Big Dance . . . Little Work . . . Random Thoughts

Posted on March 18, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, Life, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I know everyone is reading this because YOU ARE NOT WORKING. 

Don’t try to pretend like you are.  March Madness costs employers $1.8 BILLION in productivity during the first week of the tournament alone . . .  

So why swim upstream?  Everyone is doing it.  We might as well jump off the bridge too.  Here’s a few early thoughts:

‘OY WILLIAMS:  Just taking a moment to fathom how far the Tar Heels have fallen.  From National Champions of last year’s NCAA Tournament to almost getting ousted in the first round of the NIT by William & Mary.  OY.  Okay.  That’s it.  Moment’s over . . .

“Coach Dixon, how can I stop Villanova?”


Ya think Pittsburgh Panthers head coach, Jamie Dixon, gave his former assistant, now Robert Morris skipper, Mike Rice, some defensive pointers to use against Big East rival Villanova in the 2 vs. 15 seed match up this afternoon?  I do . . . 
Alas, the Colonials couldn’t hold on.  Even though they led almost the entire game during regulation, the tournament tested Villanova Wildcats hung around, and showed big time sticktoitiveness (I love that word) to win by three points in OT.  And according to my husband, it’s my fault.  Why?  I merely stated the truth.  When Villanova tied it up as the second half was winding down, I said it’s over.  If Robert Morris were to pull the upset they had to do it in regulation.  He said I jinxed them.  I said no, I’m just always right . . .  

THE LUCK ‘O THE IRISH RUNS OUT:  Notre Dame’s winning ways came to an abrupt end as Old Dominion bounced the Irish in the first round by hanging on in the waning seconds to pull the one point upset win.  That’s gotta be tough.  Mike Brey’s squad had to win their way into the big dance and barely made the cut, just to lose in an excrutiating fashion. 

The Monarchs held the second leading scorer in Notre Dame history, Luke Harangody, to just two points in his 23 minutes on the floor.  Notre Dame hardly sniffed a free throw, getting to the line only three times, and they shot a puny 23% from downtown.  When you shoot too many threes, you aren’t driving to the tin, and you’re not getting fouled.  You live by the three and die by the three.  Notre Dame just shot themselves dead . . .

More upsets and exciting finishes are happening right now!  Don’t get back to work!

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From the Vault… A Tribute to Jamie Dixon

Posted on April 7, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , |

In honor of University of Pittsburgh Panthers’ Jamie Dixon winning the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award, I thought I’d share a couple of gems from Dixon’s college playing days.

Levance Fields isn’t the only one who knows how to sink a game winning shot.

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Pitt Doesn’t Like FREE Points

Posted on March 29, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , |

Is this how Memphis fans felt last year after coming oh so close to the championship just to have Mario Chalmers make a miracle shot to send it into overtime and then take the title right out of John Calipari’s hands after he swore up and down that his players didn’t have to be good at the FREE throw line because they would always come through when the stakes were highest?  The Tigers shot 63% from the stripe while Kansas sunk 93% during that game . . .

Is it something about the Pittsburgh Panthers’ team philosophy where they have to make everything tough?  They don’t want it to come easy?  Does this team have a mental block against sinking FREE throws?  It’s not like they don’t count as much because they aren’t contested shots – they are FREE . . .

I get that this game was to reach the Final Four and not for the National title, however for Pitt’s players and fandom everywhere, it stings.  Granted, the Panthers improved on their pathetic 67.6% team average for the season by going 21 -for-29 and shooting 72.4% but that doesn’t matter when your opponent is over 95% from the FREE throw line.

Yet there Levance Fields stood with two shots to tie the game with 5.5 seconds left and he sinks them both.  Why couldn’t his  teammates have that calm, cool and collected presence at the line throughout the game? 

I said in my Elite Eight Expectations blog that these things had to happen for the Panthers to have a chance to win:

Connect on more shots – they shot 48.1% CHECK

Not turn the ball over as much – Levance Fields went turnover-less and the team had 11 total CHECK

Stay out of foul trouble – No starter had more than three personal fouls – CHECK

But I forgot to mention the damn FREE throws. 

The Panthers were better than Villanova in every one of those categories but one.  You guessed it . . . friggin FREE THROWS!


Samy Young Consoles Levance Fields After Pitts 78-76 Loss To Villanova

Sam Young Consoles Levance Fields After Pitt's 78-76 Loss To Villanova

I feel sad for the seniors who really had a chance this year to win the title, Tyrell Biggs, Sam Young and Levance Fields.  There’s no doubt Sam Young will go to the NBA.  Maybe Tyrell Biggs plays in Europe.  But I truly hope to see Levance Fields playing for the Association.  He is small in stature, but huge in heart and toughness.  He almost Levanced his team with more late game heroics, but this time it didn’t work out the way it usually does for Pitt. 

