I spent a lot of the day at Pitt and got some good time with the Huskies after they practiced and then also some time with Panthers coach Jamie Dixon and senior forward Levon Kendall, a Panther from Vancouver, B.C.
&bull In general, the Huskies seem excited about playing on ESPN. And also excited about getting a chance to maybe jump back into the attention of the NCAA tournament selection committee with an eye-opening win -- which a road win over No. 7 Pitt would be.
&bull The Pittsburgh media was real interested in the pairing of 7-foot Spencer Hawes and 7-foot Aaron Gray. However, from watching the Huskies all season, I have a hunch that Jon Brockman will get a lot of time against Gray, and Romar confirmed that even though Gray will have a 5-inch height advantage.
&bull The two head coaches told some good stories on each other, which I'll include in tomorrow's paper. However, the best -- which might have been actual news, since I hadn't heard it before -- was that Romar actually offered an assistants job to Dixon. Dixon, then a Pitt assistant under Ben Howland, said he was flattered and tempted, but felt things were turning around for the Pitt program at that time, and he decided to stay and see it through. It seemed to work out fine.
Never miss a local story.
&bull I was real impressed with Petersen Events Center, Pitt's great 5-year old home court. It seats about 12,500 and has lots of nice touches. If you watch on TV tomorrow you'll see some court-level suites on one side. If they show any outside shots you might also notice a great corner section of the building that is all glass, which gives great views down on the campus and surrounding neighborhood. Also, there's an upper-level food court that the students and public can use even when there's no game. And, behind the scenes, there are some nice touches for the media. I'm eager to see the place in action tomorrow. It's supposed to be real loud, and I've heard great things about their student section, which is called the Oakland Zoo. (Oakland is the univeristy the neighborhood is in.) You'll see their golden Oakland Zoo T-shirts if you watch tomorrow.
&bull Between the interview sessions I was able to take about a short but icy walk from the arena to a spot of the campus on which Forbes Field once stood. In a couple of very nice touches, a part of the outfield wall was left standing. And homeplate remains in the ground, althought it is now inside a campus building build over the former Pirates infield.
&bullAnd tonight, by the way, the Huskies are gathering to watch the NBA rookie-sophomore game.