A-10 gameday news and notes

Written by Craig Meyer on .

With a 61-55 victory against Saint Louis last night, Duquesne's incredibly faint dream of making the NCAA tournament lives for at least one more day (side note: people can complain about it, but the fact that a 12-18 team still has a chance at an NCAA championship this late in the season is one of the more beautiful things about March).

I don't really have an overarching theme or trend to write about with the Dukes -- or at least one doesn't really stand out -- so as they prepare to play George Washington tonight, I figured I'd throw together a news and notes type of story (it's pretty much all notes; not too much news to be had), led by the conference tournament primer that ran in yesterday's paper.






Top Four

No. 1 Davidson, No. 2 Dayton, No. 3 Rhode Island, No. 4 Richmond

Team Path

If the No. 11 Dukes are to win an A-10 championship, a daunting road of five wins in five days faces them. They face No. 14 Saint Louis in the first round Wednesday. If they defeat the Billikens, they get No. 6 George Washington the following night, with the winner playing No. 3 Rhode Island in Friday’s quarterfinals.


After being picked 12th in the preseason of its first year in the 14-team A-10, Davidson was the surprise of the season, using a potent and hyper-efficient offense to win the regular season championship. As winners of their past nine, the Wildcats undoubtedly enter the tournament as the favorite. … Pittsburgh native Archie Miller’s Dayton team has won six of its last eight despite only playing seven players. As the season drags on, though, fatigue may soon become a factor. … In just his third season, Dan Hurley has transformed Rhode Island into a winner, one that could leave Brooklyn with a title behind a team ranked No. 12 in Division I in defensive efficiency. … Defending runner-up VCU limps into the tournament with a 5-6 record since losing guard Briante Weber, one of its top players, to a season-ending knee injury. … A potential sleeper could be Richmond, which has won six straight and has one of the conference’s best players in guard Kendall Anthony (16.3 points per game).




** I've known since I moved to Pittsburgh two and a half years ago that Duquesne's had a tortured track record in basketball over the past 30-40 years, but until working on the conference tournament preview that ran in Wednesday's paper, I had no clue that Duquesne had, with the exception of one year, been THAT bad in the A-10 tournament.

Wednesday's win against Saint Louis marked just the fourth win Duquesne has had in the conference tournament since the 2004-05 season. The Dukes' 4-8 record in tournament play doesn't look all that awful on the surface, but considering three of those wins came in one season, you're looking at a pretty bleak picture.

For all of his success at Duquesne, Ron Everhart's teams had a tendency to fizzle out at the end of the season, something reflected in that record, aside from that one run in 2009. From a win-loss standpoint, little has gone right for Jim Ferry at Duquesne, but with how the Dukes have played over the past month, he can at least make the sell that his team has gotten better as the year has gone on, in stark contrast to his predecessor. A win against Saint Louis -- while not overly impressive considering the young Billikens' struggles -- adds to that idea.

** In its past 11 games, Duquesne has held opponents under one point per possession three times. Two of those have come against Saint Louis after last night's win, when the Billikens averaged 0.8 points per possession. That mark was the second-lowest that the Dukes have allowed in A-10 play this season, behind only the 0.76 they allowed against George Mason on Jan. 31.

** Fans and people like myself who cover the team have spent a lot of the last month trying to figure out what has changed with Duquesne, which has gone 6-5 in its past 11 games after a six-game losing streak that derailed its season. It's a multi-faceted trend, but there's one thing that's started to stand out that I think plays some kind of role in it -- the absence of Jordan Stevens.

Now, this isn't to say that Stevens was responsible for the teams' struggles. That's a) an incredibly over-simplified way of looking at it and b) an awful case of scapegoating. But when looking at his stats, it becomes pretty obvious that he wasn't helping Duquesne's offense. Prior to his indefinite suspension, Stevens was using 30.8 percent of the team's possessions and taking 34.6 percent of its shots while he was on the court, easily the most of any Dukes player (the next-closest is TySean Powell at 25 percent and Eric James at 23.1 percent, respectively). With that usage, he was a mostly inefficient player, shooting just 37.1 percent.

Since Stevens was suspended, Duquesne's offense has thrived. In 10 A-10 games before his suspension, the Dukes were averaging 0.99 points per possession; in the nine games since his suspension, they're averaging 1.1 points per possession. Again, it's ridiculous to say that he solely was responsible for Duquesne's shortcomings, especially given how much this team still struggles on defense. But the Dukes have been undeniably better offensively in Stevens' absence.

** KenPom is giving Duquesne a 23 percent chance of beating George Washington, which seems perfectly reasonable given GW's recent surge (also, if you try to argue with math, you're going to lose, especially if you're a sportswriter). Since a four-game skid that began with a double-digit loss to Duquesne, the Colonials have won three of their past four games, with an average margin of victory of about 20 points per game. The lone loss in that span came by 11 on the road against a Davidson team that nobody over the past month and change has been able to figure out. 

