Former Bears Coach Dave Wannstedt gets new TV gig

dave-wannstedt

Dave Wannstedt was the head man with the Chicago Bears from 1993-1998. During his tenure, the Bears went to the playoffs once, and won just one playoff game- a memorable New Year’s Eve 1994 upset at Minnesota led by the “legendary” Steve Walsh.

After a fun-to-watch 1995 Bears team had a winning record, but failed to reach the postseason, he built up expectations in Chicago with a famous “all the pieces are in place” soundbite. But the Bears suffered a losing season and eventually “this place was in pieces.”

Wanny’s way with words winds him up on FOX Sports it was announced today.

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Pitt Panthers win comfortably at DePaul; #20 Pitt Panthers on hot streak

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On an episode of Mr. Belvidere, the character played by Bob Uecker once sang karaoke “My kind of town..Pittsburgh is” The rift on the popular Sinatra tune about Chicago is apt for #20 Pitt Panthers basketball as they own a winning record at DePaul. The Pitt Panthers shot 76% from the field, 83% on three pointers in the first half to build a big 46-35 lead after the first 20 minutes. They won 81-66; shooting 72% for the game (that’s a school record), 64% from deep.

The Pitt Panthers ruined DePaul senior night and improved to 24-7, 12-6 in Big East play. The #20 team in college basketball, they’re riding a hot streak into March Madness. The Pitt Panthers have won four in a row, 11/14 and 12/16. Over the last 12 years, the Pitt Panthers are the Big East leaders in winning percentage, conference winning percentage, Big East championships, Big East Tournament wins and NCAA Tournament appearances.

So they’ll say goodbye to the league in style, as they move on to the ACC.

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#43 Pittsburgh Panthers: College Football 77 in 77

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Four coaches in three years? If there’s anything the Pittsburgh Panthers program needs it’s stability! Will they have it in Paul Chryst, the former Wisconsin Badgers offensive coordinator who gets offers every season from teams everywhere, but now he’s finally taken one and left Madison. Can the meat and potatoes, blue collar type coach bring to Pitt what’s been missing under Dave Wannstedt, and the dude who came for one year and bolted for Arizona State?

The Panthers will have a solid running game this year, but their QB play could keep them from being anything special.

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Pitt Panthers Basketball: Vastly Overrated

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Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said his team’s victory over#22  Pittsburgh last night on his home court was one of the most fun games he has coached since coming to South Bend.

Alex Dragicevich, yes someone you haven’t heard of (unless you’re a huge college basketball nerd) hit four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Fighting Irish to a 72-59 win over the Panthers in the Big East opener for both teams.

“I have been a part of a lot of fun games here,” Brey said. “But this one ranks right up there with the best. To see us play with that swagger in the second half, I guess I just wasn’t sure this group was ready for that.”

Yes, playing Pitt is becoming “fun.”

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College Football 77 in 77: #46 Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh cheerleader

Congratulations Pittsburgh Panthers, you had the most thuggish ruggish team in all of college football last season. In a criminal study by SI among the preseason top 25, the Pittsburgh Panthers had more arrests than any top 25 team. The Iowa Hawkeyes were second.

The legal problems off the field and the disappointments on the field cost Coach Dave Wannstedt his job. You got to feel for him though because he’s kind of like college football‘s version of a “wacky neighbor” character on a prime time network sitcom. Maybe I get this perception of him because he kind of looks like Schneider from “One Day at a Time,” a classic television character.  He has the same exact mustache, and like Schneider, he spent a lot of time fixing messes he didn’t create.

And after he was cut, Pitt football saw more drama than a season of Friday Night Lights.

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2011 March Madness Predictions

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It’s crunch time. The tournament is less than 24 hours away. By now you have gone through a dozen brackets, second guessing each pick. You want to choose the upset that no one is talking about, but your sleeper is becoming everyone’s sleeper. We see it every year; an upset pick that becomes so popular that it is no longer an upset, i.e. Richmond over Vanderbilt this year. At last, I’m here to give you six picks that no one is talking about, but should be, heading into the 2011 NCAA tournament.