Turns out those FREE throws were pretty darn costly . . .

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Elite Eight Expectations

Posted on March 28, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BACK IN DA ‘BURGH . . . After a victorious Sweet Sixteen performance by the Pittsburgh Panthers, an equally as victorious appearance speaking at The Harvard Club in Boston, and a bumpy flight home, I am ready to watch the hopefully more competitive Elite Eight action with just one thing to say . . .

Told you Missouri would beat Memphis

During my March Madness Preview radio show that was the one pick that raised the eyebrows of bracketeers.  Now Mizzou’s match up with Connecticut will be one of the more intriguing games to watch on my list.  With the Huskies rolling through the first three rounds, the Tigers’ full court press and high flying offense will be a pace that Calhoun’s players aren’t used to playing.  Memphis spent much of the second half doubled over in exhaustion, and they ARE comfortable running for 40 minutes.  Missourui Coach Mike Anderson rotates players in and out with none averaging more than 28 minutes per game, so his guys are always fresh and looking to wear out the opponent.  Huskies’ point guard, AJ Price has been efficient and will need to continue to play mistake free to keep Missouri out of their transition game to survive.  Hasheem Thabeet is a force, but not if he has to be on the run. 

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Connecticut’s Stanley Robinson, who has been averaging  15 points 7 rebounds during his three tournament games, and CAN run the floor and finish strong. 

Of course, the other three Elite Eight games aren’t so shabby themselves:

PAYBACK GAME?  Villanova is a small team, but plays big with their guards turning the drive and dish into an artform as they pummeled Duke into their worst lost since UNLV beat them by 30 in the 1990 national title game.  Duke lived and ultimately died at the arc this year because they have no interior presence.  The same can not be said about the Wildcats’ next opponent, the familiar Pittsburgh Panthers, who has the top offensive rebounder in the country, DeJuan Blair patrolling the paint.  Villanova beat the Panthers as they closed down the Spectrum in Philadelphia back on Jan 28th, forcing Blair to the bench in foul trouble, limiting him to only 20 minutes on the floor.  These two only met once this year and with the sour taste of that loss in their mouths, and the pressure of not being able to break the Sweet Sixteen ceiling finally off their minds, Jamie Dixon’s squad can finally get back to playing good basketball, because they haven’t yet in this tournament.  Uncharacteristically turning the ball over and missing shots in the paint will NOT lead to an opportunity for late game heroics from Levance Fields against Jay Wright’s squad who IS playing good basketball. 

KEY TO THE GAME:  Panthers have to improve on their paltry 34% shooting against Xavier.  Watch for Villanova’s guards to get Pitt’s bigs in foul trouble early.     

IZZO vs. PITINO:  Louisville looks unstoppable with their uptempo full court press that induced a  39 point thrashing of Arizona, propelling Pitino’s crew to the round of eight.  Michigan State grinded out a win against defending Champions, Kansas, and will need to slow down the Cardinals and take care of the basketball against a swarming Louisville defense.  Similar to the challenge facing the Huskies, State needs to be sure not to let their opponents get out in transition.  Louisville’s Terrence Williams has gotten better and more confident as the season wore on and can do a lot of damage from ANYWHERE on the court.  After being snubbed for Big East Player of the Year, he seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder and that does not bode well for the Spartans.  This is going to be a game of depth and athleticsim versus contolled tempo and ball security.

KEY TO THE GAME:  With two tournament tested head coaches pulling the strings, execution and taking advantage of mistakes will determine who wins.  

THE SELECTION COMMITTEE WINS:  This is the game everyone was hoping to see in the South Region.  Last year’s Player of the Year, Tyler Hansbrough, versus this year’s imminent Naismith award winner, Blake Griffin.  Against Syracuse, Griffin put in his usual day at the office with 30 points and 14 boards, while the Orange couldn’t get their dangerous outside shooting game started, only going 7-for-24 from behind the arc.  North Carolina fared much better against Gonzaga, sinking 11 of their 19 attempts from downtown, and with Ty Lawson in mid-season form the Tar Heels should give Oklahoma’s defense, that played well forcing 18 Syracuse turnovers with 11 steals, a much tougher challenge.  The Tyler Hansbrough – Blake Griffin match up will be one to watch as both teams can score and run the court.  Expect this to be a high scoring game.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Oklahoma’s sharp shooting Tony Crocker, who had 28 points against the Orange, but only 8 in his previous two tournament games combined.  If he stays hot and North Carolina pays too much attention to Blake Griffin, the Tar Heels could get burned.

