not only has a presence inside but can also step out and hit jump shots. Obviously we are not seeing this. Do you think his game is being altered too much to fit the USA-style?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not sure how much altering is going on. Based on his inability to make foul shots and the few outside shots he has attempted I would say making him a back-to-the basket type of center is probably the right thing to do. He is not an accomplished offensive player. And the problem with the Gasol comparison or any others that were made is this: he was playing against suspect competition in NZ. So whatever he did there has to be taken with a grain of salt. I think he'll develop in time, but don't just concentrate on his offense. Take a look at the way he changes shots on defense just with his presence alone. That's why he's the starting center.
Tom: Does Zeigler have a 'green light' to drive to the basket at any time?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's how he creates most of his offense, so yes the coaches trust him in that regard. Zeigler has done a much better job of pulling up and avoiding charging calls. Early in the season, he was getting one or two of those a game and Dixon gave him the quick hook because of it. He's getting better at recognizing how defenses are playing him and is not turning the ball over as much. That's why he's playing more.
Tom: What's the latest status on injuries?
Ray Fittipaldo: Will get an update at practice later today, but as far as I know now there are no major injury issues with the players. Just your normal bumps and bruises.
chicago_pitt_fan: What's the one place/thing you will miss most about leaving big east? big east tourney i would presume.....but what is your other favorite arena?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'll definitely miss the Big East tournament. I've had the good fortune of covering a team that kept me busy up there in many of the past 10 years. Other than that, I'll miss going to Milwaukee for Marquette games. I enjoy the Bradley Center and the city.
Jimmy: More specifically, what is the story behind the wrap that Adams has been wearing on his right hand?
Ray Fittipaldo: Steven has not done many interviews with reporters this season. I think he has come out twice to talk to us the entire season and I have not had a chance to ask him about it. Also, Dixon has not mentioned it once, so I can only assume it's not a major issue.
Robbie: Dante Taylor came to Pitt with so much upside and so much hype. In high school, he was shooting threes and hitting from all over the floor. I these past few years he's needed to play center because of the team's lack of depth at that position, but I just feel that he's been miss-used at Pitt and would have benefited more from playing the 4. What are your thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't see four skills in him to be honest with you. I've never thought once about attempting to write that story because it just doesn't seem plausible to me. Other writers have broached the subject and cast their opinion. I seem to remember an AAU coach questioning Dixon for playing him at center. Whoever that coach was he hasn't seen him play as much as I have the past four years. My conclusion after watching him in probably over 100 games is that Dixon and the coaches made the right move.
Guest: Does Pitt become a middle of the road team in the ACC or in the top third of the conference in the hunt on an annual basis? Has the move helped or hurt recruiting so far?
Ray Fittipaldo: Too early to tell with recruiting. It will be the same as the Big East. When Dixon has a good team it will be at the top of the ACC. When he has a mediocre team it will be middle oft he pack.
Levances Headband: What is going on with our Center position for next year? We have two open scholarships for next year and I would think that Dixon's only two options would be to sign a JUCO or find a transfer - I haven't heard news of either yet. Dixon couldn't seriously consider moving along without another big man could he?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm sure it's a priority even if Adams returns for his sophomore season. As of right now, Zanna would be the backup center next season, which would put a lot on his plate. It's not easy to find big men, especially this late in the process. Most, if not all of the good ones are off the board.
Tom: How much confidence does Dixon have in Durand Johnson? Does he have the 'green light' to shoot the 3 if he's open?
Ray Fittipaldo: Dixon has a lot of confidence in Durand. He came into the game cold in the second half of the Providence game and nailed a 3-pointer after Providence cut the lead to two. Durand has no conscience. I like that about him. And by the way, that 3-pointer was his first and only shot of the game.
chicago_pitt_fan: i've never understood the strict rigidity that dixon assigns positions to people....esp this year with how deep we are. i would think there could e more mixing and matching. durand johnson and jj moore seem to be able to play more than two positions even, no?
Ray Fittipaldo: Dixon recruits a lot of versatile players and uses them in different roles. Moore has played small forward and power forward. The same goes for Lamar Patterson. Durand Johnson can play small forward and shooting guard in a pinch. Trey Zeigler can play the point, shooting guard and small forward. I can go on and on. I think Dixon likes his rotation a certain way. Right now, it's keeping Moore at power forward and Johnson at small forward. But I have no doubt they can move to another position and be effective if called upon. I just don't think there is a need to do that right now.
Robbie: DePaul is similar to Providence that they only have a few good players (Young, Melvin, Crockett) who could really hurt Pitt and they lack depth. However those guards are still really good on the drive. Do you expect Pitt will be playing a lot of 2-3 zone again Saturday to counter this?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not sure if You is as good as Ryan Boatright of Connecticut or Vincent Council or Bryce Cotton of Providence. And Melvin is a forward. Yes, he has driving ability, but he's not the type of player who has given Pitt problems this season. Pitt should be able to win by a comfortable margin, but I probably said the same thing before last year's game against the Blue Demons.
Tom: Who in the Big East has suprised you? Who has been a disappointment?
Ray Fittipaldo: No one should be surprised with Marquette because like Pitt Buzz Williams always finds a way to produce a quality team. But Marquette was picked to finish in the middle of the pack. I think around 7 or 8 in the preseason coaches poll. No one has really disappointed in a big way. That team would have been Pitt two weeks ago, but it's not looking like that's the case any longer.
Vonteego: With the move to the ACC, will Pitt be making any changes to their ticket pricing?
Ray Fittipaldo: The university has not made any such announcement.
Matt in Ann Arbor: Any word from Jamie Dixon on if any of the 'Catholic 7' will be regular non-conference opponents going forward? Would love to see the Villanova and Marquette, especially, stay on the schedule regularly.
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think it's going to be possible to play any of those teams to be honest with you. Dixon would like to continue to play in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, but he has hinted that it likely would be in the form of a preseason tournament rather than a series with the Hoyas or Wildcats. There's just not enough room on the schedule. Dixon told me in November he is forced to play a certain number of home games every year because the administration needs the money to make its budget. That only leaves room for the two or three games in the preseason tournament (Legends Classic, Maui Invitational, etc.) and the one game every year in the Big Ten/ACC challenge.
Vonteego: Would you rather get 2 years of Steve Adams (not knowing how much he'll improve next season but has tons of upside) or 4 years of James Robinson? Robinson will be solid for his entire career, not sure spectacular. Adams has game changing ability, especially on defensive end and rebounding
Ray Fittipaldo: Not sure if I understand the question, Vonteego. They'll have Robinson for four years no matter what. He's not going to the NBA early.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for taking part in the chat this week. I have to get up to practice. We'll do it again next week at the same time.
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