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Pitt headed to Pinstripe Bowl to face Northwestern (Schedule, TV, Game Information)

Pitt fans knew the team was headed to a bowl but the destination and opponent were unknown. Those were announced on Sunday as the Panthers will be headed to Yankee Stadium to play Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl.

The Wildcats were 6-6 on the year and it's hard to imagine Pitt wouldn't be favored. Northwestern's best win came against 8-4 Iowa, but they lost games to Western Michigan and Illinois State in the beginning of the season.

While there was discussion of an outside shot at a Backyard Brawl with West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, that went out the window with Miami going over the Panthers.

For timing purposes, the game will be on Wednesday, December 28th on ESPN at 2:00 p.m. If you plan on being off that day, that's likely fine. If you've got to work, that's obviously a problem.

I'll break down a little more of the good/bad about this Bowl soon. But for now, what are your early thoughts? Thumbs up, down?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Ohio State Buckeyes: Best 2016 photos

Pitt volleyball falls to Penn State in NCAA Tournament, 3-1

For a while, Pitt voleyball looked ready to pull off one of the NCAA tournament's big upsets, but in the end, Penn State was too strong, defeating the Panthers, three sets to one.

Pitt came out hot right out of the gate and won the first set, 25-20. The crowd was pretty raucous compared to what they've dealt with most of the year and I was impressed with how much poise they played with. I can't speak for the girls on the team but honestly, I think it was the best set I've seen them play this year. They got some breaks but mostly played soundly and looked really strong. Even back line hits were strong and went for a few kills.

The second set was a different story and Pitt looked like a completely different team. Penn State played much better and that had a lot to do with it. There's no doubt that for Penn State was a completely different team as well in that set. But I also thought Pitt tried to get a little too cute at times, opting for light taps trying to hit the open court instead of going for a spike at the net. Pitt does that quite a bit and has been successful with it, so it's hard to argue too much. But a few times, it looked really out of place and didn't catch Penn State off guard in the slightest. Penn State got an early lead and never looked back.

It was more of the same to start the third set and Pitt just never recovered. They did play better and made things a bit closer, so it was nice not to see them fold up and close up shop. But the Nittany Lions were just too strong up front, even against Pitt's formidable front line.

Penn State really threw it into high gear after that first set. It was sort of the perfect storm with them not playing well and Pitt playing out of their minds. But they really cleaned Pitt's clock after that slow start.

I know the team or coach Dan Fisher probably doesn't want to hear about this right now but, man, what a year. The Panthers not only got over the hump to get into the NCAAs, but played well enough to win a match and took the first set from a Top 15 team on their home court. Don't forget, too, that while this was new territory for Pitt, Penn State makes the NCAAs annually. Given the circumstances, it's very hard to be upset with the way they played today and this season.

I touched on this before and I'll look at it a little closer later on, but Pitt returns nearly everyone from this team. The loss of middle blocker Jenna Potts will be tough but the team at least has a foundation with Layne Van Buskirk, who played very well this year as a freshman. They have a great chance to make the NCAAs again next year and perhaps even build on things.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Dayton Flyers vs. Winthrop

LeBron James wears Cubs uniform to pay off World Series bet

LeBron James didn’t like it, but a bet’s a bet. And when you lose a bet, you pay the winner.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers star made a bet with former Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade before the World Series. If the Cubs won, then James would have to wear a full Cubs uniform the next time the Cavaliers played in Chicago. 

The Cubs did indeed win the Series, earning their first championship in 108 years when they overcame a 3-1 deficit to rally past the Cleveland Indians.

So the payoff came Friday night, as James and the Cavaliers came to town to play the Chicago Bulls. James donned a Cubs jersey, pants and cap. No cleats, though.

“I’m not wearing cleats,” he had told reporters on Thursday. “No glove. Just the uniform.” 

As James walked through the arena before Friday night’s game, he was met by a gleeful Wade, who videotaped his rival. 

“My Indians gave everything they had,” James said in an earlier video posted on the Bleacher Report website. “But the Cubs came back, and, you know, they showed what true champions was all about. 

