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UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S2 Ep16)

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen and Jim Hammett compliment the hire of new Athletic Director Heather Lyke, discuss Pitt Basketball transfers, and analyze the NCAA Tournament.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @CoreyECohen, @JimHammett, and @PittPantherBlog and vote in our Bracket of Hindsight: Coaches You Wish Pitt Hired bracket.

Damon Wilson transferring from Pitt basketball program

First it was Crisshawn Clark. Then came Corey Manigault. Now, Damon Wilson becomes the latest member of the Pitt basketball program to depart.

I am grateful for my experience at Pitt for these last two year, but I have decided to finish my college years at another school. H2P!! — Damon Wilson (@IHate_DamWilson) March 22, 2017

If you count the Justice Kithcart mid-season dismissal and the graduations, that makes a total of eight players that are gone from this year's sub .500 squad.

I'm not entirely sure where I come out on the Wilson departure but it's really difficult to be too upset about it. Wilson played nearly 11 minutes a game last season and, despite not making a big impact, certainly got onto the court to show a little of what he can do. He shot below 35% from the field and was benched for much of this season. When he did get onto the court this year, it mostly was not very good. He made only 26% of his shots and missed all 12 three-pointers that he shot.

There just wasn't a whole lot there and it's pretty clear that without a change in scenery, I'm not sure how much he would have progressed here. I always caution about giving up on underclassmen too soon and if Wilson went somewhere else and thrived, it wouldn't be the strangest thing in the world, I suppose. But I just think his confidence had to be shot here after this season. Pitt desperately needed guard depth and with Clark out and Kithcart often struggilng, Wilson's chance to play was probably as good as he was going to see. So when even this year he couldn't play, I'm sure he felt like the writing was on the wall.

Wilson averaged less than a point per game this year after scoring 3.3 the year before. Where he ends up is anybody's guess. But don't forget that he is only two years removed from being a four-star recruit once with several offers from programs like Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Virginia Tech. Maybe someone is convinced that all he needs is a year of development and some playing time. He also has two years of eligibility left. He may choose a lower level just to get playing time but a weaker major-conference team with holes to fill showing some interest wouldn't surprise me entirely, either.

The narrative that Kevin Stallings will have his own team next year only gets stronger. And ordinarily, while losing so many players in one season is a major blow, when you finish under .500 it's a lot easier to swallow.

As Craig Meyer of the PG notes, Pitt has two scholarship spots open for next year.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

NBA Outlook: Michael Young

Going into the last two seasons, I championed senior forward Michael Young as a player who had the tools to potentially play in the NBA one day. Of course, that should never have been viewed as a guarantee. Young is now at the end of his collegiate tenure, and the prospect of making an NBA roster, let alone being drafted, is less likely than when the season started. Perhaps that seems like a harsh reality for the guy who finished second in the ACC in scoring (19.6ppg), but here’s why.

The number one question I get asked about Young is whether there is the potential for him to play small forward in the NBA. The short answer is no; he is not an NBA-caliber small forward, even as a rotational player. Offensively, his handle is suspect and that manifests itself in the form of straight-line drives against a defender not used to defending so far away from the basket, or the in-and-out dribbles with his dominant hand that led to as many unforced turnovers as it did semi-contested three-point attempts.

Young is capable of getting into the lane and has a strong first dribble, albeit not accompanied by an explosive first step, but doesn’t demonstrate any shiftiness or creativity in the lane. He struggles to finish through contact at the rim, which really brings attention to the fact he’s an average athlete. Additionally, he carries the ball relatively high on his gathers and has been stripped of the ball numerous times by smaller guards as he looks to finish.

To his credit, Young is adept has shielding defenders with his body and uses the glass well from either block when finishing around the rim. However, the uptick in athleticism and shot blocking at the next level will see his already average finishing percentage (64.2%) decrease even further. For his position, he’s a good passer especially out of double teams when the extra defender comes through his vision. Most of the time, Young is able to take a dribble or two towards the corner and either take advantage of the one-on-one situation or catch the defense in rotation by passing. His assist percentage (20.4%) was no fluke, but the in-game situations in which he generates quite a few of those won’t exist in the NBA.

