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Against the Odds: Louisville favored over Pitt at The Pete

Pitt will try to avenge an earlier loss to the favored Cardinals, while Louisville wants to bounce back as well.

Pitt has lost five of their last six and four in a row to drop to 12-7 and 1-5 in the ACC Conference. Louisville will not feel bad for them, as the Cardinals just lost to top ten Florida State to keep them at fifth in the conference standings. Louisville now stands at 16-4 and 4-3 in the ACC coming into tonight’s game, against Pitt. The Cardinals are 13th and 14th in the two most recent polls and thanks to that, Vegas has granted them as seven point favorites.

Vegas obviously believes the Zoo has a little magic left to only give the Cards seven points. Maybe it is also because the last time these two teams met Jamel Artis had a game for the ages. He dropped 43 on Louisville and almost pulled the upset by himself before Pitt bowed out, 85-80. The Cards will no doubt want to keep Artis from doing the same thing, as The Pete may just put the Panthers over the top tonight if a performance like that happens again.

The game will tip off this evening at 7PM and if you can’t be there, you can watch it on ESPNU. Kevin Stallings wants to see Pitt buy into more things than the offense and taking care of the ball would be chief among them against Louisville’s press. It would also be pretty key if Pitt could keep from going 20+ points down, like the last meeting.

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

Kevin Stallings not convinced Pitt basketball players buying in

Pitt's basketball season has seemed to many of us that it is spiraling out of control. While head coach Kevin Stallings didn't quite say that, if you listened to his recent comments, you have to wonder if this is a team he's on the verge of losing.

Or worse yet - one he's already lost.

Craig Meyer of the Post-Gazette has a fascinating article on recent comments from the Panthers' coach. Stallings, who speaks pretty candidly as it is, didn't hold much back in recent comments to the press. Aside from the freedom on offense, the head coach isn't convinced the team has fully bought in to what he's trying to do.

“Right now, my assessment is the only thing it feels like they’ve bought into 100 percent is freedom on offense,” Stallings said Monday. “Well, anybody could buy into that. That’s not a hard thing to buy into. That’s just human nature. Of course I would like to have freedom on offense. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we have to play defensively. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we need to communicate, the way we need to support each other, the way we have to fight when adversity hits. I haven’t been able to get them to do a number of other things yet the way they have to be done with what we have, with the makeup of our team in this league. That part has been a little frustrating.”

Of particular interest is that the media weren't even the ones that spurred this on. As Meyer notes, he made the comments unprompted. Ouch. To say this has probably been on his mind a lot is likely the understatement of the year.

And while the bulk of the guys playing right now are upperclassmen, Stallings made a point to not let them off the hook. In his words, he thinks they could be doing more in terms of providing leadership.

“The idea in any program is the older guys — especially if they’re the better ones, which they are in our program right now — reach out to their teammates and help bring those guys along and help make those guys better. That part has been a little bit of a disappointment because there’s not a ton of that that goes on. You talk to guys about being more outward and making guys better. That’s just not in their nature. It’s not how they’ve been used to doing things, apparently.”

Double ouch.

Now, as Meyer notes, Stallings isn't completely calling the leadership crummy. Meyer says it's more of the players being a bit more introverted and not vocal leaders. Still, I don't think a comment like that gets made if he feels they are doing all they could do in that department.

One thing no one can accuse Stallings of is not being a straight shooter. And the comments also put some perspective on how much of the recent struggles are on him. By Stallings' account, the players simply aren't listening to him and/or working as hard as he needs them.

While he does have talented players, there's something to be said for that. It doesn't all end with athletic ability and Pitt fans know that better than just about anyone as Jamie Dixon milked his less-talented teams for all they were worth. I think a lot of fans realize that Stallings should have the ability to recruit his own guys and this all sort of underscores that. There's no doubt that this year's group isn't playing as well as they could be but I also see the side from Stallings that says he needs time to bring in his own guys that will, presumably, listen to him a bit more closely.

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.

Panther of the Week: Michael Young

Michael Young reclaimed his status as Panther of the Week with a bounce back performance in Pitt’s loss to NC State.

