Pitt's Dixon ready for Gary Williams role
Posted March 13
For the sake of sheer atmosphere and excitement, the ACC Tournament would have been better served with a Wake Forest win over Pitt in Thursday’s round.
For years and years, a Wake vs. North Carolina quarterfinal tournament game has been about as appealing and compelling as the early tourney going gets.
Pitt didn’t get that memo.
And based on the way Wake played defense - more correctly, didn’t play defense - neither did the Deacons. Or if they did get it, they trashed it without a read.
One day after an impressive 81-69 win over Notre Dame, the Deacons (17-16) ended their season with the sort of lackadaisical performance that has marked much of the past four years.
So what we have - after the Panthers’ absurdly easy 84-55 win in Greensboro Coliseum - is still an intriguing consolation prize for Friday’s 2 p.m. quarterfinal game.
Pitt, after one victory over an old-line ACC team, now gets a shot at arguably the biggest barn on Tobacco Road’s frat row, North Carolina.
We get the Pitt vs. UNC game, and we get to play “guess the new coach” as Wake athletic director Ron Wellman almost certainly will go shopping for Jeff Bzdelik’s successor only a few months after replacing football coach Jim Grobe with Dave Clawson.
Bzdelik would not address the future, saying only that he would entertain questions about the game when asked what the job review process would be.
But asked if he would like to get a chance to play somewhere in the postseason - the College Basketball Invitational, say - Bzdelik seemed to like the suggestion.
“We certainly don’t want to go out like this,” he said.
So much for that.
Then there’s Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.
For an ACC Tournament rookie, the 48-year-old native Californian has displayed an immediate willingness to fill former Maryland coach Gary Williams’ old role of persecuted Northern invader.
When asked earlier this week if North Carolina’s four schools have an unfair advantage with the traditional Greensboro playing site, Dixon stepped right up to the mike and homered to deep center.
“They (ACC folks) made it very clear that it wasn't an advantage,” Dixon, with a classic deadpan delivery, told The Pittsburgh Times Tribune.
“I haven't heard the North Carolina teams say it, as well, but they've assured me that there's no advantage going forward. We look toward the opportunity of a balanced and fair crowd, game and environment.”
The Tar Heels have won 17 ACC Tournament titles - seven more than Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech Maryland, Georgia Tech, Miami, Clemson, Boston College and South Carolina combined.
And even with 17 trophies, the Tar Heels are still two behind Duke.
Pitt, which lost at Carolina, 75-71 on Feb. 15 in the lone regular-season meeting, obviously deserved its first league tournament win.
It will be an NCAA seedings placement game, too.
The win over Wake left Pitt 24-8 and solidly inside the cut line, assuming the ACC’s 15 members of at least five bids on the final day of Maryland’s basketball membership.
History will be made Friday with Syracuse and Pitt in the house for their first ACC quarterfinals. Dixon is a guy who likes the big top, so he’ll help make it fun.
But Bzdelik’s likely final game at Wake Forest will always be recalled as “what if?” situation. Had the Deacs moved forward, it would have been a 10,000 against 10,000 equation - UNC’s fans against everyone else with what would have been a tough ticket to score.