Though the win against GW last month gives them some measure of hope, there's no denying that the Dukes are a considerable underdog in this matchup (the Vegas line favors the Colonials by nine).

** Micah Mason has played 230 of a possible 240 minutes in Duquesne's past six games. It was exhausting just typing that. And speaking of...

** Before I finish things off here, here's a box score of last night's game. Draw whatever conclusions you may from it, but I think it's becoming increasingly clear who this team's most productive offensive player and go-to-scoring option has become.

Dukes SLU box


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG


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Mixed reviews of Led Zeppelin at Three Rivers Stadium 1973 #tbt newsclip

Written by Scott Mervis on .


July 24, 1973, Three Rivers Stadium: The biggest crowd ever for a concert in Pittsburgh to that point, for Led Zeppelin, easily in the Top 5 on any list of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Must have been insanely great, right?

"The show itself was not memorable as far as rock concerts go," said PG critic Mike Kalina.


"The only standout work was performed by lead guitarist Jimmy Page."

But wait. Led Zeppelin was, above all else, an ensemble. Three killer players and one golden god putting the hammer to the blues.

Well, according to Kalina, Robert Plant's singing "was not particularly stirring."  

Ledzep3plumdusty.blogspAnd that rhythm section, the one with perhaps the greatest rock drummer of all time? "...drummer John Bonham and guitarists-keyboard man [?] John Paul Jones were only fair."

There you have it.

Turns out, there was a secret reason it was only fair. According to the PG's critic, "On their records, a network of technical tricks was employed to create their 'sound.' The group proved last night they can't duplicate their studio sound on stage."

So, we're to believe from this review that five albums into their career -- they were touring on "Houses of the Holy," which came out that March -- Led Zeppelin was in the process of proving that they couldn't play live.

Good thing there wasn't commenting on stories back then.

Press critic Pete Bishop had an opposing view, calling them "powerhouse rock 'n' roll personified." Plant, he said, was "a leather-lunged yowler" and Page "demonstrated his virtuosity on almost every number." As for the rhythm section, Bonham and Jones "provided excellent backup."

Led Zeppelin -- which made its Pittsburgh debut at the Hunt Armory in January 1969 before headlining the Arena in 1970, only returned one more time, to the Arena in 1975. Sadly, the scheduled 1977 and 1980 shows were canceled -- the first after the death of Plant's son and the second after the death of Bonzo.

One final footnote on this show: It was a Tuesday night!

Dewey G. posted on my Facebook page: "I can't begin to even explain the excitement 13 year-old me felt about this show. It was just about the greatest thing that had EVER happened. This was the show before the run of MSG NYC shows where The Song Remains The Same, which is why there's that whole Pittsburgh sequence in the film - when the band gets off the plane and goes through the tunnel, at which point Pgh becomes NYC."

Here is the goofy layout in the Press:



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Jehovah's Witnesses in news again at their North Side birthplace

Written by Peter Smith on .



It's been a long time since Jehovah's Witnesses made big news from the North Side of the Allegheny River, but there it is.

Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Jason Worilds is retiring, walking away from potentially millions as a free agent in the prime of his career. Steeler sources tell my colleague Ed Bouchette that Worilds plans to do spiritual work on behalf of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

We haven't heard from Worilds directly on the motivation for retiring, but there's a little bit of deja vu here. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses got their start on the North Side, not far from present-day Heinz Field — led by another young man who walked away from a prosperous career (a chain of family-owned stores) to pursue ministry work.

A historical marker in Allegheny Center recounts how Charles Taze Russell -- a native of what was then Allegheny City (now the North Side of Pittsburgh) -- started a Bible study and a publishing enterprise that evolved into the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. The church still does business under that name even though it relocated its headquarters from Pittsburgh to New York a century ago.

Jehovah’s Witnesses emerged out of 19th century evangelical movements that expected the imminent return of Jesus, and they have had to work their way through great disappointments at times such as 1914, when their end-times scenarios didn't turn out as expected.

They operate very separately from other churches -- so much so that despite their Protestant roots, sociologists often treat them as a category unto themselves -- and have many distinct doctrines and practices that have them and other Christians doubting each others' bonafides. They believe in Jesus as Savior but not the the Trinity. They have refused blood transfusions and reject formal religious titles, considering all members ministers while operating under a hierarchy that includes strict discipline of members.

They have won U.S. Supreme Court cases protecting their rights to conduct door-to-door evangelism and not to salute the flag; but in some other countries they have faced severe persecution, including Nazi Germany.