Michael Young needed a bounce back game in the worst way and so did Pitt. In the end, it wasn’t enough, and the Panthers lost to the Wolfpack. But it was still nice to see Young back in the groove. The senior still sported a protective mask on his face last week, but it was a better fitted mask, and it showed. Young finished with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks.

The game actually started poorly for Young, who missed on his first three field goals. He didn’t actually land a bucket, from the floor, until about six minutes were remaining in the first half. Despite that poor start, the Duquesne native finished hitting on nine shots in 19 attempts and was almost 50% from beyond the arc, going four of nine.

Pitt needs their dynamic duo to be on to have a chance, especially with Ryan Luther still out of action. When you miss one of them badly, like last week, you get a blowout loss to Miami. While this is still an L in the stat sheet for Pitt, it wasn’t the ugly loss the game before. Those can be demoralizing.

Even without the bad loss, it is still a loss and this column is still waiting for a third player to step up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If someone other than Artis or Young lands in this column, it’s either going to be very good or oh, so, so, so very bad. I do have my eye on Sheldon Jeter and Cam Johnson, though. One hustles his butt off on the glass and the other can be lights out from long distance. I’d love to be able to write one of their names in this column, especially if Young and Artis don’t exactly have bad weeks. One can dream.

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

Pat Signal: Kamonte Carter commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a junior-college defensive tackle

Thank you Pittsburgh for blessing me with 3 more years!! Hail 2 Pitt !!!! #H2P #pittisit #412 #panthers #KC6 pic.twitter.com/tyE3nWV9G5— ★$☆ KAM CARTER ☆ $★ (@KAM_7SIETE) January 22, 2017

Kamonte Carter announced today that he has committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Chris Peak of Pantherlair.com was the first one to the story. Carter was on an official visit this weekend and decided to make the call right away rather than waiting as most recruits tend to do.

Kam Carter is a 6’5” 310 pound defensive tackle. He played this past season for East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, MS. If you recognize that school, it was the one highlighted in the acclaimed Netflix documentary “Last Chance U.” While playing for the Lions this season, Carter recorded 36 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception and helped lead EMCC to a 11-1 season.

Carter was a four-star recruit out of high school and signed on to play for Penn State. As a member for the Nittany Lions program, Kam Carter was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. That ultimately took him to Scooba, Mississippi for a shot at redemption.

In addition to an offer from Pitt, Carter had Louisville, Texas, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech extended offers for the three-star defensive tackle. Carter only visited Pitt, and opted to pick a school near his hometown of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Carter becomes the 22nd recruit for the 2017 recruiting class, but there appears to be a silent commitment unnamed at the moment. So technically, maybe Carter is the 23rd. I suppose that is an argument for another day.

Carter is the first defensive tackle for this class, and will likely be expected to compete for playing time next season. Pitt recruited an impressive haul of defensive tackles last season with Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp, and Rashad Wheeler and they too will be in the mix as starters Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto will be graduating.

It appears we are now in the stretch run of recruiting, and signing day is within reach. There will be one more weekend of official visits, and the faxes start to roll in a week from Wednesday. Right now Pitt has 22 known commitments, and it appears another kid is committed to make 23. We’ll see how many more players Pat Narduzzi opts to bring in, as room should be close to running out. Stay tuned for the final week of recruiting, more updates should follow.

Pitt basketball throwback uniforms announced via Twitter

A few days late on this, but Friday was a busy day at work and with temps in the 60s yesterday, you're sadly mistaken if you think I was passing up the opportunity to grill and relax yesterday.

But in case you haven't seen yet, after the enthusiasm around the retro football unis, Pitt's basketball team got throwbacks of its own, as announced a few days ago.

Behold:

#PittRetro pic.twitter.com/8V3REcaBg3 — Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 20, 2017

And here's a still shot of what appears to be the whole uniform. Pitt has not released this shot.

It's unclear to me where this photo came from (aside from general #PittTwitter) but wow, looks like Pitt did it again with throwback jerseys pic.twitter.com/oR1KwV2w43 — Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) January 20, 2017

I'm not sure if the women's basketball team will be getting retros, too. My guess is that they would be included but there hasn't been a mention of them from the women's Twitter account, so I don't know.

