Yes, it is early to start obsessing about a game nearly a week away. No, I cannot help myself.
The city of Pittsburgh is an industrial blight on the beautiful rolling hills of Pennsylvania. Last year, the team wasn't much prettier.
Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon is a defense and rebounding kind of guy. A Tom Izzo kind of coach, if you will. Last year Pittsburgh wasn't all that great at defense and rebounding. They went 5-13 in the Big East, and missed the tournament.
Thing is, they didn't give up. They Janestowned it.
Those poor mudders accepted an invite to the lowly CBI, and the extra practice time that went with it. And a funny thing happened while they were preparing and playing meaningless games. They got better. They went on to beat a couple of pretty decent teams in Butler and Washington State on the way to a CBI championship. Which...yeah. It wasn't a glorious road, but they took it.
This year their leading scorer Ashton Gibbs is gone, but if you can believe it the Panthers are playing better basketball. Much of that improvement is centered around Tray Woodall, who missed most of last season with abdominal injuries.
Tray Woodall has picked up much of the scoring load, and in the last two games the Panthers outrebounded their opponents 71-40, and held their opponents to an average of 52 points. Their games are a little slower, averaging 10-15 fewer possessions than Michigan. Mudder basketball is back.
Aside from tough man defense and rebounding, there is one fantastic player to worry about. As 5'th year senior PG Tray Woodall goes, so go the Panthers. His matchup with Burke will be a fantastic one. They're both the total package-shooter, slasher, passer defender. Its going to be fun.
The Panthers start another point guard, this one 4* freshman James Robinson, primarily so that Woodall can focus more on scoring and less on getting the ball up the court. To this point Robinson really hasn't shot the ball much or accumulated a lot of assists. On rare occasions when he has looked for his shot he has been pretty effective...but this is Woodall's show.
6'9" F/C Dante Taylor is the Panther's best rebounder, pulling down 10 boards or so a game. Last year Taylor was the primary center, but this year he is losing minutes to
7' 5* freshman center Steve Adams of New Zealand. Adams is a shot blocker and a fair rebounder, but at this point in his development he scores most of his points by way of put-backs. They're not running a lot of plays for him(again, Woodall's show).
6'5" Jr. wing Lamar Patterson, 6'9" Jr Forward Talib Zanna, and 6'6" Jr Forward J.J. Moore provide supplimental scoring punch, all depending on who has the hot hand.
Michigan's coaches will be treated to a familiar face on Wednesday...
That's right, former Michigan recruit Trey Zeigler. Way back in 2010 Zeigler shunned Beilein's dream of starting an entire squad made up of guys named "Trey" in order to spend another year with his old man at CMU. (Just for old time's sake, take a walk down memory lane with me...http://mgoblog.com/content/hello-tim-hardaway-jr Yes...that was you lamenting taking Hardaway when Zeigler was still out there...you know what they say about hindsight). Not surprisingly, the guy still shoots 50% from the charity stripe. (Ernie had 18 years to fix his set shot, you think a couple more at CMU were going to make a difference?)
And for the 15 or so minutes he sees against Michigan, I fully support a hack-a-Trey philosophy. Well...only if they're already in the bonus...
All in all this should be an excellent test for Michigan. Pitt basically plays B1G basketball in the Big East(well, for one more year--next year the Panthers join the ACC). They play tough defense, they rebound your misses...they're mudders. Michigan had better value the basketball. They had better knock down their shots. Because as Bill Self found out recently...If you let a mudder hang around long enough, they may just jump up and bite you in the end.
It's everybody's favorite non-pollutionary, anti-institutionary, pro-confectionary conference conundrum...
I've got a real good question for you:
If money is the driving force behind Big Ten expansion, and academics are the official sticking point, and the Big Ten Network makes this conference so attractive that almost any team would be in for joining, who is really a potential expansion candidate now?
This Has All Been Chewed Before
Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile
But it's repulsive, revolting, and wrong
Chewing and chewing all day long
I realize I'm not exactly the first person to start talking about Big Ten Expansion. But this isn't just any old stick of gum: this gum has an entire meal in it. You probably won't learn anything new here, but you'll get some information to back up what we already know.
This diary is a look at current FBS (formerly Division I-A) teams that might be considered for Big Ten Expansion, and others that might fit the academic profile, even if there's no way they would join the Big Ten.
When expansion to 12 or 14 teams was the modus operandi, this blog reviewed the leading candidates. However, with even 24 teams having been mentioned by NCAA people (by which I mean "Just Tom Osborne"), the field has grown.
The question: are there that many schools out there that fit the conference's academic profile, or at least close enough the Big Ten can continue to claim itself the most academic FBS conference?
In reality, there is a clear cutoff: does the school match the criteria to join the American Association of Universities?* and the Big Ten's own little version of that, the CIC. There are currently 63 members, but I would imagine a Big Ten addition not already part of the AAU would be able to join, if it matches the academic criteria. Therefore, the lower bound of AAU membership is the functional lower bound of Big Ten expansion consideration.
To find out who has a golden ticket, follow me, overjoyed, enraptured, entranced. Are we ready? Yes, good. In we go.
* If not, MaizeAndBlueWahoo is going to neg me.
Great article by The Wolverine Blog reviewing all of the things that may or may not make Pitt fit in the Big Ten.
So I checked around to see if this had been brought up in the older threads but I didn't see it so I figure I'd point this out: apparently part of the Pitt to Big10 rumors suggest Pitt would join as a football only member. Here's where I saw it:
I don't know how to link to individual tweets but here's the one I saw:
@Bignup412 rumor going around that it might just be football in the big ten, no hoops
it is just a radio host but I'd say thus far his rumor has just as mmuch credibility as the original
Twitter activity and several blogs are reporting that as early as this week, it may be announced that Pitt is coming to the Big 10. According to rumors Pitt athletes have already been notified of the move. See the link below for more info.
Note I did search several newspapers for something confirming, and found nothing at this time, but still worth mentioning. If anyone has additional info, please share.
Interesting article on the potential ramifications should the Big Ten expand:
EDIT: Forgot to mention that Bill Martin features, FWIW.