Some random basketball observations in one of the best times of the year:
n Pitt is getting all sorts of national run heading into the NCAA Tournament for its performance in the Big East. None other than Bob Knight, now of the ESPN sweater, picked the Panthers to win it all. Veteran Associated Press writer Jim O’Connell predicts the Panthers will get to the South Regional final and lose to Texas. That’s heady stuff for a program that hasn’t been able to get past the Sweet 16 in six cracks.
From this view, after four exhausting days in New York, the Thursday draw and the thin air in Denver create a further challenge for Pitt. A Friday site, with more recovery time, would have been better. Here’s hoping Pitt can put away Oral Roberts, a dangerous double-digit underdog, and then survive a presumed matchup with Michigan State, which is coached by one of the nation’s best in Tom Izzo.
n The Northeast Conference, represented by Mt. St. Mary’s, was dealt a blow by having to compete with Coppin State in the play-in game last night. That’s what can happen when the league favorite, in this case Robert Morris, is upset in the league playoffs. The play-in winner is then being ordered to walk the plank against top seed North Carolina on Friday.
n I’m more committed to extending the tradition of picking the Final Four than I am the actual picks, but here goes (again on the criteria of not picking, unlike Dicky V, a No. 1 seed to win it all):
Tennessee, Kansas, Texas, Duke.
Big shot fanfare
Buck Frank’s terrific three-week series on the biggest 20 shots in Blair County high school basketball history is worth revisiting:
n Who can argue with the ultimate No. 1 shot, Cory Gehret’s midcourt bomb to put Altoona in the western final in 1981?
n It struck me that we haven’t had a Blair County boys basketball state champion since the Marauders won the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association title on Denny Tomassetti’s corner shot in 1970. It’s become ritual that girls teams outlast boys teams, but 40 years? Moses spent less time in the desert.
n The Bishop Guilfoyle-Allentown Central Catholic PCIAA final in ’70, played at the Farm Show Arena, started at 9:30 p.m.
n Transferring from Altoona to Bishop Guilfoyle was commonplace in the early 1970s. In one year alone, BG players Pat McGeary, Steve Cordova and B.J. Brandimarte all switched from Altoona, as did former Mountain Lion player Mike Palazzi.
n Not one, not two, but three Landolfis — Joe, Bob and Guy — turned up in the series.
n The Jaffa Mosque was a venue perhaps unlike any other used for high school basketball in the country.
n Both the No. 1 and No. 2 shots, by Gehret and Tomassetti, were photographed by Emory Wilt, who could almost always be found on the right side of the key. Emory was a lovable curmudgeon who drove an Altoona High School van during the day and took pictures for the Mirror at night. He was taken far too soon at age 56 in 1983.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.