Bulls Recon: Chatting Pitt Panther Basketball with PittScript Blog

With the Bulls taking Pittsburgh on Sunday, we took a moment to chat with PittScript Blog. We talk about Pitt's weird season, conference realignment, and a kiwi.

1. In the previous game, which is only 11 days before this contest, USF really focused on shutting down Ashton Gibbs, Pitt's leading scorer. Gibbs averages 16.7 ppg, but USF held him to only four points. What adjustments can the Panthers make to get him some better looks?

The biggest factor to Gibbs' success during a game is how much respect the other guard is demanding from the defense. Gibbs' 10-11 success was partly thanks to Brad Wanamaker demanding so much attention from the defense, leaving Ashton with enough space to get a shot off. Tray Woodall is playing very inconsistently right now and that's allowing defenses to key in on Gibbs, who struggles when he's forced to create his own shot.

2. Bulls fans should look longingly at Pitt's 11-2 non-conference record (USF was 7-6). However, the roles have reversed in conference play. Pitt had solid wins over Tennessee, Oklahoma St and LaSalle; what happened during conference play?

Tray Woodall was fantastic during non-conference play (even though Pitt suffered a rare home loss against mid-major Long Beach State with him), but a nagging groin injury sidelined him for the better part of an eight-game losing streak, seven of which were in conference play. He's had a few great games since returning, but he clearly isn't the same, even with getting injected with pain-killers before every game. When he can't perform, Pitt's offense fails.

3. At 15-11 (4-9 in the Big East), this season hasn't been up to Pitt's normally lofty standards. What positives can Pitt fans take from this year?

After Pitt's first loss to USF, which seemed to end all bubble-talk for the Panthers, the season has officially become "Steven Adams watch." Steven Adams is Pitt's 5-star big man commit from New Zealand who seems to be the real deal. He's joined by a top-60 player in James Robinson, a point guard from Maryland. There's still one more scholarship available (thanks, Khem Birch!), but it doesn't seem any of the big names left have any interest in it. Other than the recruiting class though, there might not be a single positive this season.

4. With WVU and the Big 12 forking over $20 million to leave the Big East two years early, do you think Pitt, Syracuse and the ACC will really wait until 2014 to move? And how much are you going to miss the Backyard Brawl?

I think it seems pretty clear that Pitt will leave after next season. At that point, the "new" Big East will be almost fully assembled and Pitt and Syracuse should be able to negotiate a reasonable buyout. Unlike the WVU/Big12 situation, the ACC doesn't really need Pitt and Syracuse ASAP, so there's not really a hurry.

As for the Brawl, it's something that has clearly meant more for WVU fans over the years, but I'll miss it. The area will have three BCS schools within a short drive (Pitt, Penn State, WVU), none of whom will play each other annually. College sports is such a weird world.

5. How do you see this game going?

I fully expect Pitt to lay down and die. The Brawl was the final straw that broke Pitt's collective back and I'd imagine the players can now see "the writing on the bracket." Pitt's NCAA tournament hopes are over. They'll be playing on Tuesday at the Big East tournament. Unless they win a few there, they probably won't even get a home NIT game. The season is over. They know it. The fans know it.
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