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Notes from Friday press conference

Here are some notes from Friday’s press conference with Jamie Dixon and

forwards Lamar Patterson and J.J. Richardson.

*** First off, Talib Zanna had surgery on his broken right thumb on Friday afternoon and, according to coach Jamie Dixon, everything went “fine.”

He is expected to miss 3-6 weeks. The NCAA Tournament starts in 19 days. I wouldn’t expect Zanna to return this season.

*** Pitt seniors Gilbert Brown, Gary McGhee and Brad Wanamaker were selected to attend the 58th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament on April 6-9 in Portsmouth, Va.

The invitation-only event attracts 64 of the top college basketball seniors each year and upwards of 200 NBA scouts, general managers and representatives.  This is a big deal for the Panthers — and their three seniors who are about to become the winningest senior class in school history.  

“They earned it,” Dixon said. “It’s pretty hard to make that event. I don’t know how many teams have had all three of their seniors go to that event.”

 *** Dixon is always singularly focused on the next game, but he took a couple of minutes at Friday’s media gathering to talk about the big picture. On night after Marquette’s big win at No. 14 Connecticut, he said it is looking like the Big East should land 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament, which he had always thought would be ”nearly impossible.”

Throw in Cincinnati’s win at No. 11 Georgetown, and the Big East’s “bubble teams” are moving closer to the 68-team field.

Dixon has long maintained that, mathematically, it’s difficult for all of the deserving Big East teams to make the field because they end up beating each other. 

“It’s looking more and more like it’s going to hard not to keep 11 in,” Dixon said. “I think it’s nearly impossible to happen, but it looks like it’s going to happen. I don’t know how they can keep any of those teams out of the tournament. …It’s gotta be. Getting 11 in from 68. It’s amazing.”

*** What about a No. 1 seed for the Big East champion? When asked if the regular-season leader of the nation’s toughest conference, by definition, deserved a No. 1 seed, Dixon said a loaded league might work against a No. 1 seed.

“They don’t correspond,” he said. “Quantity vs. the high seed. They work in the direct opposite. More good teams makes it harder to be a high seed.”

***Lastly, J.J. Richardson doesn’t get a lot of interview requests, but with Zanna’s injury increasing his playing time, he was a popular guy on Friday. 

The sophomore center/forward from Houston isn’t camera shy, that’s for sure.

When a young radio intern asked about the traditional pre-game dance — in which Richardson leads the Dougie Dance while encircled by his bobbing arm-in-arm teammates — the interview started to get interesting. Richarson gave the group of reporters a quick how-to on the dance, along with some of his favorite moves — the head-rake into the cell-phone dial — and even offered to lead the media if they encircled him. That didn’t happen, but Richardson did give a little solo act for the TV cameras.

On that note, I know Richardson is a popular name to transfer/leave and free up one of the scholarships next season when Pitt is two over the limit. I am now, officially, against that (unless he’s the one that decides it’s for the best).

The kid works too hard, he’s a great team player and if he wants to stay, then the Pitt coaches/athletic department should figure something out. 

Richardson isn’t Cassin Diggs or Dwight Miller. It would be a smear on the program if one of the Pitt coaches pulls him aside this off-season and tries to convince him it would be best if he leaves. 

Pitt should be better than that.

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