While Pitt may not have qualified for this year’s NCAA tournament … or the NIT … or the CBI, there are plenty of other things happening in the sports world Pitt fans can distract themselves with. The Pitt News sports staff is back with a weekly roundup of the best in sports this past week — and a little bit on the tournament too.
Click here to see last week’s takes.
It’s tournament time! March Madness is finally upon us, which means that everyone and their mother has made at least one bracket. I myself made three and fully expect to put all of them in the trash in exactly two days.
It’s not that I don’t think my bracket will be wrong, it’s that I know my bracket will be wrong. In 2012, when the No. 15 seed Lehigh upset the No. 2 seed Duke, guess who I had winning the entire thing? Duke. And then when the same thing happened in 2016 with Middle Tennessee upsetting Michigan State, I had the Spartans going all the way.
I’ll be watching basketball religiously for the next three weeks, irrationally caring about schools I haven’t given a second thought until now. I can’t wait to wipe tears of disappointment off my face after North Carolina bows out of the tournament two rounds before they’re supposed to.
I love March Madness, but I hate March Madness. Now please excuse me while I forgo all of my other responsibilities to watch college hoops.
— Jon Shaiken, Staff Writer
Not Out of the Woods Yet
The Valspar Championship was held at Innisbrook Resort-famed Copperhead Course this past weekend in Tampa Bay, Florida. All attention was focused on the man who finished the weekend tied for second place: Tiger Woods. Many people have preemptively deemed this past weekend to be the return of Tiger. This is the year he turns into his old self — the man set to break Jack Nicklaus’s record for major wins.
But that’s not going to happen. Woods will never win another major. That was the Tiger of old. Woods hasn’t been the same since his wife put that seven-iron through the back window of his Cadillac Escalade. The mental strength that once put him ahead of the pack is now lagging behind. He has been plagued by a host of injuries notably ones to his back that have held him out the longest.
Tiger was destined to be the greatest, but now he will just be another cautionary tale of what could have been. Many golf fans are calling this past weekend the return of Tiger, but we have seen this before. He has won tournaments since his family struggles became public and after he returned from injury, and he will win more tournaments. But he will never win another major.
— Stephen Cuddy, Staff Writer
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell wants the biggest contract for a running back in the NFL, which is about $14 million per year. To put this in perspective for running backs, the next highest paid is the Atlanta Falcons’ Devonta Freeman, who makes an average salary of $8.25 million.
Many people have been saying that Bell isn’t worth signing to an extension and that there are other holes on the defense that must be filled. While the defense does need some help, getting rid of Bell doesn’t help anyone. Bell is arguably the best back in the game and also one of the Steelers’ best receivers. He was third in the NFL in rushing with 1,291 yards and also third on the Steelers in receiving with 655 yards last year.
For the Steelers to win a Super Bowl next year or anytime before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retires, Bell has to be on this team. Pittsburgh’s defense will also need to improve, but it’s unlikely they’d use the money saved on Bell to get a marquee defensive free agent.
Even signing a big defensive free agent, like all-pro cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, wouldn’t be enough to improve their defense. Cutting Bell would just add another hole to the roster, and one that may be harder to replace.
— Dominic Campbell, Staff Writer
The Greight One?
Alexander Ovechkin just scored his 600th NHL goal and is undoubtedly one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. But is he greater than the NHL’s all-time leader in goals, Wayne Gretzky? Let’s crunch some numbers to see.
Gretzky comes in at number one in goals with 894 scored over a total of 1,487 games played. That averages .601 goals per game. Ovechkin has 600 goals scored in 990 games, which averages at .606 goals per game. Although Gretzky took less time to achieve 600 goals (718 games), the stats do not lie that Ovechkin averages more goals per game so far in his career than Gretzky did overall.
Let’s assume he retires at age 38, as Gretzky did, and continues to play his average of 76 games per season and continues to score at a rate of .606 goals per game. This means he would score 280 more goals over the next six years, bringing him to 880. There are more factors at play here, but a look at basic statistics suggests it is possible that one day the Great Eight may replace the Great One atop the hallowed list of NHL scorers.
— Max Sirianni, Staff Writer
It Was All a Crean
After reports that he wasn’t interested in the job, multiple outlets Tuesday reported that former Indiana head coach Tom Crean met with Pitt to discuss the men’s basketball program’s vacant head coaching position.
But Crean reportedly signed a six-year deal to become the head coach of Georgia’s men’s basketball team just two nights later. As far as Pitt is concerned, this is probably for the best.
When Jamie Dixon left for TCU in 2016, the Panthers were focused on hiring an experienced coach with a big name, and they got Kevin Stallings. Hiring Crean would be making the same mistake twice. Both Stallings and Crean made their names as solid recruiters, but they also both always seemed to disappoint with the talent they had come tournament time.
Crean, like Stallings, would likely struggle to find the same recruiting success at a rebuilding program like Pitt. Crean is also at a point in his career, like Stallings was in 2016, where he is too well-established to really stick around for a team that’s rebuilding.
Pitt should be looking for a coach that can grow with the program as it restarts its rebuild. Crean is an exciting name, but he would’ve been the wrong fit.
— Grant Burgman, Sports Editor