Welcome back to another edition of Bulls Recon. We were able to get a hold of our esteemed Pitt blog Cardiac Hill to talk about our upcoming match-up against the Panthers. We talked about the age old debate between Yuengling vs. Iron City, where to find a bite to eat in the Steel City, and of course Big East expansion. We also talked about the game too if you're interested.
1. Huge win Saturday against Villanova to pretty much wrap up the Big East regular season championship. How did you guys pull off the win at the Pavilion without Ashton Gibbs?
To be honest, I was a bit surprised they did. I practically picked them to lose the game, but it wasn't a big surprise they were able to do it. Pitt has a history of winning games with their backs against the wall and they did it again Saturday. Pitt's offense has been on display this year, but the team can still play excellent defense and that's what won the game. The Panthers shot horribly from the field, but forced Villanova into shooting even worse (36%). Without Gibbs, the team is forced go to back to relying on its defense to win and that's exactly what they did.
2. Speaking of Gibbs, do you think he will be available to play Wednesday?
The original timetable for Gibbs' return was 10-14 days. That came out last Sunday, so Wednesday would be ten days exactly. Gibbs could come back, but to be honest (and this isn't meant as any sort of a slight against South Florida), I hope they rest him because the team has been able to win some tough games without him. I'd rather the team make absolutely sure that he's healthy and I wouldn't rush him back. That said, he tweeted recently that he felt pretty good and the coaches and trainers that are actually around him are really the only ones who know how healthy he is. If they feel he's 100%, then we might see him. If he does play, though, I think we'll see him play limited minutes. Dixon worked Nasir Robinson back in slowly at the beginning of the season after he came back from an injury. Part of that was due to backup Talib Zanna playing well in Nasir's absence, but I'd still be surprised to see Gibbs play 30 minutes if he makes it back for Wednesday's game.
3. Give me a glimmer of hope, what is a weakness of Pitt's that USF might be able to capitalize on?
Well the team really hasn't been shooting all that great. They're averaging 76 points on the season, but haven't reached that total in the past five games. Part of that was due, obviously, to playing Big East opponents, but if that trend continues, a hot-shooting USF team could give Pitt a lot of trouble. The other thing that USF can do is follow the model of Notre Dame. The Irish slowed down the game in their win at Pitt. That typically doesn't work, but again, if Pitt continues in this shooting slump, the game could be a lot closer than people think.
4. What are your thoughts on Big East expansion? Should the conference stay at 9 teams, or do you think we need to go up to 10, 11, or even 12 teams? #BootDePaul?
I've repeatedly said that the Big East needs to further expand and I stand by that. Anyone who thinks this conference expansion stuff is over now hasn't really been paying attention, in my opinion. I think we're going to see teams continue to jump ship until we've either got fewer, but larger main conferences, or until the rules for leaving a conference get much stricter. It's only a matter of time before leagues again look to the Big East for potential expansion candidates and while they survived the recent cuts, a loss of three teams will either wipe out the conference or seriously damage it to the point where it's even more of a laughingstock that it was last year. To me, the Big East needs to get up to at least ten, and even better, twelve teams. Does that mean adding a couple of weaker schools? Sure. But other programs that weren't very established before have put together some good seasons in the Big East - UConn and South Florida come to mind. Just because a program isn't great now doesn't mean it can't get better - especially once it has the resources that come along with being in a BCS conference. If I were the Big East, I'd add three more schools and get up to twelve. That way if the conference loses two or three schools down the road, they've still got some semblance of a conference left.
Regarding DePaul or some of the other basketball-only schools, I don't think they need to be booted. Even if you add three more members, that would then give the basketball league a total of 20. Ideally, you'd like everyone to play each other twice, but the Big East doesn't have that now anyway. As long as you can still play every team once, (which you could because teams currently double up on a few opponents as it is), I don't really see a big problem. I'm probably in the minority on that and yes, you'd have an oversized league. But the league is already too big in theory, so I don't know what the issue would be in keeping everyone.
5. The improvement of Gary McGhee over his career is amazing. Did you think he would be this good when arrived on campus?
No, I probably didn't. He backed up DeJuan Blair and really showed off his hands of stone early in his career. He still occasionally has trouble catching the ball cleanly sometimes, but he's turned into an above average Big East center. He puts up good scoring and rebounding numbers, but his defense is what makes him stand out. He defends as well as any of Pitt's big men in recent memory - Aaron Gray, DeJuan Blair, Chris Taft, etc. He's physical, but smart - he recently just fouled out of a game for the first time in his career. I also give the refs a lot of credit in that area as sometimes when you watch a play he defends, it might look like he committed a foul in real time. But when slowed down on a replay, most of the time it's just a matter of him playing excellent defense. Pitt is going to miss that next season.
6. Where should we get a bite to eat while in Pittsburgh? Is Primanti Bros pretty much a must stop place to eat?
For most, it is. Personally, I can't stand it. I'm picky as it is and the idea of french fries, cole slaw, etc. on a sandwich just sounds awful to me. But if you're looking for a local attraction, that would be it. If you're looking for seafood, I'd recommend Roland's in the Strip District. For steak, it's either Morton's or Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, though those are much pricier. A great place to watch a game with good food and multiple TVs is Rivertowne, which is in a few different parts of the area. If you're looking for a place in Oakland near the arena, there are over a dozen places that are college favorites nearby, but none that are particularly great in my opinion.
7. While we are kind of on the subject, Yuengling or Iron City?
Not much of a beer person, but Yuengling is far better than IC.
8. Finally, how much do you guys beat us by Wednesday?
Well, at home and with a few days of rest, I expect Pitt to win pretty easily, but that could all depend on if Gibbs plays. Let's go with 73 - 55.
Thanks again to Cardiac Hill for taking time to talk about the game tomorrow. If you haven't already, go over to CH to see my answers to his questions, and make sure to follow him on Twitter.