By: Justin Mertes-Mistretta

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In Baldwin and Lewis, Pitt Panthers have 2 Next Level Skill Guys

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Pittsburgh Panthers Coach Dave Wannstedt has had a rather up and down college football season so far. His Pitt team has looked pretty mediocre; due to a lot of injuries to key guys, but they still have future NFL talent aplenty, especially at the skill positions.

This gives them an advantage in the Big East Conference race, a derby that is pretty wide open because the BE isn’t exactly the strongest at this point.

Leading the way for the Panthers on offense is junior wide receiver Jon Baldwin and sophomore tailback Dion Lewis. I spoke with both following Pitt’s loss at Notre Dame.

By Paul M. Banks

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Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh: Brutally Honest Game Preview

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With three of their first four against ranked teams, Notre Dame had their “echoes woken up” on them right off the bat. But at least they had some desert last week in the form of rival Boston College. Having a 2-3 record after consuming the meat and potatoes of their schedule isn’t catastrophic. But now you can “shake down the thunder” because the cupcakes are coming! And with the remaining schedule, 7-5 in 2010 still seems very doable.

This week, they welcome Dave Wannstedt (a begrudgingly familiar site to Chicago Bears fans) and his 2-2 Pittsburgh Panthers to Notre Dame Stadium. Wanny has always been like a football version of a sitcom stock character. “Oh, that wacky neighbor Wanny! What hi-jinks and tomfoolery will ensue on this weekend’s episode?”

Well, if you want to learn more about Pitt and their players, start watching “America’s Most Wanted” because this team has more arrests than Rick James and Lindsay Lohan combined.

By Paul M. Banks

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Midwest Swing 2nd Round Edition

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By Paul M. Banks

MILWAUKEE- So far the most entertaining exchange of the first half of the “Midwest Swing” tour took place down the stretch of Pittsburgh-Xavier. My press row seat placed me in the midst of a trash talk cross-fire between drunk Xavier fans in the Bradley Center’s third row and Pitt’s mascot “Roc”. They taunted him with “we’re going to shut you up Roc!” So when Pitt cut Xavier’s previously double digit lead down to one, the big cat got up and gave the fans the “you want some of this?” motion. Later he added the similar “come and get me” gesture. Classic. Just classic. Security even had to stop Roc, and give him a stern talking to.

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The Big East’s Battle Tested NBA Prospects

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

During the 2008-2009 season, the Big East set itself apart from any other conference in the history college basketball.  It became the first conference in NCAA Tournament history to not only send five teams to the Sweet Sixteen, but also advance four schools to the Elite 8.  At one time, eight Big East teams were ranked in the AP Top 25, the first time a conference had ever accomplished such a feat. In the first week of January, the conference topped their own mark, as nine teams were voted into the Top 25.

With that sort of resume, it should come as no surprise that the Big East will hear a record number of player names called during this year’s NBA Draft.  While only four players from the conference were drafted last year and just six selected in the 2007 Draft, our most recent mock draft has 12 players being drafted. (The previous high was 11 in 2006; ten of which being among the top 33.)  That number could be even higher if underclassmen Luke Harangody of Notre Dame or Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds stay in the draft, but both are expected to return to their respective schools for their senior seasons as they have left that option open by not signing an agent. “We talk off and on. He’s doing his thing, I’m doing my thing. We communicate a little bit, but it’s kind of shaky what he’s feeling,” Villanova’s Dante Cunningham said of his former teammate at the NBA Draft Combine.notre_dame20harangody20beasley

Having played in undoubtedly the toughest conference in the nation should greatly benefit these future NBA’ers at the next level as they will enter the league battle-tested.  Former UConn point guard A.J. Price summed it up best during our exclusive chat at the combine, “Running through the Big East Conference is like you said, kind of like a mini D-League because there were no easy games, a lot of guys who played in that league will be pros if not this year, then eventually, and it prepared me for this time and I’m glad we got a chance to do that,” Price said.

