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Kevin Stallings not convinced Pitt basketball players buying in

Pitt's basketball season has seemed to many of us that it is spiraling out of control. While head coach Kevin Stallings didn't quite say that, if you listened to his recent comments, you have to wonder if this is a team he's on the verge of losing.

Or worse yet - one he's already lost.

Craig Meyer of the Post-Gazette has a fascinating article on recent comments from the Panthers' coach. Stallings, who speaks pretty candidly as it is, didn't hold much back in recent comments to the press. Aside from the freedom on offense, the head coach isn't convinced the team has fully bought in to what he's trying to do.

“Right now, my assessment is the only thing it feels like they’ve bought into 100 percent is freedom on offense,” Stallings said Monday. “Well, anybody could buy into that. That’s not a hard thing to buy into. That’s just human nature. Of course I would like to have freedom on offense. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we have to play defensively. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we need to communicate, the way we need to support each other, the way we have to fight when adversity hits. I haven’t been able to get them to do a number of other things yet the way they have to be done with what we have, with the makeup of our team in this league. That part has been a little frustrating.”

Of particular interest is that the media weren't even the ones that spurred this on. As Meyer notes, he made the comments unprompted. Ouch. To say this has probably been on his mind a lot is likely the understatement of the year.

And while the bulk of the guys playing right now are upperclassmen, Stallings made a point to not let them off the hook. In his words, he thinks they could be doing more in terms of providing leadership.

“The idea in any program is the older guys — especially if they’re the better ones, which they are in our program right now — reach out to their teammates and help bring those guys along and help make those guys better. That part has been a little bit of a disappointment because there’s not a ton of that that goes on. You talk to guys about being more outward and making guys better. That’s just not in their nature. It’s not how they’ve been used to doing things, apparently.”

Double ouch.

Now, as Meyer notes, Stallings isn't completely calling the leadership crummy. Meyer says it's more of the players being a bit more introverted and not vocal leaders. Still, I don't think a comment like that gets made if he feels they are doing all they could do in that department.

One thing no one can accuse Stallings of is not being a straight shooter. And the comments also put some perspective on how much of the recent struggles are on him. By Stallings' account, the players simply aren't listening to him and/or working as hard as he needs them.

While he does have talented players, there's something to be said for that. It doesn't all end with athletic ability and Pitt fans know that better than just about anyone as Jamie Dixon milked his less-talented teams for all they were worth. I think a lot of fans realize that Stallings should have the ability to recruit his own guys and this all sort of underscores that. There's no doubt that this year's group isn't playing as well as they could be but I also see the side from Stallings that says he needs time to bring in his own guys that will, presumably, listen to him a bit more closely.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Arthur Blank to send all Falcons employees to Super Bowl

Atlanta Falcons franchise owner Arthur Blank plans to take all of the team's employees to Houston for the Super Bowl. The team employs about 500 people.

>> Read more trending stories  

No further details of Blank's plans were available on Monday, the day after the Falcons beat the Packers for the NFC championship. The Falcons will play the AFC champion New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

Blank would not be the first NFL franchise owner to take all of his employees to the Super Bowl along with the team.

The owners of both the Panthers and the Broncos paid for all of their employees to go to the 2016 Super Bowl in Santa Clara, California.

Atlanta Falcons fan bawls after big win against Green Bay

The Atlanta Falcons are heading to Super Bowl LI, and one super fan just couldn't contain his emotions after the win Sunday.

Jonathan Tarantino was watching the game with friends in his Atlanta apartment Sunday and couldn't contain his emotions after the Falcons' win against the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44-21, securing their spot in the Super Bowl.

>> Read more trending stories

"I've waited for this ever since the 49ers," Tarantino said in a video shot by his wife, Kayte.

Tarantino, who grew up in Gwinnett County, said he is a lifelong Atlanta fan. 

"Since I could walk," said Tarantino. "An Atlanta fan no matter what, whether it be the Falcons, the Hawks or the Braves." 

He vividly remembers the Falcons' 2012 loss to the 49ers during the NFC Championship game.

"That's the first thing I thought of," said Tarantino. "Me and my wife, or my fiancée that the time, were watching at the Taco Mac at the CNN Center. I'll never forget that. It was a devastating loss."

He couldn't believe his team pulled out such a strong win against the Packers.

"Remembering that loss and watching them be able to beat the Packers the way they did, it was just a lot of emotion coming out all at once," said Tarantino.

The Falcons will take on the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 5 in Houston.

Tarantino said he and his wife are working on a plan to get to Houston.

"We probably won't get tickets, but me and my wife might drive to Houston to be there," said Tarantino. "It'll be once in a lifetime. It'll be awesome to have a little road trip and experience the environment there."