There is also very little evidence that he’ll be able to stretch the floor in the NBA. Up until this season, Young attempted just 57 three-pointers and converted 19 of them (33.3%). That’s hardly someone that I’d project as a stretch-4 or a small forward, especially when the three-point line will be at least one-foot farther back from the corners and two-feet farther straight away. His 34.1% on triples as a senior is a respectable mark, but he took nearly 4.5 attempts per game. Ask yourself if you see him going 1-3 on a nightly basis from beyond the arc in the NBA in limited and inconsistent minutes, and that’s not even an ideal rate of conversion. His current game just doesn’t lend to being even more perimeter oriented in the NBA.

Young isn’t a dominant rebounder; he ranked just outside the top-15 in the ACC at 6.8 boards per game. The fact that his rebounds per 40 minutes never projected in double-digits in any of his four seasons is another contributing factor to why I’ve been asked if he could be a small forward in the NBA. What’s even more disappointing for him is that his career total rebounding percentage of 13% is just slightly better than fellow senior forward Jaron Blossomgame (12.3%) of Clemson, who does project as a small forward in the NBA and has played on the perimeter more in college than Young.

But his ability to put the ball on the floor, connect from long distance, and average rebounding rate aren’t the only reasons I get asked if he can be a small forward in the NBA, it’s also because he lacks the size to be a power forward. Two years ago, I scouted then Louisville Cardinal Montrezl Harrell. Few thought that Harrell was anywhere near his listed 6’9” height; he measured 6’7.5” in shoes at the combine. Even with the way Harrell wore his hair, at best, Young was noticeably not as tall. Even if we presume a very small growth spurt for Young over the last two years, he’s not going to measure at 6’9” with shoes in a few months.

Additionally, his frame doesn’t look like it could add a lot of muscle and weight without sacrificing the level of athleticism he’s already at. Young doesn’t have tree trunks as legs, isn’t especially broad in the shoulders as far as power forwards go, and already lacks explosiveness in his current, lean state. For a senior like Young who was forced to exert a ton of energy on the offensive end, projecting what he’d look like on defense is a lot about his rebounding ability, size, and athleticism. None of those three things are positives for Young.

Perhaps you’d like more of an objective approach as to why Young won’t make an NBA roster. That’s fine. For starters, it always seems like people assume the NBA has an infinite number of available roster spots. That isn’t true. If all 30 teams carry the maximum number of players, 15, that would means 450 players are in the NBA (360 of those are eligible to dress in uniform). Now there is a lot of fluctuation both ways: Not every team carries 15 players and several teams will have upwards of 20 players that were paid by them over the course of the season. Still, just take a second and ask yourself, “Is Michael Young one of the best 450 basketball players in the world?”

The reality is in order to make an NBA roster, someone has to be replaced. In a vacuum, if we assume Young isn’t a first-round pick (he definitely isn’t), then any team he presumably joins will need to clear at least two roster spots (it’s rare that a team doesn’t sign first-round picks). That not only means beating out incumbents who will carry actual NBA experience, but it means he’ll need to be a better prospect than the pool of available players, which won’t just include the 2017 draft class. It will also include players who played overseas and are now looking to make an NBA roster. It will include players cut from other teams. It will include players from the D-League who may have spent time in the NBA under a 10-day contract. To avoid going down the rabbit hole too far, and so this article doesn’t reach an unreadable length, let’s just take a look at Young’s competition in the 2017 draft.

Let’s start with sophomore forward Tyler Lydon of Syracuse, who is already projected as a first-round selection. Somewhat like Young, scouts aren’t all in agreement of what position Lydon will play in the NBA. Comparing the on paper stuff, Lydon finishes slightly better at the rim (65.3% to 64.2%) with a very similar distribution, in terms of their individual attempts, taken there. Lydon connected at a 39.5% rate on three-pointers with 38.9% of his total attempts coming from long distance; Young clocked in at 34.1% and 25.7% of his attempts were triples. The former took 124 total three-pointers this past season, the latter attempted 123 of them.

Lydon was even more accurate as a freshman going 49-121 (40.5%), while again, Young took all of 57 triples through his first three seasons. And that’s just comparing them in one area. Lydon was statistically a better rebounder, comparable in assists, and a much better shot blocker as well. Take into account that he’s much closer to 6’9” than Young and is roughly two years younger, and it’s easy to see why one is projected as a better pro than the other.