 
Louisville: Clark Bar and T. Will

Louisville, the Big East regular season and conference tournament champions, was one of the two Big East teams to advance to the Final Four.  The Cardinals punched their ticket to Detroit mainly because of their tandem of versatile forwards, Earl Clark and Terrence Williams.  Clark played some of his best basketball down the stretch and shouldn’t fall out of the lottery while Williams will likely be a mid-to-late first rounder.

Williams was very candid at the combine about the big picture of the NBA Draft. “Some others don’t really work out because they feel they’re already secure in a certain spot, and that’s surprises me because you’d think that people who love basketball would play regardless. Other than it’s just everybody going for a job and at the end of the day it’s just business,” Williams said. 

 
Pittsburgh’s Dynamic Duo

Pitt’s DeJuan Blair is an intriguing prospect.  He only measured in at 6-6.5 in shoes which is far from the ideal size for an NBA power forward.  But his physicality and 7’2” wingspan will help wipe away any doubt teams have about his future productivity in the NBA.  Blair is pretty confident: “I don’t think there was a better offensive rebounder by far in this class at all. There’s something about that ball, I go get it,” he said at the combine. A dominating 22 point, 23 rebound beat-down of UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet during the regular season doesn’t hurt either.

NBA Draft aficionados are buzzing about Blair astonishing weight loss (40 pounds in three weeks) during his workouts. At the NBA Draft combine, Blair had a sense of humor about it. “I told my mom that this morning she said did you cut off your leg off? She couldn’t believe it and that was pretty exciting,” Get ready for the next best-selling book: “The DeJuan Blair Diet.”  

Besides being the object of obsession by ESPN analyst Bob Knight because of his outstanding shot fake, fellow Panther Sam Young should be taken in the last first *Nov 21 - 00:05*round and have a solid pro career due to his savvy basketball knowledge and multi-faceted offensive game. “A lot of people don’t think I can play the two, but I think when it’s all said and done I’m going to be a two,” Young said.

 
In like Flynn

Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn churned out one of the gutsiest performances in conference tournament history this March, when he played 67 of the 70 minutes in the six-overtime classic against UConn and following that up by being on the floor for all 45 minutes of the Orange’s OT victory against West Virginia the very next night.  He is the perfect combination of a true point guard who can score in a variety of ways when needed to.  He currently projects as a mid-lottery pick and should make an immediate impact at the NBA. 

Flynn described his game: “I think I have some characteristics of Chris Paul. His tenacity, he’s hard as nails, fiery, fires his teammates up, he really knows how to get his teammates in position to where they can score, where they don’t have to do much to score. Look at David West and Tyson Chandler; where would they be without Chris Paul?”

East Regional Bracket Breakdown

By: David K.

Overview: What stands out most about this regional, is the massive home-court advantage for (2) Duke and (3) Villanova.  You pretty much write in each team into the Sweet 16 since the Dukies play in North Carolina and Nova is in their home city of Philadelphia.  With Pittsburgh being the one seed, this is a fairly top heavy bracket.

Elite Eight Prediction: (1) Pitt beats (3) Villanova

Yes, my second all Big East Elite 8 match-up.  I have Pitt winning the entire tournament and have been on that bandwagon for the past few weeks.  The only thing that will stop them is if DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble.  Pitt is 0-4 when Blair fouls out of a game.  Fortunately for them, there really aren’t a lot of big guys who will get in his way in this bracket.  Villanova has the best guard play in the country with Scottie Reynolds and the Corey’s (Fisher and Stokes.)  They go eight deep and their Sweet 16 match-up with Duke should be an absolute shoot-out.

