Originally posted on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 8/23/13
I know, I know. College football starts in less than a week. In nine days Pitt’s season begins. But yesterday was a rather busy day for basketball stuff so it’s time to put it out there along with some other things in the tabs. In player news, Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall got NCAA clearance for immediate eligibility at Pitt. This was considered a mere formality since other Rutgers transfershad already been granted immediate eligibility. “It obviously gives us a big body, an experienced guy,” Dixon said. “We thought he could be a really valuable addition, especially after losing a guy in March.” With center Steven Adams in NBA, Pitt planned to use power forward Talib Zanna, a 6-9 senior, in the post. Randall, a center or power forward, averaged 2.1 points and 1.5 rebounds as a sophomore. “He didn’t put up big numbers, but I think he has some strength,” Dixon said. “He could be very good defensively, and he could be a very good rebounder. It gives us flexibility. It gives us the possibility of having five big guys and the versatility to go small or big.” Randall is 6-8, 250 pounds. No one is expecting him to be a huge difference maker, but a good role player. He gives Pitt some needed depth inside for the next two years. Randall is a low-risk, moderate-reward pick-up. In other player news, Kevin Gorman of the Trib tweeted that freshman shooting guard Detrick Mostella is still coming to Pitt. He hasn’t (and won’t) sign an NLI but will be attending and playing at Pitt. He has apparently had some family issues that kept him from getting to the campus this past week. And then there is Sheldon Jeter. Speculation had grown in the last week that he would be attending a junior college for a year. That way he could accept a full scholarship the following year. He has done exactly that. Jeter, a former star at Beaver Falls High School, is at Polk State College, a junior college in Winter Haven, Fla. Jeter is taking classes at Polk, but will not play basketball this season. … Polk coach Matt Furjanic, former coach at Robert Morris, said Jeter has re-opened his recruiting. Furjanic, who has been at Polk for 14 years, said Jeter does not have academic problems, and, if he graduates in the spring from Polk, Jeter can accept a full scholarship to any college, including Pitt. By not playing this season at Polk, Jeter will have three years eligibility remaining. He is permitted to practice at Polk. Jeter has ties to Polk. His cousin, Brock Van Lier, is entering his second season there as a player after playing two years at Beaver Falls. Another cousin, Ramone Shepherd, is a student-coach at Polk. His cousin Lance Jeter also attended Polk before transferring to Nebraska. Quite the volume of family ties at Polk. The decision not to play at Polk is interesting, though. It’s a move designed to give him three years of eligibility at his next school (Pitt). Being able to practice with the team will be important, but Jeter will have a lionshare of the responsibility for his conditioning and staying sharp. As noted yesterday, we finally have the full schedule for Pitt. Non-con and ACC. There are some stretches that are tougher than others, as expected with an unbalanced schedule. As if playing an ACC schedule isn’t challenging enough, Pitt has three short turnarounds that add to its difficulty. It follows a noon Saturday game at N.C. State with a 7 p.m. Monday game against Maryland; a 6 p.m. Saturday game at Maryland with a 7 p.m. Monday game against Duke; and a 2 p.m. Saturday game at Notre Dame with a 9 p.m. Monday game against N.C. State. “You’re going to have some of those,” Dixon said. “A while back, I recognized that this isn’t going to be easy. … We’re in the best conference in the country. That’s a good thing to be part of.” This is really nothing new. The TV demands the best games for the weekend and Monday nights so there will be plenty of that kind of scheduling happening to all the better teams in the conference. Just take a look at the full ACC schedule if you doubt it (PDF). It is clear that the ACC basketball schedule did not generate the same excitement that the ACC football schedule did. Partly because we all knew about the Big Monday Duke game. But also, the simple fact that despite all the warts on the old Big East; the basketball was always top notch. So, the ACC schedule is nice but not a completely different animal. “It is more of the same in terms of being a part of the best conference in the country, some are saying the best collection of teams in history,” Dixon said. Been there. Done that. The primary talking points had to do with the non-con and trips to NYC. “Our non-conference schedule covers a lot of the things we needed to get done, it enabled us to play some rivalry games in Duquesne and Penn State and play some different styles of teams and, of course, play in some great tournaments as well. “I think it is great when you look at the names of the teams and realize what some of them have accomplished in terms of winning over the course of the last 100 years of college basketball. And I think that playing on national television is something you can never take for granted, so it says a lot about what we are trying to accomplish that we have so many opportunities.” Pitt’s first trip to New York will be Nov. 25-26 when the Panthers compete in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Pitt will play Texas Tech Nov. 25 then either Stanford or Houston Nov. 26 in consolation or championship game. The Panthers second trip to New York will be Dec. 17 when they play Cincinnati as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m.) as part of a doubleheader that also will pit Florida against Memphis. “We are going to try to continue to play in New York City as much as we can,” Dixon said. “I think part of that is the best events are in New York and the fact that we’ve been invited to play in two of them this year is great for our program.” Dixon also said that the inability to schedule Robert Morris was out of his control. Not sure I buy that. In fact it would seem that scheduling RMU over the students’ winter break would be a smarter play as it is more likely to bring in a local crowd. Last week, ESPN.com had their “summer shootaround” series hit on the ACC. Jay Bilas did a power ranking (Insider subs). and put Pitt 6th in the conference. 6. Pittsburgh Panthers After a one-season absence from the NCAA tournament, Pittsburgh returned to form in 2012-13 with a 24-9 record and tourney bid. From a pure numbers perspective, the Panthers were very efficient on both ends of the floor and got more out of its personnel than any other team in the Big East. Jamie Dixon lost Steven Adams to the NBA, Tray Woodall to graduation and J.J. Moore and Trey Zeigler to transfer. However, Dixon returns versatile wing Lamar Patterson and guards James Robinson and Cam Wright. Dixon has some quality freshmen, but expect the veteran players to log the majority of the minutes and carry the majority of the responsibility. Pittsburgh will bring a hard-nosed style of play to the ACC. The Panthers should be a top 10 team in the conference. Have to disagree with a chunk of the sentiment. Freshmen and redshirt freshmen are going to have a significant impact. Mike Young will be starting at power forward. Chris Jones and James Newkirk are going to be out there. As for the teams Bilas put ahead of Pitt, no real surprise: Duke, Syracuse, UNC, ND and Virginia. As an aside, assuming this holds true, I can’t wait for the slew of stories. Some triumphant. Some hand-wringing about how the Big East’s slower tempo is taking over the ACC. Cuse, ND, UVa and Pitt are all in the lower half of tempo. In the best case/worst case for Pitt, well it is a sign of the respect for the program (or an indication that the bottom of the ACC is actually pretty bad) that they aren’t exactly putting the floor that low. Pittsburgh Best case: Like its fellow lost Big East travelers at Notre Dame and Syracuse, you almost always know what you’re going to get from Pitt: lots of hard-nosed physical play, very good offense and tons of offensive rebounds. With the lion’s share of Jamie Dixon’s trademark front-line bruisers back plus incoming standout Mike Young (whom scouts love for having an actual post game, a rarity among talented young bigs), the Panthers will present a constant stylistic challenge to the finesse-oriented denizens of the ACC. Worst case: Still a top-half team in the league. Unless there’s some sort of adjustment period involving officiating styles — which some fans have raised as a concern; I’m not convinced — it’s hard to slot Dixon’s team any lower than that. And a top-half ACC team is still going to the NCAA Tournament.
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