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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

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.

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

Pitt said to be in the running for Notre Dame transfer quarterback Malik Zaire

We've lamented quite a bit about Pitt's quarterback situation for next season. Not that it's guaranteed to be bad, only uncertain. With starter Nathan Peterman out of eligibility, Pitt is likely to experience some growing pains with the current roster, no matter who would win the job.

The Panthers, though, might be in the mix to add a little bit of experience via a potential transfer in Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire. Zaire will be a graduate transfer and, like Peterman was, would be eligible to play right away. He will have one year of eligibility left.

Plenty of schools are likely to be interested, of course. Scout says Pitt is among a group that includes Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan State (though the Spartans have been apparently ruled out since they play Notre Dame next year).

So what makes the Panthers look like a potential destination? Well, in addition to the obvious chance for immediate playing time, 247 says he has a relationship with Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Ordinarily, that in and of itself would be attractive. But factor in how well Pitt's offense performed under Canada this season, and it has to make the Panthers even more on Zaire's radar.

And about that competition, SB Nation sees a few more roadblocks to playing time at Florida and Wisconsin than at Pitt. One of them, ironically, is Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who was of course a Pitt commit before Paul Chryst left for the Badgers. Funny how that works out.

Zaire would give Pitt some much-needed experience - but not a ton of it. After playing sparingly in 2014, he was named the Irish's starter in 2015. He had a huge game against Texas (19-22 for 313 yards and three touchdowns) in the opener, but was injured in the second game and missed the rest of the year. This year, he played a little but lost his starting job.

In all, he's thrown fewer than 100 college passes for a total of only 816 yards. Still, there's obviously enough promise there that he will be a hot commodity.

I don't know what Pitt's chances truly are for landing Zaire. Even if Michigan State is out of the running, Florida and Wisconsin both are strong programs. But at the very least, it seems as if the Panthers have his attention. If Pitt does manage to land him, you have to think they will have the look of a preseason Top 25 team. They already might be anyway, but adding a quality quarterback to the mix makes them even stronger.

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.

ACC Bowl Projection Roundup, Pre-Championship Week

Consensus wisdom has the Panthers in the Sun Bowl (against Stanford or Utah) or the Pinstripe Bowl (against a Big Ten team) with less than a week to go before invitations get sent out.

With regular ACC play concluded, eleven of the fourteen teams in the conference (all but Virginia, Duke, and Syracuse) have reached the six-win plateau needed to go bowling. Clemson, barring a loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, is expected to go the playoff, but from there it’s a shuffle - opinion is split between whether Florida State or Louisville will go to the Orange Bowl, and it ripples out further from there.

There is a remote possibility for a Backyard Brawl in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Many fans may enjoy seeing that.

Notre Dame is eligible for the ACC's bowl tie-ins, but is not included here because they went 4-8 and aren’t going bowling. I've included bowl payouts (source) as a metric of the prestige of the bowl, to remind us all of the inextricable link between commerce and nominally "amateur" athletics, and because the gift suites are probably better at the nicer bowls. Bowl payouts are not included for the playoff games and selection committee bowls because they are still to be determined. I’ve included “last Pitt visit” for additional selection context.

Projections Used

College Football PlayoffDecember 31st/Atlanta or Glendale, AZLast Pitt Visit: Never

  • Clemson vs. Ohio State (FOX, ESPN-1, ESPN-2, SI, SN, CFN, Ath, CBS, USA)
  • Clemson vs. Washington (SBN)

Orange BowlDecember 30th/MiamiLast Pitt Visit: Never

  • Louisville vs. Michigan (SBN, ESPN-2, SI)
  • Florida State vs. Michigan (FOX, ESPN-1, SN, CFN, Ath, CBS, USA)

Citrus BowlDecember 31st/Orlando/$4,250,000Last Pitt Visit: 1978

  • Florida State vs. LSU (ESPN-2, SI)
  • Louisville vs. Florida (SN, CBS)
  • Louisville vs. LSU (FOX, ESPN-1, Ath, USA)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Florida (CFN)
  • Virginia Tech vs. LSU (SBN)