Like other religious groups, particularly those with hierarchical governments, Jehovah's Witnesses have faced lawsuits over sexual abuse of children and have been found liable in some cases, with damages in the millions.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are best-known for persistent door-to-door evangelism and distributing literature such as The Watchtower magazine, which originated in Pittsburgh under Russell. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses list 1.2 million members in the United States, with about 8 million worldwide, according to its 2015 yearbook. The yearbook does not give state or local statistics, but its directory lists dozens of kingdom halls, or church buildings, in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not rule out athletics per se, citing Bible verses that encourage bodily fitness and health. But it would be hard to square a professional football career with their beliefs, based on readily available online publications.

These writings caution particularly against violent and physically risky sports, saying the Bible mandates safe, healthy conduct. The publications also warn that too much participation in competitive sports takes time away from spiritual activities and exposes one to the influence of unbelieving teammates.

Most apropos to Worilds, the writings give several examples of athletes who gave up competitive sports for spiritual priorities. 

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Empty Netter Assists - Nelson's return - 03-12-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-“I think it’s something we’ve been committed to all year. Regardless of some of the scores, I think our mentality has been to make sure that we take care of things in our own end, make sure that we’re structured.” - Sidney Crosby on the team's defense.

-“It was a time when the Penguins were winning Stanley Cups and I was a young guy trying to cut his teeth in hockey … there were so many great players in that organization. I was somewhat star-struck. Quite a few Hall of Famers on that team. You can name them off.” - Oilers coach Todd Nelson (right) on his brief career as a defenseman with the Penguins. He played one game in 1991-92.

-Former Penguins forward Gary Roberts will be taking on an undefined position with the team's new practice facility in Cranberry.

-Former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is helping out the WHL's Kelowna Rockets.

-Barry Goers, captain Tom Kostopoulos, Jayson Megna and Conor Sheary each had a goal and an assist for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 5-3 home win against the rival Hershey Bears Wednesday. Adam Payerl had two assists for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while teammate Matt Murray made 24 saves.


-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins recalled defenseman Alex Boak from the Wheeling Nailers.

-Happy 63rd birthday to former Penguins forward Ed Gilbert (right). Acquired from the Kansas City Scouts midway through the 1975-76 season along with Simon Nolet and a and a draft pick in exchange for Steve Durbano, Chuck Arnason and a draft pick, Gilbert spent parts of two seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1975-76, he appeared in 38 games and scored two points. During 1976-77, he was limited to seven games and no points. In the 1978 offseason, he signed with the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA.

-Today would've been the 78th birthday of former Penguins and Pittsburgh Hornets goaltender Roy Edwards. Edwards was originally claimed by the Penguins from the Black Hawks in the 1967 expansion draft but was traded to the Red Wings in exchange for Hank Bassen prior to the start of their inaugural season. In the 1971 offseason, the Penguins re-claimed him off waivers from the Red Wings. In 1971-72, he would go 2-8-4 with a 2.55 goals against average in 15 games before retiring in December due to stress. Having recovered, he was traded back to Detroit prior to 1972-73 in exchange for cash. He died at the age of 62, August. 16, 1999.

-Happy 38rd birthday to former  Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson (right). A free agent signing in the 2009 offseason, Johnson spent three seasons with the Penguins. In 2009-10, Johnson went 10-6-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and .906 save percentage. He appeared in one playoff game that season. He had no record, a 1.94 goals against average and .857 save percentage. During the 2010-11 campaign, Johnson had a 13-5-3  record with a 2.17 goals against average, .922 save percentage and one shutout (and two fights). That postseason, he saw action in one game, didn't record a result and had a 7.06 goals against average as well as a .636 save percentage. In 2011-12, Johnson appeared in 16 games and had a 6-7-2 record with a 3.11 goals against average and .883 save percentage. He saw action in one postseason game that spring and had a 6.00 goals against average and a .667 save percentage. He was not re-signed following that season. In 62 regular season games with the Penguins, Johnson, the son of former Penguins goaltender Bob Johnson, had a 29-18-6 record with a 2.61 goals against average, .907 save percentage and one shutout. In two postseason games, he had no record, a 4.94 goals against average and .708 save percentage.

-Happy 35th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray.  Acquired near the 2013 trade deadline in a deal which sent draft picks to the Sharks, "Crankshaft" spent the latter stages of the 2012-13 season with the Penguins. In 14 regular season games, he recorded three points. Murray saw action in 15 postseason games and recorded three points. During the 2013 offseason, he joined the Canadiens as a free agent.

-After the Jump: The Rangers take over the division lead.

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Bloody Sunday

Written by Rob Rogers on .

It has been fifty years since the civil rights march to Selma. We have come so far. We have an African American President. And yet, we still have racial violence and police brutality and supporters of Jim Crow-era voter ID laws. 

031215 Bloody Sunday

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