Pittsburgh: What Went Wrong With the Panthers?Posted by mlemaire on March 22nd, 2013
Despite a promising season that had the metrics lovers thinking that the Panthers were a sleeper choice to make a run into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Pitt was run out of the gym by Wichita State on Thursday afternoon. Here are a handful of thoughts on some of the issues surrounding the Panthers as their season is now finished.
- Tray Woodall’s final game was an abject disaster. The Panthers’ fifth-year senior floor general was supposed to be the key to Pittsburgh making a splash in their return to the NCAA Tournament, instead, he may be the primary reason they are going home after just one game. The diminutive Woodall forced shots, never really looked to penetrate, and finished 1-of-12 from the field with five turnovers and just one assist before fouling out. