PITTSBURGH, Pa. — If the 2017-18 season wasn’t rocky enough for the Pittsburgh Panthers, the start to the off-season has pushed it over the edge.
The Panthers went 0-18 in ACC play, leaving them as the only Division I team to not have a conference win on the year. Pittsburgh went 8-24 for the season, giving them a 24-41 record in two seasons under Kevin Stallings.
Stallings, who took the job at Pittsburgh after time with the Vanderbilt Commodores, was fired as the Panthers’ head coach after two seasons. While Pittsburgh hasn’t hired a replacement for Stallings as of yet, whoever does accept the role will have their work cut out for them.
He may be a graduate transfer who can lead his new team to the NCAA Tournament, but he is also a symbol for Dayton, Ohio.
“I play with passion. I play with a chip,” said Alstork, a Dayton native and former star at Wright State. “You can tell when someone is from where I’m from, how they play and the passion they play with.”
Alstork is one of the most talented scorers left on the transfer market; he averaged 19 points per game and scored 27-plus points on seven separate occasions last season.
Last week he narrowed his list to four teams, including Illinois, LSU, Pittsburgh and South Carolina as potential suitors.
Throughout the month, Alstork has been frequently posting on social media, chronicling his experiences and campus visits. The six-foot, five-inch scoring guard has an altruistic reason for his tweets and Snapchat videos.
“I wanted to take my people from Dayton, Ohio, who have supported me from day one. I wanted them to be with me in the process,” he explained. “They have been with me for this long. I don’t want them to feel like that I am going to change up on them or that I am not going to continue to be the same person I am. I’m never going to change who I am.”
Alstork did not want to transfer from Wright State. As a hometown product playing at a local university, the benefits were abundant. However, being a part of the Raiders became toxic.
“During the season, I went through a time with myself that a lot of people don’t get out of. I was frustrated with some of the things — some of the things at Wright State wasn’t normal,” Alstork recalled. “I actually didn’t want to leave, to be honest. I wanted to stick it out and try to become an NBA player from Wright State.
“It’s not easy leaving your family and friends,” he continued. “They can be looking forward to watching me play two times a weekend. It’s a place to come and be happy and smile and enjoy life.”
Two values of importance to Alstork is faith and family. As the son of a preacher, a relationship with God was forged early on — one that has not weakened with age.
“Faith and prayer is a huge part of me being who I am and continuing to be in God and continuing to grow a relationship in God,” he said. “I know God leads my life.”
For many student-athletes, athletics and academics dominate. Add being a transfer with a multitude of power conference options and a disconnection from core values can occur.
This is not the case with Alstork.
“I know exactly the reason why I am on this earth,” said the 2016-17 Horizon League first team selection. “It has nothing to do with me and it has all to do with God.”
Six visits and fourteen flights later and the memories of a lifetime have been supplied to Alstork and his family.
“The most memorable moment for me was being able to have my mother and brother there the whole time,” said Alstork. “I’m just glad I’m able that God has allowed me to be in this position in my life. I never would have thought that this would happen again. The opportunity that I am having is straight from God.”
Three years after receiving a release from Ball State, Mark Alstork will call one final school home. Another decision must be made; but, with it, perspective and advice will be given to aspiring basketball players in Dayton.
“I’ve had some people hitting me up,” said the Thurgood Marshall High School alumnus. “Older kids who say, ‘You motivate me. You aspire me. Your work ethic speaks for itself. And no matter who gets you, you’re not going to change.’”
Alstork confirmed he will tweet to the college basketball world his decision tomorrow, exclusively on Twitter.
With his decision, one major domino for next season will fall and one team will be closer to a trip to the NCAA Tournament
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a tremendous start to their ACC campaign that included big wins against Syracuse, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
However, the Irish have run into a little bit of a dry spell, losing their last three games to Virginia, Georgia Tech at the buzzer, and now the Duke Blue Devils.