What we also don't know yet is when the uniforms will be worn. The Panthers will be wearing black jerseys for their game against Clemson next weekend. But when these throwbacks might be worn hasn't been released yet.

I'm sure these were in the works for some time but it's great that they were put together. The optimism around the basketball program is pretty low right now and keeping the fanbase engaged in any way is needed.

With that said, thoughts on the new look?

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.
Poll How do you feel about Pitt's new retro / alternate jerseys? Best ever - wear them all the time Incredible Good Eh I hate these colors - NO THANK YOU   2 votes | Results

Pitt wrestling coach Jason Peters out as head coach

So, um ... this happened:

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh announced today a leadership change with the Pitt wrestling program effective immediately. Assistant staff members Matt Kocher and Drew Headlee will serve as acting co-head coaches for the balance of the 2017 season. Jason Peters, the Panthers’ head coach since 2013, is no longer with the University. "We will continue to provide our student-athletes and coaches with our full support as they work to achieve the many goals they set for the 2017 season," said Dr. Randy Juhl, who will assume the responsibilities of acting athletic director at the end of this week. A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

The reason for Peters' sudden dismissal seems to be a bit unknown right now. But here's what we know, courtesy of the Pitt News. Some wrestlers reportedly got in some trouble while the team was at the Midlands Championships event a few weeks back. One of those wrestlers, according to the Pitt News, may have been senior Mikey Racciato. And as the article cites, Racciato didn't wrestle this past weekend at the Pitt Duals event (something I wrote in the recap). The Panthers won all three of their duals but Racciato didn't participate.

Peters' involvement right now isn't known. But the fact that Pitt dismissed him so quickly and in the middle of the year doesn't look that great for him.

In the middle of the year. Yep, timing couldn't be much worse. The Panthers are just about to jump into ACC duals and have this mess now hanging over the program. Wonderful.

Compounding the issue, of course, is that Pitt is without an athletics director. Scott Barnes is headed to Oregon State and while Dr. Randy Juhl is the acting athletics director, the school is searching for a permanent hire. The release states that the school's search will begin immediately despite that.

Whoever makes the hire, whether it's Juhl or the new AD, is really inconsequential to me. What I hope most of all is that Pitt goes out and makes a splash hire as they did in men's soccer and (pardon the pun) swimming and diving. The Panthers' wrestling program is in a great recruiting territory and whoever comes here will be in a position where he can have success. The team is currently ranked No. 23 and almost always in the Top 25 mix. Hiring the right coach can help the program take the next step and get them into the discussion as a top ten program.

The good news is that Pitt is in better financial position than they were when they hired Peters. That's not to say he was a terrible hire, only that they have more money this time around. Peters was hired in April 2013 as Pitt's Big East tenure was coming to an end. Now in the ACC, the Panthers should be able to make a quality hire.

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.

Pat Signal: Michael Smith commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a three-star receiver from Florida

PITT IS IT! #H2P #SteelCity17— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) January 18, 2017

For the second straight day, Pitt has landed a football commitment. Michael Smith, a three-star wide receiver from Vero Beach, Florida, has decided to join the 2017 recruiting class. Jerry DiPaola of the Tribune-Review was able to crack the case of the Pat Signal first. Smith himself confirmed it moment ago.

After Talking With My Family, I Have Officially Decided To Commit To The University Of Pittsburgh #H2P #PittIsLit pic.twitter.com/ad20X6vMGB— Michael Smith (@cantguardmike11) January 18, 2017

Michael Smith is a 6’2” 200 pound wide receiver from Vero Beach, Florida. He is graded as a three-star by Rivals.com. He burst onto the recruiting scene late in the process, after a record-breaking senior season in which he caught 24 touchdown passes. In total, he hauled in 66 receptions for 1,556 yards to go along with all those touchdowns while leading Vero Beach to a 12-1 record in Florida’s highly competitive 8A classification.

