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What MATTers: Panthers in Prime Position for March Madness Down the Stretch -
The Pitt men's basketball team traveled to Charlottesville, VA this past Monday in hopes of earning a marquee road win. The #2 Cavaliers shunted the Panthers' hopes of an upset by playing smothering defense. Pitt was held to 15 points at the half, one of the lowest offensive outputs in the team's history. As a result, Pitt fell, 61-49, in a game that was much closer than the score.
Despite the defeat, Pitt's computer numbers took big, positive strides. The Panthers moved into the Top 50 in the ratings percentage index (RP)I, and into the Top 75 in strength of schedule (SOS). This improvement is favorable for the Panthers' hopes of qualifying for March Madness. However, Pittsburgh's resume is still lacking wins away from home. Including this afternoon's triumph at the Carrier Dome against the Syracuse Orange, the Panthers stand at 2-7 in true road contests. The number in the win column must only rise. The good news? Pitt has two more opportunities. It plays at Wake Forest on March 1 and at Florida State to close the regular season on March 7. Playing hypothetical, two wins there would raise the road win total to 4. When one factors in that Pitt is 2-1 in neutral site games, 5-8 does not look all that bad. Plus, Pitt will be playing in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC. A couple of wins or more, and Pitt could run its road/neutral record to close to .500. Thus, the Panthers are in good position to address this weakness. Further, Pitt must accumulate additional wins to improve its profile.
A game that possesses a large implications is the home finale on March 4 against Miami (FL). The Hurricanes, like the Panthers, are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The winner there likely knocks the other from consideration. A win over the Hurricanes would provide the Panthers with another RPI Top 100 victory. At the moment, the Panthers are a mediocre 4-8 against the RPI Top 100, another mark Pitt must improve upon.
If the Panthers finish the year at 11-7 in the ACC, they will likely earn a middle-of-the-conference seed in the Conference Tournament. The positive there is Pitt will likely have opportunities to play against additional RPI Top-100 foes. Dates with the upper echelon of the ACC would be likely.
The opportunities lie ahead for Pitt. With this afternoon's win over Syracuse, Pitt controls its... [Read More]
| Feb 18, 2015 - 12:22 PM
Easiest way to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins?
Is is the Trap system?
Is it keeping 2 Defensemen back?
Is it getting them off their game by getting under their skin?
While the first 2 certainly have been like kryptonite since Mario and Co. shut out Scotty Bowman from practices, you need the personnel and coaching to accomplish it.
Getting under the Penguins skin? Anyone can do that. You don't need to coach it, you just need to advise it. Last night against the Washington Capitals, that was what happened. Alexander Ovechkin got away with a nasty slash and it unwrapped the Pittsburgh Penguins. The stupid retaliatory shots began, the bad penalties and ultimately the 5 on 3 PP goal that sealed the Pens fate.
This is an ongoing issue with the Pens. It hasn't mattered who the coaches are, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been a team that loses it's composure easily. It usually only takes one player on the opposing team to do something, major or minor and the entire Penguins roster loses itself.
You can't win Championships like that. You can't make it to the Finals with that type of self imploding mentality. At this point, the Pens won't make it a round in the Playoffs playing with this type of discipline.
What's the cure?
The Pens have had guys retaliate by fighting but let's be honest here, nobody is afraid of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nobody cares about taking shots at Kris Letang or any other Penguins players.
Steve Downie and Max LaPierre.
These guys were brought in to get under the opposing teams skin. They were brought in to make the other team take dumb penalties and get them off of their game. So far, neither have done that. What we've seen is Steve Downie become the victim more times than not and take the bad penalties. The Pens "pests" aren't being affective pests, not in the way that Jarrko Ruutu and the early version of Matt Cooke were.
If our players aren't initiating the pesting and getting other teams off of their game, how do the Pens prevent themselves from taking the bait?
Good ol' self discipline.
Let a guy or 2 have their retaliation fights and don't get sucked in to taking dumb penalties out of frustration. Chris Kunitz shouldn't be taking undisciplined penalties late in games out of frustration. It was the same issue the Penguins had with James... [Read More]
| Feb 17, 2015 - 9:47 AM
Sometimes even a title to a Blog Article can cause a commotion. Afterall, It's Bob Nutting and speaking of him in a positive light. A topic that is still not done in Pittsburgh. It's not done by the fans nor most of the media. When the Pittsburgh Steelers or Pittsburgh Penguins are winning and doing well, the fans and media are singing Mario's and The Rooney's graces. When those teams are doing poorly, blame the coaches!
It's always been blame Bob Nutting, even when Kevin McClatchy was making all of the decisions and driving the organization into the ground with bad decisions.
It was Bob Nutting's fault.
The Pirates have turned things around not just at the Major League level but across the entire organization. It is one of the deepest organizations in all of baseball. The Pirates aren't just built to win in the present and near future, they are built to win for many many years (I said that in my head like I was Cmdt. Lassard). Credit has rightfully been given to GM Neal Huntington and President Frank Coonelly for the job they have done sticking to their plan through animosity. They never gave in to media scrutiny and pressure like their predecessor. They remained focused knowing it was going to be a long process and we are now seeing the results of their work over the past couple of seasons.
