ESPN guru Jay Bilas has helped us out before giving some good insight into Pitt. With the Panthers now in the ACC and readying to play Duke tonight, Bilas was again more than gracious in answering my questions about the Blue Devils and tonight's game. My questions are in bold below and his answers follow:
Right now, the talk of the ACC has been Syracuse and Pitt. That said, I think a lot of folks are kind of getting caught up in those two teams and forgetting about Duke a bit just because they've got a couple of conference losses (one, being a two-point nailbiter to Notre Dame on the road). Do you think the Blue Devils are still in the hunt for the ACC regular season title?
Yes. It's an 18-game regular season schedule, and Duke is still a contender for ACC and national honors. Duke has some new pieces and is smaller than last year, but still very good offensively and improving defensively. Duke isn't quite as good as I expected to this point, but this is an improving team that is very good. I still believe Syracuse is the best team in the ACC, but Duke is good enough to win the league.
In a recent feature on ESPN, you called Lamar Patterson one of the nation's most underappreciated players. Most fans in Pittsburgh would agree with that as he doesn't seem to get a lot of national exposure and as you pointed out, he's an excellent passer. At 6'5", he'd be a bit undersized as a small forward in the NBA, but do you think he has a chance to get drafted?
He can play in the NBA because he's skilled and he's a good all-around player that simply knows how to play and knows how to function as a productive member of a team. I'm not sure he'll get drafted, but that doesn't really matter. While he might not have a elite athleticism or a specialty skill that the NBA covets in the Draft, he can play.
In watching Jabari Parker, what's the most underrated aspect of his game that you've seen this year?
I'm not sure anything about him is underrated. He's very talented and really good. Despite his productivity, he's still a kid and still inexperienced, but learning fast. He's really skilled and good with the ball. He can shoot to range, he can pull-up, he can drive it, and he's good in the open floor. When he takes good shots and he's engaged and alert defensively, he's as good as anyone. It would not surprise anyone if he were to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, whenever he decides to come out.
Like Pitt, Duke has a lot of young contributors. Teams like Kentucky have proven you can go deep in the tournament with underclassmen playing key roles, but which team do you think is built for a longer postseason run this year - Pitt or Duke?
Both are. Pitthas more guys that have gone through a season or two together, and that's a factor. But, both are capable and both are talented enough to beat anyone. I would favor Pitt right now, but these teams will be different in another month, and both should be better.
Coach K will turn 67 next month, but doesn't appear to be slowing down much at all. Do you see any indication that makes you think he'll be retiring any time soon and how much longer do you expect to see him out there on the sidelines?
I have no idea. As long as he's in good health, I don't see him walking away anytime soon. He really is an amazing coach. His enthusiasm and energy is no different today than it was when I played for him, he's just more efficient and more productive. To be as passionate for your job after 34 years as you were at the beginning of your career is really inspiring. Instead of losing a step, he seems to have gained one. He's a special person.
Give us your keys for Pitt for Monday - if the Panthers are going to win, how will they do it?
Pitt has to limit Rodney Hood and Parker's touches in scoring areas. If the Panthers can extend the catch and make them catch it a step away from their scoring areas, they can rotate and bring help. Pitt also has to handle Duke's pressure on the ball without turning it over, and needs to attack the paint off the bounce. Duke has had some difficulties guarding the ball and limiting dribble penetration, so Pitt should attack the rim and look to get post-ups and duck-ins. Lastly, Pitt has to rebound and control the glass. It should be a great game.