ACC Expansion: The Jamie Dixon Perspective

We've all heard it - Jamie Dixon's not going to be happy. There are even those saying he's not happy.

The theory is that Dixon loves the Big East so much that he can't possibly be happy in the ACC. That he could even leave Pitt - something he's passed on before.

If that ever happens, I'm hard-pressed to think it's because of Pitt's move to the ACC.

The idea that Dixon could leave because of this is the laughable thing for me. Okay, so coach isn't happy - where's he going? Every other major conference would be an even bigger step down from the Big East. That doesn't mean that Dixon won't ever leave, but I don't see this as the sole reason he would bolt. It would be akin to going to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, being told that a Porterhouse steak isn't available and instead of settling for a Strip, you're so disenfranchised that you go to McDonald's for a Big Mac.

Dixon himself mentioned that if Pitt was leaving the Big East, the ACC was probably the best landing spot:

"I've always felt that if we were to move conferences," he said, "that the ACC would be the conference."

Okay, so if we're convinced he's staying, what can you expect from Pitt on the court? Dixon hints that Pitt will keep the same bruising style, but find a way to adapt at the same time:

"We adapt to how the game is being called or played," Dixon said. "We can play different styles. No matter what, if you're from Pittsburgh and have success, you're going to be the tough, physical, defensive-minded team even though we've been No. 1 in the country in offensive efficiency. That never gets to be part of our persona per se. We'll adapt. We've been good offensively yet we're still known as the team that beats people up."

And, oh yeah, about that recruiting thing:

Of all the adjustments that will be made with the move to the ACC, Dixon said recruiting might be the least effected.

"Not too many challenges with recruiting," he said. "We'll be recruiting against the same schools as far as I can tell. I don't see it being too much of a change in the recruiting world. We're going to find the player.

"We've never been a school to focus on one area. We have to recruit in certain places, but we never felt obligated or focused or relied on one area to recruit because that's where you get beat. That's how you get poor recruiting classes. We don't recruit the area. We recruit the kid.

"We're not going to be dependent on what team is in our conference or who is on our schedule that year. We don't want to get into a down period in a certain city, which we have seen. Some years, cities are up and some years they're down. The cycles change. We adapt. [Washington] D.C. is strong, Philadelphia, New York. ... We'll find out where they're at."

Honestly, will Pitt lose kids over this? Yes. But at the same time, they'll get kids they normally wouldn't have gotten - the ones that want to play in the Dean Dome or go up against Coach K. Former Pitt assistant Tom Herrion agrees with that:

"I think it will have zero effect," Herrion said Wednesday. "Jamie has built that program to continue to sustain success. They've proven over the last 10 years that program can win against teams all over the country. There will be a transition period and an adjustment geographically, but I think it will have zero effect on the program.

"It might even help them in a lot of areas. They may even be able to go into other areas and get kids that they couldn't before."

The other really important thing to keep in mind as well is that Pitt has thrived without getting the best of the best. We're starting to see that change a bit with the additions of Dante Taylor, Khem Birch, and Steven Adams, but in general, Pitt's had a decade of success with middle-of-the-road guys. Pitt's never relied on getting the cream of the crop and under Dixon, the more important thing is the system - not getting uber talented guys.. Now, I get that we can argue that the type of players Pitt go after are in New York, New Jersey, DC, Philly, etc., but as Dixon said, Pitt will go wherever they need to - including Australia to get Adams. And they've built up enough of a reputation that I think regardless of where they're at, recruits will want to play for them.

Now, I don't doubt that Dixon loved/s the Big East. He's said as much on plenty of occasions. And if Pitt were going to the Big Ten or Big 12, I'd expect he could be disgruntled. But let's face it - if the conference can secure UConn, the ACC is the new Big East. The league was already plenty strong with superpowers North Carolina and Duke. There's also a strong Maryland program. After that, you don't have any great programs, but many that have put together good teams in recent years. Now you add Pitt and Syracuse to that - two more strong programs.

And on a side note just in case you forgot, Dixon was one of the people involved in bringing TCU to the Big East. He's been in the awkward position of trying to deal with that as well:

"I’ve talked with them and their Athletic Director," Dixon said. "He’s a friend of mine. They’re in a better position now than they were last year and they understand that and know that. They knew what the conference’s situation was when they signed up for it."

I'll have more on TCU later at some point, but essentially, I think they're fine. Besides, what are their options at this point - to crawl back to the Mountain West where they won't have a chance at the automatic BCS bid? Don't see that happening.
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