“Meanwhile, I’m pinstriped-up, walking into a nationally televised game in Chicago because of a bet I lost.” 

"It's a bet," James continued. "You have to fulfill your bet. Nothing more to it."

Cleveland’s luck against Chicago continued to sour, as the Cavaliers lost 111-105 despite James’ 27-point night. Wade helped Chicago to victory by scoring 24 points. 

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Pitt miserable in 64-55 loss to Duquesne

Some games, plays stick out like sore thumbs. There was a sequence in the second half where Pitt trailed Duquesne by two and the Panthers forced a crucial miss. Michael Young, who has been nothing short of sensational this season, went up for a clear rebound with no one around him. In his haste to grab the ball with a little muscle, it frittered away from him into the hands of Duquesne, who promptly hit a three-pointer to go up by five.

That's what kind of night it was for Pitt.

After playing an impressive game on the road against a ranked Maryland team, the Panthers managed to come out and do something that hasn't been done in 15 years - lose to intercity rival Duquesne. Pitt didn't only lose, they lost badly to the tune of 64-55. Not enough points, not enough defense, not enough anything, really.

A lot of people have talked about what the team will look like next year. Tonight, we sort of got a glimpse of that.

At this point, Pitt is a two, perhaps three man team when Cameron Johnson is playing well. And the Panthers were down their second-best player in Jamel Artis, who was suspended for the game due to ... something. Artis, for what it's worth, isn't just Pitt's second-leading scorer. He's the second-leading scorer in the entire ACC behind only Young, his teammate. Tonight, we saw what happens when you take one of Pitt's top two guys out of the equation.

Pure, unmitigated disaster.

Pitt couldn't shoot (stop me if you've heard this before) and largely looked like they didn't care until it was too late. That showed in the first half, by the way, when they raced out to a 30-20 lead. But instead of putting the game away, as they had the chance to do, they allowed Duquesne to go on a 9-0 run to close out the half. That didn't seal their fate, but it allowed Duquesne to realize they could play with them. Big mistake.

Pitt often takes too many three pointers for my liking, but that was particularly true tonight. They were 3-22 from there and they simply shouldn't have to do that to beat Duquesne. Now, the Panthers have been a decent-shooting team from long range, making over 35% of their attempts. It hasn't been the thing that's done them in this year so I know what you're going to say. 'Well, Anson, it's easy to complain when the shots don't fall.'

But here's the thing -

Part of the reason Pitt has shot so many threes this year is because of Artis. Artis leads the team with 39 attempts and only one other player (Cam Johnson) has even 20 or more. If you take Artis out of the equation, Pitt should be shooting not only less three-pointers, but much less. And when you think about it, it's pretty easy to see what happened. Pitt missed Artis, tried to overcompensate for his scoring, and failed miserably. It's almost as if the team panicked instead of working to score easier buckets - which, hello, against Duquesne, they should be able to do.

After all, shooting three-pointers against Duquesne shouldn't necessarily be easier. Getting into the lane, drawing fouls, and beating guys off the dribble should be.

Here's the stat you should remember after tonight. The Panthers averaged 21 three-pointers a game coming into tonight. Artis accounts for more than 25% of the team's three-point attempts and they still ended up shooting one more attempt than they typically do. Hysterical.

Now, if Pitt had trailed all game long and was behind by a lot, taking that many three-pointers would make some degree of sense. But the reality is that Pitt led much of the first half and it was a four-point game with about two minutes left. This was a close game throughout - not the type of game where that many three-pointers would be necessarily warranted.

It wasn't just three-pointers, obviously. Not enough players stepped up on offense as a whole and the team shot under 34% from the field.

This annoying thing is that this type of game was tailor-made for someone like Sheldon Jeter. Without Artis in there, a guy like Sheldon should have been chomping at the bit to turn in a 15-point night. Instead, he went 1-6 from the field (including 1-4 from three-point range, boys and girls) and while he grabbed ten rebounds, Pitt needed more offense from him than the five points he provided. Cam Johnson scored 14 points, but needed 16 shots to do it. Seven of those were, you guessed it, from beyond the arc. Even Young was off with 19 points but shooting 38% from the field. And when you shoot as much as Young does (21 shots tonight), well, 38% ain't cutting it.