TaxSlayer BowlDecember 31st/Jacksonville/$2,750,000Last Pitt Visit: 1980

  • Georgia Tech vs. Arkansas (ESPN-2)
  • Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky (FOX, ESPN-1)
  • Miami vs. Arkansas (SI, USA)
  • Miami vs. Kentucky (Ath)
  • Miami vs. Georgia (CFN)
  • Miami vs. Tennessee (SBN)
  • North Carolina vs. Tennessee (CBS)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Texas A&M (SN)

Russell Athletic BowlDecember 28th/Orlando/$2,275,000Last Pitt Visit: 2001

  • Florida State vs. West Virginia (SBN)
  • Louisville vs. West Virginia (CFN)
  • Miami vs. West Virginia (FOX, ESPN-1, ESPN-2)
  • North Carolina vs. Oklahoma State (SN)
  • BACKYARD BRAWL (Ath)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (SI, CBS)
  • Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia (USA)

Sun BowlDecember 30th/El Paso, TX/$2,150,000Last Pitt Visit: 2008

  • Georgia Tech vs. Stanford (SI, SN, Ath)
  • Georgia Tech vs. Utah (CBS)
  • Pitt vs. Stanford (FOX, SBN, CFN)
  • Pitt vs. Utah (ESPN-1, ESPN-2, USA)

Pinstripe BowlDecember 28th/Bronx, NY/$2,000,000Last Pitt Visit: Never

  • Georgia Tech vs. Maryland (SBN)
  • Georgia Tech vs. Northwestern (CFN, USA)
  • North Carolina vs. Iowa (ESPN-2)
  • North Carolina vs. Maryland (Ath)
  • North Carolina vs. Minnesota (ESPN-1)
  • North Carolina vs. Northwestern (FOX)
  • Pitt vs. Northwestern (SI, SN, CBS)

Belk BowlDecember 29th/Charlotte/$1,700,000Last Pitt Visit: 2009

  • North Carolina vs. Arkansas (CFN)
  • North Carolina vs. Kentucky (SBN, USA)
  • North Carolina vs. Tennessee (SI)
  • Miami vs. Arkansas (CBS)
  • Miami vs. South Carolina (SN)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas (FOX, ESPN-1, Ath)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky (ESPN-2)

Independence BowlDecember 26th/Shreveport, LA/$1,200,000Last Pitt Visit: Never

  • NC State vs. Georgia (SN)
  • NC State vs. Vanderbilt (SBN, SI, USA)
  • Wake Forest vs. Georgia (ESPN-1)
  • Wake Forest vs. South Carolina (CFN, Ath)
  • Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt (FOX, ESPN-2)

Quick Lane BowlDecember 26th/Detroit/$1,200,000Last Pitt Visit: Never - the Quick Lane Bowl is not the Little Caesars Bowl

  • Boston College vs. Maryland (FOX, ESPN-1, ESPN-2, SI, CBS)
  • Boston College vs. Northwestern (SBN, Ath)
  • Wake Forest vs. Maryland (SN, USA)

Military BowlDecember 27th/Annapolis, MD/$1,000,000Last Pitt Visit: 2015

  • Boston College vs. Temple (USA)
  • NC State vs. Houston (CFN, Ath)
  • NC State vs. Temple (FOX, ESPN-1, ESPN-2)
  • Wake Forest vs. Houston (SBN)
  • Wake Forest vs. Temple (SI)

St. Petersburg BowlDecember 26th/St. Petersburg, FL/$537,500Last Pitt Visit: Never

  • Boston College vs. South Florida (SN, CFN)
  • Wake Forest vs. South Florida (CBS)
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. @N_THEYSTAYTHERE expected more.

UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S2 Ep10)

Corey and Jim discuss Pitt Football's 76-61 win over Syracuse, a season wrap-up on 2016, options for bowl game destinations, and Pitt Basketball's double digit win at Maryland.

