Welcome to another edition of Bulls Recon. Our great sister blog Cardiac Hill was nice enough to help us out again as we close out the home part of the schedule tomorrow against Pitt. In today's Bulls Recon, we talked about Ashton Gibbs, the team's Final Four or Bust mentality, and their new football coach Todd Graham.
1. How has Ashton Gibbs looked since he returned from injury?
Gibbs played extremely well in his first game back, scoring a career-high 26 points (coming off the bench, no less) but has been subpar in the past two. He had only nine points against West Virginia at home and, while he scored 14 on Sunday against Louisville, he shot only 3-11 from the field. I don't necessarily think it's the injury, though, because he seems to be moving well. And in all fairness, he was 50% from the field in that WVU game - he just didn't get a ton of shots. All in all, I think he's looked fine and he should be okay.
2. Even after Gibbs' return, Brad Wanamaker has taken his game to another level. Did Ashton's absence give him the confidence to lead this team in high pressure situations?
Wanamaker's been playing well for most of the season, but really looked good in the Villanova game, scoring more than 1/3 of the team's total points. Still, other than that game, his numbers didn't really improve all that much after the injury, so I don't think Gibbs' absence was a factor. He's been hitting some big time shots all season long and has definitely improved each of his four years at Pitt. The one thing that still bothers me a little bit is the fact that he can be turnover prone at times. He averages more than two per game and nearly .5 more than the player with the next highest amount (Gilbert Brown with 1.8). Part of that is due to the fact that he plays the second-most minutes on the team, but as a senior, he's got to take care of the ball a little better.
3. Is it pretty much a Final Four or bust mentality for Coach Dixon this year?
For fans, yeah, I think so. For coach? I'm not so sure. Obviously he wants to win and I think every year is kind of a championship or bust mentality to a degree. But he also won't panic if Pitt can't get there and I don't see him changing his philosophy of leading with defense and rebounding. Getting to the Elite Eight would definitely be an achievement, but if we're talking 'true' success here, Pitt needs to get to the Final Four. I hate to say it, but you have to wonder if this affects Pitt's recruiting. Dixon has gotten some good players over the years (and with DeJuan Blair, Dante Taylor, and incoming 2011-12 freshman, Khem Birch, some very highly rated guys), but I can definitely see opposing coaches bringing up Pitt not having the ability to get to the next level when they're talking to the same recruits. If I were a recruit, I don't think I'd necessarily buy into it, but I wouldn't be surprised if other coaches at least brought it up. Bottom line is that Dixon will be disappointed if the team doesn't win it all, but I don't think it changes much if they don't.
4. For us were excited that Spring Football is right around the corner. How do you feel about the Todd Graham era?
I'm actually pretty intrigued. I think we're all excited to see what he can do and I for one am feeling much more optimistic after his recruiting efforts this year. He didn't get a lot of the big name guys they were targeting, but just the fact that he was able to do anything with this class made it a success. When Graham came in, Pitt's once top 20 class with about 20 recruits had dwindled down to six. In only a few weeks time, he immediately filled the class, and even got a few four-star kids along the way. The class wasn't as good as it previously was, but he did get some solid players.
There will probably be some growing pains on the field this year, though, with a new system, new coaches, and maybe a new quarterback. But it will be interesting to see what the program looks like in 2013 when he's had a few years under his belt and has more of his type of players into the system. I do think that he's a bit of a 'used car salesman,' but in college football, unless you're a legend, most coaches probably need a little of that.
5. How much will you guys beat us by now that you have Gibbs back? Will it be a 20 or 30 point beatdown?
Well, I predicted about a 20-point win the first time around and South Florida played extremely well, keeping it to 12. Pitt has been struggling a little bit, but I think the Louisville loss will light a fire under them. South Florida's been pretty competitive against some good opponents, losing by only about a dozen combined points to BYU, Georgetown, UConn, and Marquette. Plus, Pitt doesn't beat too many Big East teams by 20 or 30, so I'll go a little under that. With that said, I'll say Pitt wins something like 70-55.
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