At least those guys did something, though. And Chris Jones was one of the few bright spots for Pitt with 11 points on an efficient 4-6 from the field. At some point, we've got to look at this guard rotation after him and wonder what these guys are doing. The trio of Damon Wilson, Justice Kithcart, and Jonathan Milligan got 31 minutes tonight and turned in two points. Most of our readers could get into a Pitt game, play 31 minutes and find a way to score one basket. Those guys are young - I get it. But, honestly, if that's what you're getting from these guys, you might as well have dropped everyone down a position, put Luther into the starting lineup, and burned the starters for 38 minutes. Not one of those guys has played with any sort of consistency this year and if Pitt doesn't have at least one transfer coming in at guard next season, you might as well close up shop.

And if we're playing the blame game, give Artis an honorable mention, too. I'm hesitant to call him out too much since we have no idea what he did. But at the same time, if we're to believe Kevin Stallings is fair and reasonable, then he obviously did something wrong. The fact is that, as a senior especially, he absolutely has to realize that he's far too valuable to be breaking conduct rules or whatnot. Just like Tyler Boyd found out with the DUI charge - if you're a team leader, you need to take care of business.

Now, as bad as the loss was (and it was a trainwreck), surprisingly I'm not selling this team as much as others might be. The fact is they should be able to beat a team like Duquesne ten times out of ten, at full strength or not. But this team is also constructed in such a manner that if they are without one of their top two guys, it's a much different offense. When Pitt has those guys, as they should, they're a much better team. Yes, the loss sucks. And yes, it's really frustrating since they had a puncher's chance at getting ranked or very close to it with the win over Maryland. But when the team is at full strength, it's simply much better.

Next up, Buffalo on Wednesday.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt volleyball defeats No. 23 Dayton, advances in NCAA Tournament

Pitt's volleyball team hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2004, but just getting there wasn't enough. The Panthers wanted to win.

They did that on Friday night with a 3-1 victory over Dayton to get to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Things started off a little bleak for Pitt. They dropped the first set and after winning the second, looked as if they were going to drop the third and put their season in serious jeopardy. Pitt trailed by seven points in that third set and ahead 22-17, Dayton only need to win three more points. But the Panthers refused to give that set away and fought all the way back. Pitt fell behind again, 25-24, giving Dayton a chance for the win. But after three straight points, they put the set away, 27-25.

If Chris were doing his turning point segment, that would be it for this one. Pitt led most of the fourth set before winning it 25-19.

Up until that comeback in the third set, Pitt was getting beaten badly on the front line and they really had a hard time getting past Dayton's blocks. They also had problems getting clean hits on the ball to set up kills. A bunch of mis-hits led them to just having to poke the ball over the net quite a bit. I don't know the stats on those compared to what they did afterwards, but it seemed like they just struck the ball much more cleanly as the match went on. And that comeback in the third set really looked like it sucked the life out of the Flyers.

Dayton simply isn't used to losing this season. Their schedule wasn't the toughest (which is why they were ranked only 23rd despite having the best record in the rankings), but at 30-1, they were nearly perfect on the year. Not only that, the Flyers routinely won matches 3-0 or 3-1 without much trouble. Dayton really cruised along this year so running into a team major-conference team like Pitt had to be a bit of a challenge. The only other major-conference team they'd faced all year was Northwestern and that was one of their closest matches - a 3-2 win. In fact, aside from their conference tournament and the one loss, that was the only team that took them to five sets all year.

The win gives Pitt another chance at finally earning a little respect. Dayton was ranked 23rd in the nation while Pitt hadn't garnered even a single vote in the Top 25 in the latest poll this week.

Now in the Round of 32, Pitt has a potentially very difficult matchup in Penn State in the next round if the Nittany Lions win their match tonight against LIU-Brooklyn. But either way, the Panthers have advanced to the second round and will look to get into the Sweet 16 over the weekend.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Man suspected of killing ex-NFL player Joe McKnight released without charges

The man suspected of shooting and killing former NFL player Joe McKnight on Thursday afternoon was released overnight without being charged, authorities in Louisiana said on Friday.