Want someone closer to Young’s age? How about senior forward Alec Peters from Valparaiso, who is a better finisher at the rim, rebounder, and more accurate from beyond the arc than Young, statistically speaking. Peters is projected as a second round pick to undrafted, the exact grade someone may generously give Young. What if someone like sophomore forward Cameron Oliver out of Nevada declares again but stays in the draft? That’s just another player who has better numbers in all three areas than Young, is two years younger and has the added benefit of being a superior athlete.

Like Artis, Young was a very good collegiate player and honestly one of my favorite Pittsburgh Panthers to lace them up at the ‘Pete’. He’ll for sure make an NBA Summer League roster and has a career overseas waiting for him if he wants it. Still, he is pretty much at his ceiling and doesn’t possess one major skill that will translate to the NBA - rebounding is usually the one that translates the most. Unfortunately for Young, there are several younger players in this draft class who have a more proven track record in same areas that make Young’s skill set attractive in the NBA. I didn’t even touch on the fact that the culture surrounding the program doesn’t help his case, and for Young, that just makes an uphill battle even tougher.

- Stats courtesy of Hoop-Math & Sports Reference.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author @Stephen_Gertz

TeShan Campbell transferring from Pitt wrestling to Ohio State

While the Pitt basketball team transfers weren't very unexpected, the Panthers' wrestling program received one that seemed to come out of the blue. Junior-to-be TeShan Campbell is leaving the program and heading to Ohio State.

Ugh

...

Ugh.

I had been working on an article highlighting the fact that Pitt was set to lose very little after this year. Glad I held off on that.

If you've followed this blog, you know what a big fan of TeShan's I had become. He was out of Penn Hills and had turned into a top ten wrestler at his weight class. He not only had developed into a top talent but had potential to do even more. Seeing him as an All-American at some point seemed like an afterthought. And seeing him eventually even compete for a national title didn't even seem that far-fetched, either.

Now, he wasn't perfect. Campbell had some missteps at NCAAs to be sure and two disappointing exits. Last year, he went home winless and also suffered a pretty bad loss in the consolation round in his second bout. This year, he managed to win two matches as he went 2-2. But even then, he was bounced from the championship round after one win and after a consolation-bracket win, he was upset by a lower-seeded wrestler.

There is no doubt that Campbell still has work to put it all together and reach All-American status. But he also showed so much at Pitt that it still seems like it's something that will happen - maybe even next year.

This loss should shine an even brighter on the wrestling coach vacancy. Pitt needs to bring someone in soon to quell concerns that other kids may be having about staying. The Campbell loss is really deflating as it was a local kid that was showing a lot of promise. And even more to the point, his loss leaves a pretty big hole in the roster.

New athletics director Heather Lyke doesn't have a football or basketball vacancy (Stallings jokes aside) to fill right now but hopefully she understands the importance of this hire. It's not on the same level as football or basketball, but a big hire nonetheless for a program that has had some success.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Heather Lyke introduced as new Pitt athletics director

Oh man, I'm so not ready for the Lyke puns that are going to hit the street in the next few days.

As expected, on Monday, Heather Lyke was introduced as the school's next athletics director. Lyke replaces Scott Barnes who left for the same job at Oregon State. Here was our writeup yesterday when the announcement seemed imminent.

The press release/quotes stuff was your typical cookie-cutter deal. One thing I found interesting was that Pitt got quotes from all of their program's quotes on Lyke's hire. I don't recall if that was done with Barnes or not. Not much there in terms of actual substance, but at least a bit unique.

And here was Lyke's official statement used in the Pitt press release:

"It is an incredible honor to accept the director of athletics position at the University of Pittsburgh," Lyke said. "I  am grateful to Chancellor Gallagher and the search committee for the opportunity to lead this athletic department  filled with dedicated studentathletes, coaches and staff. Pitt has such a storied tradition and great expectations. I  am thrilled to be part of Chancellor Gallagher's team. There is a tremendous pride in the Blue and Gold, and we  will work extremely hard to make our alumni, donors, community and University even more proud. With all of us  working together, I am confident we can build winning teams and a winning culture for Pitt Athletics."

Finally, Chris Peak has more from Rivals on what brought her to Pitt. Again, nothing much of substance in the quotes, but, well, there they are.

One small thing I did get was the end of this quote, which I thought at least showed she had done some homework on Pitt's branding  in advance of the presser:

"And here's what I mean by comprehensive excellence: everybody who touches this program impacts the lives of our student-athletes. Just think about it: every single person on our facility staff, the sports medicine team that treats our student-athletes, the fans who come and cheer loudly, who buy Pitt script gear..."

