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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Worse than a choke

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Pitt’s loss to Long Beach State last night was jarring in that it was just the Panthers’ second non-conference less ever at the Pete. But that’s about it.

For one, as Jamie Dixon was saying Wednesday, Long Beach State is, in his words, “going to be in the NCAA Tournament this year,” and “a lot of teams didn’t want them on their non-conference schedule.” Again, this was Monday, not after the fact.

Digressing for a moment, the second point is debatable. As reader Chris Billick pointed out last night when I raised this on Twitter, Long Beach State also is on the non-conference schedules of Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville and San Diego State.

What isn’t debatable is that this Pitt team has an awful lot to learn about playing defense. I’ve rarely seen any opponent — never mind one with the background of Long Beach State — have such a free rein on the Panthers’ basket. Inside, outside, slashing passing, everything. And it’s not a fluke, given the almost-as-bad showing over the weekend at Rider.

I’ve already heard from readers proclaiming another Pitt “choke.” This didn’t look like a choke to me. This looked even worse, in the sense that it looked like a team that legitimately is this bad at defending. Dixon’s teams always get better defensively, but he’ll need to hit the fast-forward button.

>> I ask this with no malicious intent, I swear: What happened to all the Joe Paterno defenders?

Again, I’m not taking a shot. It’s just that we’ve gone from sixty to zero in terms of hearing all the rabid, passionate and yes, educated and intelligent defenses of Paterno’s role in the Penn State scandal.

Why is that?

>> Admit it, you’d love it tonight if the Penguins do what the Flyers did.

>> I get the interest in when Sidney Crosby might return, but not the where.

Thought he threw a pretty big hint in my interview with him a couple weeks ago that his return will come on home ice, not Tampa or Miami or anywhere else. And I’d be really, really surprised if that’s not the case.

>> In light of Jordan Staal having given the big first-intermission locker room speech two nights ago, I’m reminded of this prescient column from this summer.

>> That said, the fact that he hasn’t given an interview since Nov. 7 — 10 days ago — is leading to speculation that maybe he isn’t symptom-free anymore. I don’t believe that. If he were experiencing symptoms, his practice schedule surely would have been interrupted. It hasn’t been.

>> If you’re a Steelers fan and you don’t read the weekly ‘After Further Review’ feature by our Mark Kaboly, you’re missing out. It’s exceptionally good stuff, especially for the diehard.

>> We will have our weekly chat today at noon, as always.

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