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Ronald Gasser, 54, is accused of killing the former NFL running back in what authorities characterized as a possible road rage incident in Terrytown.

"Gasser was released overnight and has not been charged as of yet," Cpl. John Fortunato, of the Jefferson Parrish Sheriff's Office, said in a statement to The Advocate. "The matter remains under investigation." 

Fortunato told The Times-Picayune that investigators are working with the district attorney's office to determine whether any charges will be filed against Gasser.

Authorities were called around 2:45 p.m. Thursday after McKnight, 28, was shot at an intersection in Terrytown. Officers found him with multiple gunshot wounds and attempted to resuscitate him.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, and deputies took Gasser into custody. Authorities said he remained on the scene until law enforcement officers arrived and surrendered a gun to deputies.

Sheriff Newell Normand told The Times-Picayune that McKnight did not have a gun.

A witness, who was not identified, told The Advocate that she saw an armed man prior to the shooting and heard as several shots were fired. She saw the shot man wounded in the street and told The Advocate that he shouted "I told you don't (expletive) with me."

The man fired another shot after shouting, a witness told The Times-Picayune. Before the shooting, McKnight was attempting to apologize to the man, the witness said.

McKnight played three seasons for the New York Jets and one with the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent this season in the Canadian Football League, playing two games for the Edmonton Eskimos and three for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He ran for 150 yards against Toronto on Oct. 15 in his Saskatchewan debut.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Against the Odds: Pitt a huge favorite

Vegas gives Pitt a huge edge in this year’s city game, by favoring the Panthers by double digits.

The City Game has lacked some drama for over a decade, as Pitt is currently on a 15 game winning streak over the Duquesne Dukes. Due to the start by both teams, Vegas believes this year will make it 16 for Pitt this evening. The Panthers opened at a 13.5 favorite over the Dukes.

The game will be played at the PPG Paints Arena (formerly Consol Energy Center) at 7PM tonight and can be viewed on the ACC Network or WatchESPN. Pitt comes in looking to get a foot into the top-25 door and sports a 6-1 mark right now. Despite some early scares, head coach Kevin Stallings’ team seems to be starting to gel a little bit. Not a ton, but a little bit. Duquesne, and Jim Ferry, on the other hand, are struggling a bit.

While Pitt is coming off a huge 73-59 win, at Maryland, Duquesne just dropped one to UMBC. The Dukes have also lost games to UT Martin and Canisius. One would think they will have their hands full with Michael Young, who comes in averaging over 23 points per game for Pitt and Vegas agrees.

Many believe Pitt is looking at a ranking, or really close to it, with a win. Young says Pitt knows the Dukes are looking at this as their biggest game of the year, so the Panthers will be looking at it that way too. If Pitt can do that, Vegas is predicting a big win.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Lawsuit claims Johnny Manziel broke nose of Texas bar employee

An Austin, Texas, bar employee has filed a lawsuit accusing troubled Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of punching him in the face and breaking his nose.

According to a brief summary of the lawsuit filed Monday in Travis County, the man was working as a bar-back when Manziel demanded that he prepare drinks. The man informed Manziel he could not fulfill his order because he was not a bartender.

Later in the evening, a member of Manziel’s group at a private party overheard the man talking about Manziel to a different customer. According to the lawsuit, Manziel learned of the conversation and then punched the plaintiff in the face, breaking his nose. Manziel ran out the bar’s back exit before police arrived.

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Attorneys for the plaintiff could not be reached for comment.

This marks yet another legal scrape for Manziel, who recently reached an agreement to dismiss charges in a domestic violence case stemming from an alleged attack on his ex-girlfriend. Colleen Crowley told police that Manziel struck her several times and ruptured her eardrum during a February altercation in Fort Worth. Crowley alleged that Manziel threatened to kill both of them.

Manziel, who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy in his redshirt freshman season at Texas A&M, did not play in the NFL this season. The Cleveland Browns parted ways with Manziel over the offseason amid reports of him continuing to party even after he attended a rehabilitation clinic and vowed to get sober.

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