Dyke no doubt has been briefed well on the script and its importance to the fans.

Like most ADs find when they are hired, Lyke has some immediate work to do. In terms of coaches, at the top of her list will be finding a replacement for the wrestling program after Jason Peters was dismissed in the middle of the season.

Finally, keep this as food for thought. But while Pitt doesn't have a scholarship lacrosse program right now, despite being in the ACC where that sport is played, you wonder if/when that's coming. As mentioned last year, Pitt is building a domed facility for lacrosse (recreational) and the soccer teams. One thing I hadn't heard talked about much was the fact that Lyke was the first female Chair of the Men's NCAA Lacrosse committee. I would be interested to know more about her ties to that sport and if that was something that stood out to Pitt. Barnes previously said the school wasn't interested in adding more scholarship sports right now but, eventually, adding lacrosse just makes sense.

As I said in the poll from yesterday's writeup, it's impossible to say for sure if this was a great hire yet or not. I'm pretty optimistic about it, though. I can understand some people perhaps wanting a bigger name but in terms of her credentials and experience, I'm not sure there's a lot to gripe about. Lyke, as Barnes found out, will ultimately be judged on the success of the football and basketball programs and any hires she makes there. But in terms of reality and understanding everything that goes into the job, I'm hoping that Pitt sees improvements elsewhere, in terms of raising more money, continuing to improve the Olympics sports, making needed facility upgrades, and even adding a few more scholarship programs where it makes sense.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

The Kevin Stallings Experience: Evaluating the new coach's first year at Pitt

While we've had a lot of discussion during this year's dismal basketball campaign, I wanted to wait until the end was here before trying to sort out exactly how I rated the work done by new head coach Kevin Stallings in his first year. That came with the team's loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament and the official end to the season.

This isn't also going to be the first in a series of articles or anything crazy. We've had so much Stallings discussion this year that I think it's been beaten to death. I hesitated, even, with the idea of writing this article. But it's something I intended to do when he was first hired regardless of the team's outcome this year. So beyond this look at this season, I'll be trying to stay away from too much Stallings stuff until next year.

With that said, let's take a look at Stallings' first year.

Despite returning four of five starters, the team struggled badly. SAD!

My feelings are pretty clear about the strength of this year's team but for the sake of the article, I'll repeat them here. While certainly different than last year's roster, Pitt returned the core of their production. Last year's Pitt team scored 2,476 points and more than 76% of those points were scored by players that returned this year. The biggest source of the points that left was James Robinson and he scored 338 points. This season, Pitt inserted Cameron Johnson into the lineup and he scored 392 points - about 15% more than Robinson.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. Johnson moving into the starting lineup meant the bench produced less. That was even more the case when sixth man Ryan Luther went down with an injury that cost him much of the ACC season. There's no doubt that Stallings wasn't playing with a full deck and that isn't his fault.

But at the top, where most teams live and die, Pitt wasn't much worse off than last year - if any. And yes, I'll get to the James Robinson stuff.

Stallings had no depth, but ...

Any number of Pitt fans will point to the Panthers' lack of depth from last year and declare it to be the problem. But if you look a little closer, that isn't really the case. After all, look at the team's main losses on the bench aside from Robinson:

Sterling Smith - Contributed in the non-conference schedule last year but not much after that. Scored a grand total of two points in the last nine games.

Rafael Maia - Averaged 2.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and also saw his minutes/production drop in ACC games.

Alonzo Nelson-Ododa - 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds per game with a grand total of 11 points in the 21 ACC contests and the NCAA Tournament game.

No offense intended to those guys at all and I don't post their lack of production as a way of declaring that they weren't very good. They all gave up situations where they were bigger parts of teams, so I applaud them for giving some of that up for their final seasons in an effort to help this team. Rather, I'm merely pointing out that all of the depth issues that people throw around are sort of hollow in my estimation because none really panned out all that well. Last year's team was deeper, but it wasn't quality depth. And if you don't have quality guys backing up, say, Michael Young, do you really want to shave Young's minutes if it means replacing him with guys that aren't going to produce?

Sure, Pitt's team this year could have been deeper. But I'd argue that they weren't much deeper last season and there was a lot of fat on that roster. While it would have been nice to have more depth this year, it isn't the underlying reason they weren't very good this season since they weren't very deep last year.