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Survive and Levance . . .

Posted on March 27, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , |

Once again, the point guard with nerves of steel, the point guard who turned the ball over more than his nation-leading 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio during his last Sweet 16 performance, Levance Fields, puts the ball in his own hands when the game is on the line.

And it pays off . . .

With the TD Banknorth Garden only three-quarters of the way full during the first game, and fans trickling in to cheer on Duke and Villanova in the second game, which turned out to literally be a SNOOZER anyway, Levance Fields orchestrated his usual “I am the MAN” moment, draining a three pointer with less than a minute left then stealing the rock and laying in the nail in the proverbial coffin.

What a nail biter!

We had a great time although I expected MORE of a Pittsburgh contingent to represent . . .

AND I did actually fall asleep during the Villanova / Duke game.  If you saw it, you would understand why.  Anyway, will get into more detail on our Boston adventres, and there are more, a bit later.  It’s 3AM and I am even more sleepy . . .

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Cheers To FATE!

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, Beer, NCAA | Tags: , , |


Of course while in Boston, you must do what the Bostonians don’t do . . . eat and drink at CHEERS!

Proudly sporting our University of Pittsburgh gear, we indulged in a Sam Adams, in a souvenir mug of course, and while waiting for Norm to walk through the door so I could let out a loud “NORM!”, a tall silver haired man stopped by our table to say hi . . . It was none other than Univeristy of Pittsburgh’s Athletic Director, Steve Pederson.

Along with him was Sports Information Director, E.J. Borghetti, who my husband had worked with while at KDKA radio, so we struck up a conversation with them, bought them a beer, and now have an invite to take a private tour around the Peterson Events Center back in the ‘Burgh!

Our trip couldn’t be going any better . . . time to go to my speaking event and then it’s time for the game!


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Monday Musings . . .

Posted on March 9, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA, NFL | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Terrell Owens Signs One Year Deal With Buffalo:  I hope the Bills don’t get dizzy . . . there will be a lot of circling the wagons if Lee Evans doesn’t step aside and make room for the T.O. sideshow.  Sure, the Bills were smart by only giving him a one year deal since he has traditionally flourished during that first year of a new deal.  Call it the “I T.O.’ed you so” year.  The “I’ll prove I am not a troublemaker and I can fit in” year.  The bottom line is that Buffalo showed glimpses of relative goodness last year, but it’s frigid in northern NY the deeper we get into the NFL season, and Owens is going to realize that playing catch up to New England, an improved Miami team, and a new look Jets squad led by a rookie head coach on a mission, is not going to warm his soul very much. 

Why will they be playing catch up?  After going 7-9 for the last three seasons, the Bills need a lot more help than just an egotistical wide receiver.  Marshawn Lynch just pled guilty to gun possession charges last Thursday and received 36 months of probation.  He wasn’t disciplined by the NFL for his hit and run stunt last year, so he will surely miss games at the start of the season for Buffalo.

Marshawn Lynch In His Finest Hour

Marshawn Lynch In His Finest Hour

Their Defense was putrid when it came to getting to the quarterback – the recorded 23 sacks ALL YEAR.  Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware almost out sacked the Bills himself with an NFL best, 20 sacks.  

So is T.O. taking Buffalo back to the postseason for the first time in 10 years?  I doubt it.  Will he ever win a championship?  Kinda ironic if he doesn’t, dontcha think?    

The Big East Regular Season Lived Up To The Hype:  The Pittsburgh Panthers swept the season series against UConn with a dominating win on Saturday.  There’s talk about how the Huskies bounced back from a 14 point deficit in the second half, however Pitt absorbed it and went on an impressive run complete with defensive toughness, fast breaks and alley oops to seal the deal.   Just another day at the office for Pitt who is a lock for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the first in school history.  Madison Square Garden hosts the conference tourney again this year and it jumps off March 10th, with all but four of the teams playing the first two rounds.  Louisville, Pitt, UConn and Villanova have two-round byes and will be well rested as they enter into the cage match that will be reminiscent of an MMA event to be sure.  Pitt has been to the Championship game seven of the last eight years and their 2009 squad is their toughest yet, so only time, or officiating, will tell . . .

Jaguars WR Matt Jones Gets Pinched AGAIN:  After escaping with a slap on the wrist for felony cocaine possession and serving a 3 game suspension from the NFL last year, Matt Jones just can’t say no to drugs.  Monday he was arrested for the same exact offense, in the same exact place.   Good ‘ol Washington County, Arkansas where he was a star QB . . . I guess who won’t need his Razor back anytime soon . . .

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