 Atlanta Falcons fan overwhelmed they're going to the Super BowlAMAZING: He's been an Atlanta Falcons fan his whole life... and he just. can't. even.  http://2wsb.tv/2kkhn1kPosted by WSB-TV on Monday, January 23, 2017

Panther of the Week: Michael Young

Michael Young reclaimed his status as Panther of the Week with a bounce back performance in Pitt’s loss to NC State.

Michael Young needed a bounce back game in the worst way and so did Pitt. In the end, it wasn’t enough, and the Panthers lost to the Wolfpack. But it was still nice to see Young back in the groove. The senior still sported a protective mask on his face last week, but it was a better fitted mask, and it showed. Young finished with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks.

The game actually started poorly for Young, who missed on his first three field goals. He didn’t actually land a bucket, from the floor, until about six minutes were remaining in the first half. Despite that poor start, the Duquesne native finished hitting on nine shots in 19 attempts and was almost 50% from beyond the arc, going four of nine.

Pitt needs their dynamic duo to be on to have a chance, especially with Ryan Luther still out of action. When you miss one of them badly, like last week, you get a blowout loss to Miami. While this is still an L in the stat sheet for Pitt, it wasn’t the ugly loss the game before. Those can be demoralizing.

Even without the bad loss, it is still a loss and this column is still waiting for a third player to step up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If someone other than Artis or Young lands in this column, it’s either going to be very good or oh, so, so, so very bad. I do have my eye on Sheldon Jeter and Cam Johnson, though. One hustles his butt off on the glass and the other can be lights out from long distance. I’d love to be able to write one of their names in this column, especially if Young and Artis don’t exactly have bad weeks. One can dream.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Falcons, Patriots to face off in Super Bowl LI

Get ready, football fans: The Atlanta Falcons will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. 

The Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21 on Sunday to win the NFC championship, earning their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1998.

>> Lady Gaga teases Super Bowl performance with behind-the-scenes video

"We played great," said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns. "We did exactly what we've been doing all year, and it feels really good."

Meanwhile, the Patriots earned their NFL-record ninth berth in the Super Bowl by slamming the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in the AFC championship game.

>> NFL dismisses report Lady Gaga can't talk Trump at Super Bowl Halftime Show

"There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them," said quarterback Tom Brady, who threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

The teams will face off Feb. 5 at Houston's NRG Stadium.

>> Read more trending stories

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Pat Signal: Kamonte Carter commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a junior-college defensive tackle

Thank you Pittsburgh for blessing me with 3 more years!! Hail 2 Pitt !!!! #H2P #pittisit #412 #panthers #KC6 pic.twitter.com/tyE3nWV9G5— ★$☆ KAM CARTER ☆ $★ (@KAM_7SIETE) January 22, 2017

Kamonte Carter announced today that he has committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Chris Peak of Pantherlair.com was the first one to the story. Carter was on an official visit this weekend and decided to make the call right away rather than waiting as most recruits tend to do.

Kam Carter is a 6’5” 310 pound defensive tackle. He played this past season for East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, MS. If you recognize that school, it was the one highlighted in the acclaimed Netflix documentary “Last Chance U.” While playing for the Lions this season, Carter recorded 36 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception and helped lead EMCC to a 11-1 season.

Carter was a four-star recruit out of high school and signed on to play for Penn State. As a member for the Nittany Lions program, Kam Carter was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. That ultimately took him to Scooba, Mississippi for a shot at redemption.

In addition to an offer from Pitt, Carter had Louisville, Texas, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech extended offers for the three-star defensive tackle. Carter only visited Pitt, and opted to pick a school near his hometown of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Carter becomes the 22nd recruit for the 2017 recruiting class, but there appears to be a silent commitment unnamed at the moment. So technically, maybe Carter is the 23rd. I suppose that is an argument for another day.

Carter is the first defensive tackle for this class, and will likely be expected to compete for playing time next season. Pitt recruited an impressive haul of defensive tackles last season with Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp, and Rashad Wheeler and they too will be in the mix as starters Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto will be graduating.

It appears we are now in the stretch run of recruiting, and signing day is within reach. There will be one more weekend of official visits, and the faxes start to roll in a week from Wednesday. Right now Pitt has 22 known commitments, and it appears another kid is committed to make 23. We’ll see how many more players Pat Narduzzi opts to bring in, as room should be close to running out. Stay tuned for the final week of recruiting, more updates should follow.

Dallas Stars take aim at Trump, post fake inauguration numbers on Jumbotron

The operator of the Jumbotron for the Dallas Stars hockey team had a little fun at President Donald Trump’s expense during Saturday night’s game against the Washington Capitals, jabbing the new Republican administration over reportedly inflated inauguration crowd estimates.