By virtue of the breakout season, his recruiting profile increased significantly. He chose Pitt over offers from Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Washington State, and Indiana. Perhaps he was sold on Pitt after his official visit, where he got to meet Antonio Brown of the Steelers. His highlights show him to be a big play threat, and one that could see the field early in his career.

Smith now becomes the 21st member of the 2017 recruiting class. He is the third receiver joining fellow Floridian, Dontavius Butler and Darian Street. Smith also becomes the sixth player from Florida in the class, a noticeable emphasis in this staff’s recruiting efforts.

Today marks 14 days until signing day, and Pitt still is after a number of players. There will be two more official visit weekends before February 1, so stay tuned for more updates to sprout up over the next few weeks.

Pitt defeated by North Carolina State, 79-74

Another game, another loss, amirite?

Pitt dropped its fourth straight basketball game tonight - this time to North Carolina State on the road, 79-74.

The Panthers were again sort of a mess in the first half. The struggles, at least, didn't last the entire way through and the team did get a little hotter earlier. But the start was again a slow one as Pitt had 12 points in the first 10+ minutes before finally getting going.

That Maverick Rowan guy is getting to be even more of a pest. He had 21 points and his play in the second half was one of the things that propelled the Wolfpack to victory. Former Pitt recruit. grumble, grumble.

Aside from depth, Pitt's problems are two-fold at this point. The defense isn't good enough and the slow starts continue to plague this team. The Panthers simply are not good enough to spot teams a full 10 or 20 minutes of bad play. Even though they trailed by only one at halftime, they wasted about ten minutes when they could have built up a lead going into the break. North Carolina State wasn't all that impressive in the first half but then they started raining three-pointers in the second half, and that's your ball game. The stagnant starts are beyond frustrating at this point.

The lone encouraging thing for me tonight was seeing the return of Michael Young. Young had his best game in some time with a game-high 25 points on 9-19 shooting. The mask that seemed to hurt him so much in the Miami game was replaced with a better model and it seems to have made a world of difference. Young, too, was probably feeling a little better with some more rest. But it appears he should again be a factor for Pitt, so that's great news, obviously.

Yesterday, I wrote about Pitt's lineup options with Young injured and Ryan Luther out for a couple of weeks with an injury. Of the three options I presented, head coach Kevin Stallings went in a different direction and simply chose to run the starters as much as he possibly could. All of the starters other than Jamel Artis played over 35 minutes and Artis played 34. The bench was a complete non-factor with Justice Kithcart, Damon Wilson, and Corey Manigault playing a combined 18 minutes and registering only one shot.

I don't really mind that strategy, to be honest. Pitt's starters are by far and away the best players with Luther out so playing them as much as possible is fine by me as long as those guys aren't getting worn out. No issues there from my vantage point. I just didn't think Stallings would necessarily go in that direction. But with a close game mostly the entire time, it was also probably difficult to take those guys out.

What I just can't shake the thought that this just doesn't appear to be a desperate team. As I said in the Miami game, Pitt needed that one and they needed this one even more. The bad turnovers, the horrible perimeter defense, etc., are all things the team can't afford to be doing right now. For the life of me, I don't understand the lack of urgency. Now, when you're playing 35 plus minutes a game, you can't exactly go all out every single play. But I just would expect things to be a little tighter, cleaner. Like every possession counts. You don't really get that sense.

One thing that's been brought up quite a bit is the coaching. Many fans believe that Jamie Dixon would have this team in a better position and probably just as many aren't so sure. But a couple of coaching related things stood out to me tonight that I thought were worth a mention.

First, Kevin Stallings' approach, without a doubt, is to let his players play the game. There was a lot of talk in the offseason about Pitt's players being glad to have the shackles off, so to speak. Under Stallings, they wouldn't be afraid to make mistakes for fear of being taken out of the game, etc. That playing a freer style would ultimately make them better. Well, halfway through the season I think we can safely say that's a load of crap. Even the most ardent Dixon haters couldn't reasonably say that Dixon's style would result in worse play. Under this system, the players may feel like they have more freedom but the idea that a looser, more happy-go-lucky system would make this team thrive is just silly at this point. That's not a voice saying that Dixon's teams hadn't plateaued - they had. But I can't with a straight face pretend like this philosophy of letting guys just play is working out.