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen welcomes Jim Hammett to discuss Pitt Football's 76-61 win over Syracuse, a season wrap-up on 2016, options for bowl game destinations, and Pitt Basketball's double digit win at Maryland.

Pitt holds on for 73-59 win against Maryland in ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Pitt raced out to a big lead against Maryland and in the end, held on for a somewhat comfortable 73-59 win in their ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Maryland came into the game a four-point favorite or so, and that seemed about right. They were 7-0, had a couple of decent wins, and had the game at home. So when Pitt went up 45-24 at halftime, I don't think anyone expected that.

As I said in the gamethread, I expected the Terrapins to make a run after that. The Panthers got the lead up to 25 in the second and, well, Maryland did make a run. But while things got a little dicey, they didn't get any closer than eight.

Sure, it would have been nice to see Pitt hold that 20 point lead and absolutely run away with it, but you had to imagine at some point, Maryland would hit some shots. This wasn't a complete mismatch of talent so seeing Maryland make a game of things wasn't surprising. Plus, a lot of people will talk about Pitt's defense and I think that is a little misguided. Seth Greenberg said that after the game and talked about the defense being the key. The Panthers played okay defensively, but in reality, Maryland missed a boatload of wide open, uncontested shots and they shot under 35% for the game. If they were even halfway decent in knocking down shots, it's a much closer game.

That's to take nothing away from Pitt. The energy was there tonight and the effort was solid at both ends of the court. I criticized the team a little in a recent game for their offensive shot selection. I thought they did an outstanding job getting great shots. Young and Artis got to the basket and the jump shots the entire team took were largely uncontested. I have little doubt that Kevin Stallings emphasized that in practice because I think it was their best shot selection all season. It was very impressive how Pitt came out and played as a whole.

Pitt got great games from, you guessed it, Michael Young and Jamel Artis. Young had 25 points and nine rebounds, leading the team in both categories. Artis had 22 points, six boards, and a pair of steals. Greenberg made a good point after the game in asking if Artis would really be able to do what he needed to at the point down the stretch. The one thing that drove me a little nuts was how he was pretty loose with the ball on occasion. Twice, he nearly fell victim to over-and-back calls, coming close to going across the halfcourt line. That's really my only criticism and if you're grading Artis tonight, he gets an A instead of an A+. No real biggie.

I wanted to touch a little more on Young since it was a good game against a quality team. A lot of people expect his scoring to simply drop off once the competition gets better, but as I said before, we'll have to see how much that happens. The fact is that he and Artis get so many shots per game that his numbers might not even suffer that much. He may get a little less efficient (and truthfully, he had some problems getting buckets in the last ten minutes) but there's a very real chance he ends up being a 20-point scorer per game all the way through the year.

And of course, he's not only scoring. He leads the team in rebounds, too, and one oft-overlooked thing is his free throw shooting. He didn't get the easy buckets he sometimes does late in the game tonight, but he made his free throws, shooting 9-10. He's over 86% on the year as a center (let that sink in) and you don't need me to tell you that's a huge advantage. Whenever your team's best scorer is also a great free throw shooter, that's a tremendous deal since he can't be fouled intentionally late in games.

It was easy watching Young and Artis beating up on weaker competition. But I'm not so sure that will end even once they get into ACC play. The question, as has been stated more than it needs to be, is how much they get from the rest of the team.

Really big win for Pitt tonight and technically, it's a ranked win. The Terps were ranked 22nd in the USA Today Coaches Poll and while unranked in the AP poll, they were just outside at No. 26. The win against them should draw some attention nationally for the program.

Pitt is now 2-1 in their tougher games against Maryland, SMU, and Marquette. It's pretty hard not to be happy with that. The great news is that while Pitt has some challenging non-con games left against rivals Duquesne and Penn State, that the toughest part is now behind them. They have a long way to go, obviously, but finishing the non-conference schedule with a 12-1 record is a possibility. And given the number of decent opponents, that would be outstanding.

In the words of Chris Jericho, Drink it in, man.

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.

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