Why James Robinson's loss wasn't as big as you think

The biggest difference, of course, between this year's team and last year's team was that Robinson was gone to manage the chaos at point guard. There's little doubt that Robinson was undervalued by many and even those that appreciated him might not have realized how important he was. All of that said, here are my thoughts on Robinson.

First, and less complicated of a matter, there's the fact that Robinson was not a good offensive player or a strong defender. His shooting plagued the Panthers for years and while he made up for that a little by taking care of the ball and finding the open man, there's no doubt that his lack of perimeter shooting hurt. Teams would even on occasion leave him open and dare him to shoot the ball because, well, when he's only about a 38% shooter, the odds are probably in your favor. And the fact that Pitt replaced him in the lineup with Johnson, who is an athletic player and a real threat from long distance, that certainly helped.

But it goes deeper than that. At the end of the day, I'm not sure how much difference he makes on this team. Let me explain. I clarify that statement with those last three words, 'on this team', and they're important.

In Jamie Dixon's offense, Robinson was vital. He controlled the offense, slowed things down, and took care of the ball. That offense was a plodding, methodical one by nature so you need someone like that running the show. While it would have been nice to have a dynamic scoring point guard at Pitt, Robinson was adequate because of his style of play and ability to manage the offense.

This offense under Stallings was anything but how Dixon ran things, though. Players were given unprecedented levels of freedom, as was stated in the offseason, and even later after things turned sour when Stallings used that as a point of saying that was the only thing players bought into. Given all of that. Given the amount of time that Young and Jamel Artis dominated the ball since they were producing quite literally more than half of the scoring. Do you honestly believe that Robinson would come in and drag things down to a Dixon-like pace after they were given so much freedom?

Of course not.

Having Robinson may have helped when things were spiraling out of control during certain games, as they often were. Perhaps he gets to the team in that 50-point disaster against Louisville and keeps their heads in the game a bit more. And it shouldn't be forgotten that he made some very clutch plays for Pitt over the years. With Robinson, this team wins maybe 2-3 more games. But that's also a best-case scenario. Factor in things like his 3-15 game against Wisconsin in last year's NCAA Tournament when Pitt couldn't score at all. Or the 28% he shot in a crucial five-game ACC stretch last season. That's not even counting the other bad stretches he had over his career.

As I outlined here, Robinson's shooting was a career-long reclamation project that never really got fixed and while he helped win games, his poor shooting also cost the team a fair amount, too. In other words, those 2-3 potential wins I mentioned could just as easily been canceled out.

'But the turnovers,' right? Well, that's another thing. While Robinson did a great job taking care of the ball, the team as a whole wasn't affected there this year. The 12 they averaged per game was no more than the 12 they averaged last year. To be fair, Pitt did average three fewer assists per game, so they weren't getting enough good passing that led to open shots. But on a team that featured two guys scoring about 20 points per game most of the year, they were able to create a lot on their own so I consider that less of a factor.

So why the lack of success?

I maintain that the real difference on this Pitt team was getting a concerted effort on defense and in rebounding the ball. This year's team produced about 10% less on the boards and also gave up a lot more points. Under Stallings this season, the team allowed just under 75 points per contest. Last year, they gave up only 67. I'd argue that this year's drop in success is much more about that and much less about Robinson (again, because of the different style of offense employed under Stallings where Robinson would have been less effective).

Sure, some of that may be attributed to a lack of presence in the middle. But Pitt has really been without a season-long presence in the middle with enough size since Steven Adams jumped ship to the NBA after the 2012-13 season. And even then, Adams didn't really start to develop until later in the year. Pitt has been lacking in the middle for quit a while. They've generally found other ways to compensate in the past on the defensive end and weren't able to do that this year.

The buttons that Stallings pushed to motivate his team on the defensive end or in rebounding the ball either were not the correct ones or he didn't press them hard enough.

Perhaps some of that, I will concede, goes back to the depth issue. With guys playing more minutes, giving 100% on the defensive end every time out isn't logical or really even very smart. But 7.5, 8 points a game on defense is a lot more. You're taking a lot of breaks in that scenario. And here's the thing that a lot of people don't realize. Pitt actually scored less this year (73 points per game to 75 last year). Ultimately, the freer style of play, the up-tempo pace ... none of it mattered. The defensive woes would make more sense if the team was scoring a lot more points and at a faster rate. But that simply wasn't the case.