Sleeper: (9) Tennessee

I like this Tennessee team, and not just because of Wayne Chism’s headband.  When their offense is clicking, they can put up points with any team in the country.  They tend to play out of control too often, but have the athletes and quickness to possibly upset Pitt in the second round.

Early Exit: (6) UCLA

The Bruins run of three straight trips to the Final Four will come to an end this year.  UCLA has a tough first round match-up against VCU who has experience in knocking off a major program two years when they upset Duke in the first round.  VCU’s point guard is Eric Maynor who will be a mid-first round pick and led VCU in that upset of Duke.  Even if UCLA escapes out of the first round, they get Villanova in their home city.  I am guessing there will not be a lot of Bruin backers making the long trip from Cali to Philly.

Most Intriguing First Round Match-Up: (7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota

The Longhorns were a team I was very high on early in the season.  But A.J. Abrams has not been able to find his shooting touch and it has really hurt the Horns.  Minnesota surprised a lot of teams when they started the season 16-1.  But the Gophs finished the year 6-9 and were lucky to land a spot in the Big Dance.  Minnesota is at their best when their defense is suffocating and they are very deliberate on the offensive end (aka typical boring Big Ten ball.)  I think Texas wins if Abrams is able to find his stroke early

College Hoops 101

By: David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Selection Sunday is six days away!!!!  Be sure to check back to thesportsbank.net frequently during the next couple weeks as I plan on dropping all sorts of college basketball knowledge for your reading enjoyment.

Rewind

-Five teams earned an automatic bid into the Big Dance; Cornell (Ivy League), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Radford (Big South), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), East Tennessee St. (Atlantic Sun).  Northern Iowa is the only one that could actually make any first round-upset noise in the tourney.

-Bubbles are already being burst as upsets are knocking out big name teams from their conference tourneys.  Creighton, who lost in the semi’s of the MVC Tournament, now has to be considered for an at-large bid.  As does Stephen Curry and Davidson who fell to Charleston in the Southern Conference Semi’s.  Big conference bubble teams (like Moe Diddy’s Arizona Wildcats) hate seeing this happen.

-The bubble officially burst for the following teams: Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Maryland, Miami (FL).

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-The dreaded took place as Marquette lost to Pitt and Syracuse this past week, meaning they have now lost all four games since Dominic James’ injury.  MU has proven that without James, they can hang with any team in the country, but cannot get over the hump.  Barring a major run in the Big East Tournament, do not be surprised to see them end up with a 7, possibly even 8 seed come Selection Sunday.

-Convince me NOT to pick Pitt to win it all in my brackets.  I dare you.

-Kudos to Bill Self and Kansas.  Even after losing all the talent they did from last year’s National Championship team, the Jayhawks captured the Big 12 crown and put themselves in a position to have no lower than a #3 seed in the tourney.

My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. North Carolina (27-3)
2. Pitt (28-3)
3. UConn (27-3)
4. Memphis (28-3)
5. Louisville (25-5)
6. Oklahoma (27-4)
7. Wake Forest (24-5)
8. Michigan St. (25-5)
9. Gonzaga (25-5)
10. Duke (25-6)

Fast Forward

-I don’t even know where to begin.  Just please plan on watching some of the best college basketball yet this week.  I am setting a personal goal of 25 games this week, (my previous individual week high is 17)  Any social life is going out the window, unless it involves sitting at a sports bar, watching a 70-foot flat screen.  In which case, BOTTOMS UP!

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The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season, which will be broken this week…  This should have been the week the Drive was accomplished, but a combination of the flu and a crazy weekend at work ruined those chances.  I’m actually a little upset about this because I missed A LOT of sweet games…

Games watched through 3/8: 223

Games watched this past week: 10
Villanova at Notre Dame
Rutgers at Syracuse
Marquette at Pitt
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Tennessee at South Carolina
UConn at Pitt
Syracuse at Marquette
Louisville at West Virginia
Standford at Arizona
Indiana at Wisconsin