Originally written on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 11/15/14
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The game is on ESPNU at 7pm. Work schedule is out of whack at the moment. Heading in for the night, which means DVR delay and shunning all media to avoid anything on the game. While there is no official word, Travon Woodall pronounced himself all ready to play tonight’s game. Woodall, however, doesn’t get the final say. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon knew when Woodall went down that he was going to have to play the rest of the game without him. UPMC’s approach to treating concussions or possible concussions is cautious. Players must be without symptoms for 24 hours to run and for 48 hours before contact. A year ago, Dante Taylor missed two games with concussion-like symptoms, and Talib Zanna was not allowed back in a game against Cincinnati after getting hit in the head. “If the doctors feel he can’t play, even though he thinks he can play, he can’t play,” Dixon said. “We’re at the forefront of concussions and how to deal with them. We err on the side of caution. There’s no question that’s where we’re at and rightfully so.” Woodall did not experience any symptoms Sunday or Monday. He went through some conditioning and other drills at practice Monday and will practice today with contact if there are no symptoms. He said he expects to play Wednesday night against Villanova when the Panthers travel to Philadelphia. There has been no word one way or another. Hopefully he is not having any problems. Just as important — regardless of whether he plays or not — I just want him to be honest with the doctors. His longterm health is more important. The surprisingly competent play by Zeigler in the loss got noticed as one of the few good things from the Marquette game. Several pieces hitting on it and his struggles. “It’s been an adjustment period trying figure what Coach wants me to do,” Zeigler said. “It’s a new role for me, so, of course, there is going to be an adjustment period. I’m just trying to figure out what I need to do to help this team. I’m trying to do my best.” Zeigler was expected to earn a starting job before the season began, but freshman James Robinson surprised the coaching staff and earned the starting point guard duties, pushing senior Tray Woodall to shooting guard. That decision relegated Zeigler to an unaccustomed bench role. He started as a freshman and sophomore for Central Michigan and averaged 16 points per game. He is averaging 4.6 points in fewer than 15 minutes a game for the Panthers. Truth be told, Zeigler hasn’t given Dixon much reason to change his rotation. He has struggled with turnovers and outside shooting. He has more turnovers per minute than any player and has not made a 3-point attempt (0 for 3). As I’ve mentioned before, Zeigler getting that waiver to play right away did not work out the way anyone hoped. Rather than have an immediate impact as hoped, he has struggled with the adjustment to this system. He has had to learn a lot more on the fly since he can’t just practice. The impact has visibly affected his confidence during the games. The hope being that the Marquette loss at least marked a turning point for Zeigler. I think he‘s playing better, getting better,” Dixon said, “and that‘s what we had hoped as the year started.” When Zeigler struggled to score, his minutes were reduced to 7.7 through the first three Big East games. He showed signs of progress by scoring seven points in eight minutes at Georgetown. Now, Pitt is hoping Zeigler can use his slashing ability to draw defenses and find an open man. “I think the Big East, it‘s just being comfortable in our offense, being able to pick my spots and being more aggressive,” Zeigler said. “The last two games, I‘ve been a lot more aggressive and trying to make plays, not only for myself but my teammates.” The Panthers believe the better Zeigler is, the more dangerous they will be. “He‘s poised and he handles whatever situation that‘s thrown at him,” Woodall said. “He‘s definitely a guy we‘re thankful to have. With his development, we‘re that much more of a threat.” As for the Villanova game. They have been shaky to start the season (to put it kindly). They had a stretch where they lost 4 of 5, including losses to Columbia and LaSalle but have looked better as the season progressed. The Wildcats rank third in 3-pointers made (6.3) and have a sharpshooter in Ryan Arcidiacono, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard who has made at least one trey every game, three or more in six games and had seven 3s in a 32-point effort against St. John‘s. In that sense, Villanova compares favorably to its Final Four team. “This team could maybe shoot a little bit better,” said Pitt fifth-year senior point guard Tray Woodall, who is expected to return from a concussion sustained in Saturday‘s 74-67 overtime loss to Marquette. “The point guard shoots it probably as good as Scottie Reynolds used to shoot it. We‘ve just got to be ready and be aware.” More concerning is that, through three Big East games, Villanova leads the conference in rebounding (43 per game), offensive rebounding (16.7) and rebounding margin (plus-9.7). The Panthers have lost the battle of the boards in all three of their league losses, and know that they can‘t afford many more defeats if they hope to qualify for an NCAA Tournament berth after having their 10-year streak of tournament appearances broken last season. “That‘s simply what I‘ve been saying all year long,” Dixon said. “It hasn‘t cost us until these last three games that we lost — we won the rebounding when we beat Georgetown — and the numbers don‘t lie. We need to get it done. I think it starts with our defense, too.” At the same time, their two Big East wins came against St. John’s and USF. St. John’s or perhaps 8-8 Purdue would constitute their best win of the season. So, I’m not sure what to expect from Villanova. Which is only fair, since I’m not sure what to expect from Pitt.
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