Yet there's one man, that got it all started.
While Kevin McClatchy was still making Baseball Decisions (which should never have happened), Bob Nutting took over the majority and went around to various MLB teams, talking to different Owners, Presidents and GM's to learn about Baseball's operations. If people weren't pegging Bob Nutting to payroll, they were pegging him to the horrible state of how the organization was run, something that wasn't entirely his fault. For that 2007 season, Bob Nutting learned a few things about baseball and when Kevin McClatchy was "nudged" out, that was when all of the changes occurred.
The dire state of the Pirates Dominican facilities didn't get addressed until Bob Nutting made a trip to actually see them. Many in some circles believe that it was this trip to the Dominican Republic that set stage for the control takeover from Kevin McClatchy. It took roughly half of a year from the time it was announced that Bob Nutting was taking the expanded role of Principle Owner before Kevin McClatchy left the same... [Read More]
After 20 straight years of losing seasons, the Pirates have had two straight winning seasons resulting in the opportunity to host the last two NL wildcard games. During these last two seasons, the Pirates have had solid starting pitching, one of the best bullpens in all baseball, the Sharktank, and an emerging offense led by Andrew McCuthchen. The one glaring weakness has been the depth on the bench, which hasn't inspired a whole lot of confidence, especially in key situations. Gone are Gaby Sanchez, Pedro Ciriaco, Brent Morel and Mike Rodriguez, replaced with Sean Rodriguez, Cory Hart, Jung Ho Kang and Steve Lombardozzi. In what might be the best offseason performance, on paper, by Neil Huntington, he has added players to the bench that have pop in their bats and who can help the Pirates win if they are needed to step in and play for extended periods of time. Not only is this beneficial to the major league roster, but it allows the organization to keep those who might be called up to wallow on the bench, to stay in the minors and get meaningful playing time to further their development.
In addition to the power that these players can provide, they all offer position flexibility that in itself can help lengthen the bench. Cory Hart can play right field and first base, Sean Rodriguez can play just about anywhere but pitcher and catcher and Steve Lombardozzi can play just about anywhere in the infield. The most intriguing of the new bench additions is easily, Jung Ho Kang. This 27 year old power hitting shortstop from the Nexen Heros of the KBO, batted .356 and hit 40 homeruns with an OPS of 1.198. While those numbers are impressive, he did it in an offensive oriented league that is the equivalent of playing AA ball, but it may be fair to say that his power numbers in the KBO may translate to 18-23 homeruns on the major league level if playing on a full time basis. With the return of AJ Burnett and resigning Francisco Liriano, the best bench in recent memory could be the missing piece to the Pirates capturing the NL Central and becoming a serious World Series contender. Starting next week we will find out as the road to Buctober begins with the opening of spring training.
This is the second installment in this series, one that takes a look at some of the men who have played for the Steelers throughout the history of this great franchise, by the jersey numbers. Some of them are or were all-time greats, some were minor stars of their era, while some are obscure or were solid role players who were fan favorites. Regardless of the stature of these players, let's continue with the numerical look into the men who have donned the uniform of our Pittsburgh Steelers, this edition continues with jersey numbers 10 through 19.
Kordell Stewart was a quarterback who was a little bit ahead of his time, he could beat you with his legs as well as his arm, the problem was figuring out how he fit into the offense. He started out as "Slash", the wide receiver, running back, quarteback who did a little bit of everything, at any moment of the game, on the Steelers run to Super Bowl XXX, during the 1995 season. As good of a wide receiver as he could have been, his goal and choice was to be a quarterback in the NFL, which led fans to either love or hate Kordell, there was really no middle ground. In 1997, stewart's first year as a starting quarterback, he the Steelers to the AFC championship game where the Steelers fell short to the Broncos 24-21. After enduring his share of struggles for the next three seasons, kordell led the Steelers back to the AFC Championship game in 2001 and finished third in NFL MVP voting, leading the Steelers to a 13-3 record. For his career with Pittsburgh, Kordell completed 1,109 passes on 2,107 attempts for 13,328 yards, with 70 tds and 72 ints. His record as a starter was 46-29. As for what he did with his legs, he ran the ball 496 times for 2,561 yards and 35 tds, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Whether you loved or hated Kordell, he is easily one of the most exciting and versatile players in team history. Other players who have wore number 10 for the Steelers include Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes, QB Scott Campbell and current Steelers WR Martavis Bryant.
The history of this jersey number is full of forgettable and obscure players that include QB Kent Graham, WR Quincey Morgan, and K Gene Mingo. Perhaps the most productive player to wear the jersey was KR Stefan Logan. Logan was with the Steelers during the 2009 season as the primary kickoff returner. He had the ability to take one all the way every time he got his hands on the ball. While he never... [Read More]