>> Read more trending stories   Sports blogger Kate Morrison caught the number when it flashed on the huge overhead screen. Stars Jumbotron with a topical joke. pic.twitter.com/9vsmTG1Agj— Kate Morrison (@unlikelyfanatic) January 22, 2017 <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The Jumbotron announced “Tonight’s Attendance 1.5 Million,” clearly a lot more people than the 18,000 the American Airlines Center can hold and a direct reference to the Trump administration’s insistence that some 1.5 million people attended his inauguration on Friday.

Pictures and video of the inauguration clearly showed far fewer people in attendance.

The new president accused the media of lying about the numbers on Saturday, claiming there was a “massive field of people” at the inauguration.

Trump’s inauguration had the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer also insisted.

But the humor didn’t help the Stars. The Capitals won, 4-3, in overtime. 

MLB mourning the loss of Ventura, Marte in separate car crashes in Dominican Republic

Major League Baseball is mourning the loss of two players: Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former MLB third baseman Andy Marte.

Both men were killed in separate car crashes in the Dominican Republic, the Associated Press reported.

>> Read more trending stories  

The fast-throwing, right-handed Ventura was from the Dominican Republic. He was 25. The Royals confirmed he was killed in a car accident Sunday morning. It is with a heavy and broken heart that we confirm the passing of Yordano Ventura. The club will release a statement soon. #RIPAce— Mike Swanson (@Swanee54) January 22, 2017

In his career with the Royals, Ventura started 94 games and was part of the 2015 World series-winning team.

We are devastated by the tragic news that Yordano Ventura, 25, has died in an automobile accident. https://t.co/RXibkDJMHZ pic.twitter.com/S7RszxJF8d— MLB (@MLB) January 22, 2017

Third baseman Andy Marte played for the Braves, the Red Sox, and later the Indians before his last MLB run with the Diamondbacks in 2014.

We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Brave Andy Marte. Our thoughts are with his family. pic.twitter.com/Au1sgqMItS— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) January 22, 2017

He was also killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning.

He was 33 and playing in the Dominican Baseball League at the time of his death.

Sad to learn of Andy Marte's death this morning. He was a genuine person who always greeted you with a warm smile.RIP. pic.twitter.com/VoIWgLpqcr— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 22, 2017

Pitt basketball throwback uniforms announced via Twitter

A few days late on this, but Friday was a busy day at work and with temps in the 60s yesterday, you're sadly mistaken if you think I was passing up the opportunity to grill and relax yesterday.

But in case you haven't seen yet, after the enthusiasm around the retro football unis, Pitt's basketball team got throwbacks of its own, as announced a few days ago.

Behold:

#PittRetro pic.twitter.com/8V3REcaBg3 — Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 20, 2017

And here's a still shot of what appears to be the whole uniform. Pitt has not released this shot.

It's unclear to me where this photo came from (aside from general #PittTwitter) but wow, looks like Pitt did it again with throwback jerseys pic.twitter.com/oR1KwV2w43 — Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) January 20, 2017

I'm not sure if the women's basketball team will be getting retros, too. My guess is that they would be included but there hasn't been a mention of them from the women's Twitter account, so I don't know.

What we also don't know yet is when the uniforms will be worn. The Panthers will be wearing black jerseys for their game against Clemson next weekend. But when these throwbacks might be worn hasn't been released yet.

I'm sure these were in the works for some time but it's great that they were put together. The optimism around the basketball program is pretty low right now and keeping the fanbase engaged in any way is needed.

With that said, thoughts on the new look?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll How do you feel about Pitt's new retro / alternate jerseys? Best ever - wear them all the time Incredible Good Eh I hate these colors - NO THANK YOU   2 votes | Results

Falcons player’s wife goes into labor during playoff win

Chipper Jones wasn’t the only Atlanta sports figure anxiously awaiting the birth of a child.

Falcons offensive guard Andy Levitre and his wife, Katie, were also expecting a birth. 

As the Falcons played the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday in the NFC Divisional playoff game, Katie Levitre went into labor while watching the game at the Georgia Dome. 

>> Read more trending storiesKatie Levitre, a former swimsuit model and NFL cheerleader, was on social media during the game, retweeting an NFL video of her husband spiking the football following a touchdown.

After the game, she waited for her husband to go through his usual post-game routine before heading out into Atlanta traffic.

The two were at an Atlanta hospital within hours. Their daughter, Lily, was born at 12:07 a.m. Sunday, about four hours after the game ended.

A photo posted by @katielevitre on Jan 16, 2017 at 10:42am PST

A photo posted by @katielevitre on Dec 25, 2016 at 7:22am PST

Levitre was acquired by the Falcons before the 2016 season in a trade from the Tennessee Titans for a sixth-round draft pick.

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