Notre Dame has to suffered to 6-4 in conference play and have dropped to fifth place in the ACC standings after a long stint in first place. However, with the ACC as deep as it is, the Irish were bound to lose a few games.
In the last few seasons, the Fighting Irish have been victorious in their series with the Blue Devils, winning both games last season, and winning two out of the three games the season before that, including a huge win to advance to the ACC conference championships in which they went on to win for the first time in program history.
Duke currently sits at 6th in the ACC, losing to Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Florida State and an early season two point loss to the Kansas Jaw Hawks. On the other hand, they have destroyed Georgia Tech, beaten a struggling Michigan State team as well as nationally ranked Florida.
One of the nations most scrutinized players, Grayson Allen has been notorious for his unsportsmanlike behaviour on his opponents. The Duke guard is constantly the centre of attention when it comes to college basketball as every game seems to have a new incident of him kicking or knocking down a player. The fans in South Bend experienced it first hand, and Mike Brey was not pleased.
For the first time in program history, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 4-0 in conference play after ending the Miami Hurricanes 21 home game win streak, beating them 67-62.
This was the 21st meeting between the Irish and the Hurricanes with the Irish now leading the all time series 11-10. Notre Dame had lost both meetings with the Hurricanes last year, losing by nine the first game and 18 points the second.
Miami has had an okay start to the season as they are now 11-4, losing to Syracuse, Iowa State, Florida and now Notre Dame with their most notable wins coming from Stanford and North Carolina State.
Regardless of their win-loss record, Miami possessed a dangerous and athletic roster capable of ending Notre Dame’s streak.
“They’re really physical drivers” said head coach Mike Brey, “they’re athletic and long”.
After three straight home wins against Pittsburgh, Louisville and Clemson, Notre Dame possessed lots of momentum entering this game and looked to find their offensive spark early.
After taking down the Pittsburgh Panthers on New Years Eve in over time thanks to a clutch last second three pointer by senior captain Steve Vasturia, the #22/23Notre Dame Fighting Irish opened ACC play 1-0 to start the New Year, but needed to turn their attention immediately to the #9 Louisville Cardinals.
Despite the Irish trailing in the all time series against the Cardinals, 14-20, Notre Dame has won the last five meetings against Rick Pintino’s squad with their last meeting being February 13th, 2016 in which the Irish won 71-66 at home.
The series between the Irish and the cardinals have been notorious for going into over time, with nine of the series’ 34 games going into over time. The most notable over time game between these two rivals was back in February of 2013, where the Irish and the Cardinals duked it out in five overtimes, before Notre Dame finally secured the win 104-101.
Louisville has been off to a hot start to the 2016-2017 season with their most notable wins coming from the then #15 Purdue Boilermakers (now ranked #20), #6 Kentucky Wildcats and #16 IndianaHoosiers, while only losing to the now #2 team in the country Baylor Bears by three and the #12 Virginia Cavaliers.
Another tough matchup for Irish head coach Mike Brey and his squad that will not get any easier. Securing a win against the Cardinals, followed by another home win against the Clemson Tigers on Saturday before heading to Miami could give the Fighting Irish the momentum needed to tackle their three game road trip against prominent ACC opponents.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish opened ACC play against the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday afternoon, beating them in over time 78-77 and improving to 12-2 to start the New Year.
Notre Dame had previously lost the last three meetings with the Panthers, losing by four points the last two seasons.
Saturday’s matchup was held in Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Centre, one of the most difficult places to play in college basketball. Theledgesports.com listed the top 15 most hostile environments, with Peterson Events Centre coming in at number 8.
Teams playing in the Peterson Events Centre must be ready to not only take on the Panthers, but the student section known as “The Oakland Zoo”.
Notre Dame is no stranger to playing in loud, tough environments as a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, arguably the toughest arena to play in, occurs annually.
This was a game that the Irish needed to win, not because of their three game losing streak to the Panthers, but to give them confidence as they enter the gauntlet that is the ACC. If history had any indication, this game was going to come down to the wire; and it did.