Conclusion

In the end, Stallings deserves some leeway. Like any new coach, he deserves a shot to bring his own players in and be fully evaluated at a later date. Pinning the team's lack of depth on him, or the loss of Ryan Luther, or even the development of some of the backup guards is unfair.

Still, I find it difficult to comprehend how, given all stated above, this team turned into one that won 21 games last year and made the NCAA Tournament failed to even play .500 ball with two of the best scorers in the conference. Stallings' refusal to adjust on the offensive end, reign guys in a bit more, and get his team to play even passable defense cannot be overlooked. None of that even addresses the controversial philosophy of throwing players under the bus, which he did earlier this season very publicly. As I said before, it didn't ultimately help Pitt play any better or win more games. Ultimately, for that reason, it seems like a poor decision in hindsight.

The offensive freedom, allocated by Stallings, certainly came too soon as well. Stallings made that claim to players before they had played even a minute for him, according to those offseason quotes. In hindsight, a better approach, perhaps, would have been to make that decision later after they had earned some trust. I don't know that it would have made a difference. What I do know is that the entire 'offensive freedom' thing crashed and burned before our very eyes.

Long-term, what do I think about the Stallings hire? I'll say again what I said initially when he was hired. The track record does not suggest that he will leave Pitt in a better place. The program under Jamie Dixon reached the NCAA Tournament on a nearly annual basis, so essentially, that is the bar. At Vanderbilt, Stallings, missed the NCAAs more than he made them while playing in an inferior conference to the Big East and ACC. Further, he also has the same glaring hole that Dixon does on his resume in terms of making any deep runs lately. Stallings did make two Sweet 16s with Vanderbilt, but that was a decade ago. The track record does not suggest that Pitt will make deep tournament runs, or even return to the days of making the tournament on an annual basis. I hope that things do not end up that way, but it's easy to assume judging by Stallings' career, which has been very up and down.

I do not question that Kevin Stallings can coach to some degree. He's been around enough good coaches and has had some success. You do not reach two Sweet 16s, recruit relatively well, or make seven NCAA Tournament appearances if you are a complete bum. The idea that Stallings is the worst coach in the world is foolish. What I do question is just how far can he take Pitt based on the expectations here and based on his prior history.

But enough of the long-term prognosis. For this year, if I'm grading Pitt's head coach with a firm letter grade, it's probably in the D+/C- range. Certainly not average by Pitt standards, anyway, but not quite a failing grade. What say you?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll How do you grade Kevin Stallings' first season at Pitt? B+ or higher B B-/C+ C C-/D+ D or worse   0 votes | Results

South Carolina trolls USA Today after beating Duke

Consider the 2017 NCAA Tournament party crashed after South Carolina’s upset win on Sunday night.

The Gamecocks took down No. 2 seed Duke in a game that many pundits had all but given the Blue Devils prior the the meeting in Greenville. After all, the South Carolina program had just won its first NCAA tournament game in 44 years and had never visited the Sweet 16. They’d be happy with just one win against Marquette, right? Wrong.

>> Read more trending news

In fact, USA Today was so confident that the Gamecocks would fold on Sunday that its sports account tweeted out a message after No. 1 seed Villanova fell to Wisconsin on Saturday, proclaiming: “Duke’s path to the Final Four looks ridiculously clear with Villanova’s loss.”

Let’s just say the fine folks at South Carolina bookmarked that tweet for future reference.

On Sunday night, in the moments following the Gamecocks’ historic victory, the school’s official Twitter account sent out this zinger to the news publication:

South Carolina will next play Baylor for a chance to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time in program history.

Report: Pitt reportedly to hire Heather Lyke as new athletics director, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy

Recently, the Post-Gazette posted an article about potential athletics directors for Pitt. One of those folks said to be in the running was Eastern Michigan's Heather Lyke.

On Sunday, ESPN's Brett McMurphy said the hunt is over.

Eastern Michigan AD Heather Lyke is leaving to become Pitt’s new athletic director, source told @ESPN — Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) March 20, 2017

The Post-Gazette's Brian Batko said it will become official on Monday.

Here's a look at her Eastern Michigan bio as well. She would become Pitt's first female athletics director and one of the few in that role for a P5 school.