Perhaps a freer style would work better with a different group of players. But under Stallings where there is seemingly less 'structure', I simply don't see how that has benefited the team this season.

Second, one coaching thing in this game that I found curious was how Pitt approached the final minute of play. The Panthers had just finished giving up another lead and trailed by three points with a little over a minute to play. The emphasis, very clearly, should have been that the team does not need a three-point shot. Instead, Pitt seemed determined from the get go to make sure they would get a three-pointer off. Sheldon Jeter took a three-pointer that was mostly contested and it was a pretty poor shot. The very next trip down the court, still trailing by three, Jamel Artis threw up a three-pointer.

I had less of a problem with Artis' shot, but here's the thing - with about 15 seconds or so left, instead of shooting a three, they took the ball to the basket. Why not try that earlier instead? Pitt actually nearly got a break with the late turnover that gave them another chance to tie things up at the end, but that seemed like the players either weren't told not to force a shot, or they simply didn't listen. There was no reason for Pitt to rush a three-point shot, particularly in the case of Jeter's attempt.

I'll have more on this later but at this point, if Pitt wants to make the NCAA Tournament, they're either going to need a pretty deep ACC Tournament run or pull off a few big upsets to really boost their resume. Losing games against the Syracuses, Miamis, and North Carolina States of the world isn't going to do it. From here on out, Pitt cannot simply win the games they should (which, if we're being honest, I don't even know how many of those there are) and lose to the better teams. They'll need some big upsets over some very good teams to get in.

There just doesn't seem to be any hope in sight. Clemson at home? I mean, I guess. But when you see Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, and a top ten Florida State team (wut?) still on the schedule, it's hard to have too much excitement right now. The good thing for Pitt in all honesty is that they have that many quality wins still available on the schedule. But at this point, Pitt not only needs to grab a few of those but also win the games against the weaker teams.

And right now, they're not even doing that.

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.

Pat Signal: Jason Pinnock commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a three-star cornerback

Pinnock to Pittsburgh. ✌ #412 pic.twitter.com/VPNj7WViH6— Jason (@Jason_Pinnock) January 17, 2017

Jason Pinnock just announced via Twitter that he is committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Pinnock is a 6’1” 190 pound cornerback from Windsor, Connecticut. He is graded as a three-star by Rivals, while just a two-star by Scout, ESPN, and 24-7. Pinnock was initially a member of the Boston College recruiting class, but de-committed shortly after a Pitt offer. After visiting this past weekend, Pitt was able to close the deal.

In addition to his Pitt and Boston College offers, UConn also offered, but he was receiving high interest from Notre Dame. Many suspected a Notre Dame offer could be nearing, but Pinnock opted to shut down his recruitment today.

Pinnock is a rare recruit for Pitt from the state of Connecticut, or New England in general. Rivals calls him the 8th best player in the Constitution State. He helped lead his Windsor High School team to a 12-1 season in 2016. Pinnock led his team on offense with 59 receptions, 1,172 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Still his impact on defense was also equal or more important. He posted 7 interceptions and recovered three fumbles and displays great coverage skills in his Hudl highlights.

Pinnock now becomes the 20th recruit in the 2017 class. He joins Damarri Mathis as the second corner in the class. As we saw with this past season, Pitt really needs to add depth and talent to the position. Pinnock will have a chance at early playing time, but a redshirt seems most likely for next season.

We are now two weeks away from signing day, and Pitt still has plenty of work to do. There are two more official visit weekends coming up, and Pat Narduzzi and his staff will need to lock down 4-5 more recruits, at least.

Brawl breaks out during college basketball game in Memphis

A brawl broke out during the Lemoyne-Owen College vs. Lane College basketball game on Saturday, January 14th in Memphis, Tennessee. 

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 Police said no ambulances were called to the scene nor was a police report filed. 

No one was taken into custody. 

Both colleges are investigating. 

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