Jeff Oliver: Some 'food for thought'

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Here's a little food for thought to help fill up your day:

• A lot of my friends and colleagues have made such a big deal out of how “down” of a basketball season it was for area boys' and girls' teams.

At first blush, there is something to that with the fact that only one team —Elizabeth Forward's girls — advanced to the PIAA playoffs after reaching the WPIAL Class AAA championship game.

However, if you look a little deeper, the only area school that really had a down year as compared to past seasons is Monessen.

For the first time in more than 25 years, neither the Greyhounds or Lady Greyhounds made the state playoffs.

Belle Vernon Area's girls just missed a trip to the states this season. But if anything, the Lady Leps' program over the past two seasons under coach Lisa Fairman is definitely on the rise, and not suffering a down trend.

One local school, Bentworth, definitely had a down year as the Bearcats finished under .500 in both boys' and girls' basketball after both teams went 18-4 a year ago.

• Add playoffs: Interestingly enough, had the WPIAL gotten the five state spots in boys' Class A that it used to get, Monessen would have advanced to the states by virtue of losing to Vincentian in the quarterfinals and the Royals winning the WPIAL title.

That made Monessen the fifth-place team in Class A. However, the WPIAL (District 7) only has four teams in the state playoffs this season instead of five.

On the girls' side, the WPIAL still gets five teams in the state playoffs.

• One can only wonder what Pirate manager Clint Hurdle was thinking when he said he thinks winning 95 games is a good possibility for the Bucs this season.

I think it is nice to dream high, but I don't know how smart it is to dream while being high.

I just don't see where the Pirates helped their roster that much from a year ago, other than adding catcher Russell Martin.

Yes, some players may have better years, such as Pedro Alvarez. And Starling Marte looks to be an up-and-coming star, although that remains to be seen.

However, I have my doubts that guys like A.J. Burnett, Garrett Jones and even Neil Walker before he hurt his back will have better years than they did a year ago.

I think other than Andrew McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez and Marte, the roster is composed of role players and not everyday starters a contender would depend on.

But I guess that's why they play the games. Only time will tell.

• Whatever happened to Kristen Lancas?

• Look-A-Like Dept.: Duquesne University men's basketball coach Jim Ferry and Belle Vernon Area School Director Ed Naylor.

•I always knew Dennis Rodman was “out there.” But after listening to what he had to say about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, there is no doubt Rodman should be censored. He has lost all reality by saying such glowing things about a ruthless dictator.

•I can't wait for winter to end, and I'm sure area high school baseball and softball coaches probably feel the same way.

Of course, it is only the first week of March.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or

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