Initially, I expected this to drag on for another couple of weeks and didn't see a hire coming until April. But that's always dependent upon finding the right person and if you're convinced you have that, there's no point in waiting too long just to follow protocol.

One of Lyke's accomplishments was helping to turn the football program around. She was hired in 2013, brought in new coach Chris Creighton in 2014, and after winning only three games combined that year and 2015, they won seven this year and made a bowl game. And, at least according to this quote, she seems like a 'football drives the bus' type of AD, which Pitt had with Scott Barnes.

That doesn't mean she doesn't care about the other sports. She has hired ten coaches there her coaches have also won 17 Conference Coach of the Year awards. So she's seen some success across the board covering a lot of sports despite only being there since 2013.

She was also a softball player in college and a few years back, interestingly enough, was even commentating for the Big Ten Network in that sport while an associate AD at Ohio State. We don't yet know her but she at least seems to have an interest in the Olympic sports and has made a lot of hires there.

One thing that was important in Pitt's last search for an athletics director? Fundraising. Lyke has done that, too, setting a record at Eastern Michigan last year in terms of dollars and new donors. Her bio also states that the school is on track to outpace those numbers again for 2017's fiscal year.

Another thing that likely impressed Pitt was her involvement in Eastern Michigan's current facilities plan. She recruited a team of people to help with their building facilities plan. Pitt has been, and will continue to be, upgrading facilities around campus. Recently, Eastern Michigan put a plan in place for $35 million in facility upgrades.

Finally, also noteworthy is that, while she came from a smaller, non-P5 school in Eastern Michigan, she was an associate/senior AD at Ohio State for about 15 years. She received her undergraduate degree at Michigan and also spent some time in Cincinnati's athletics department. Lyke very much has experience working in high-level administration at the P5 level.

This wasn't the big splash hire that many wanted but I have to say that, on the surface, the hire at least makes sense from a Pitt standpoint in terms of what they wanted. Many of the same qualities they wanted with Barnes they seem to have gotten with Lyke in terms of fundraising, Olympic sports, and putting football first. And with the many years at Ohio State, she doesn't appear to be in over her head.

Thoughts?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt sees offensive line shuffling in spring practices

As is standard this time of year in the offseason, Pitt is shuffling some guys around on the offensive line. That's pretty typical and is no different this year with spring practices underway.

With tackle Adam Bisnowaty and guard Dorian Johnson graduating, Pitt has two open slots on its line. Brian O'Neill, who started last year at right tackle, is moving over to the left to replace Biz while backup Jaryd Jones-Smith takes his spot at right tackle. Last year's center, Alex Officer, heads over to left guard to replace the spot left vacant by Johnson and backup Connor Dintino looks to have the lead for the center job. The lone returnee at the same position is right guard Alex Bookser.

The Post-Gazette, I should add, also has a look at some other positions, if you're curious.

That might seem like chaos but I expect Pitt to fare well on the line again. Is it as strong as last year's group? Nope. Last year's line had two (what should be early-round) NFL Draft picks on it in Bisnowaty and Johnson. But there's still a lot here. O'Neill will be in his third-year as a starter and Bookser, his second. Officer is in his fourth year as a starter and while he's moving to guard from center, he started at guard in 2015, so it's not a new position for him at all. That's three guys with starting experience under the belts at their 2017 positions, with the exception of some movement to left or right.

Jaryd Jones-Smith is a new full-time starter, but he does have four spot starts in his career. And he's been with the program for four years heading into this season and has plenty of experience. You might also remember that he was expected to be a starter in 2015 before suffering a season-ending injury in conditioning workouts. Jones-Smith should get the most playing time he's ever had but he is more than capable.

Dintino is the biggest question mark, obviously, since his experience is limited. He's also new to offense having just moved there last year after coming over from defense. Dintino, of course, is no lock here. The other guys aren't necessarily either (in particular, if you read Pat Narduzzi's comments in that Post-Gazette link about newcomer Jerry Drake, you wonder if Jones-Smith's job is even safe) but they look much more firm with all of the experience they have.

But while the Dintino move has some concerns, the good thing to know is that Pitt still has Officer for this season. If Dintino struggles in practices, they can always move Officer back there and insert someone else at guard.

The offensive line has some questions and is a little weaker than last year. But it still returns enough to be considered a strength of the team.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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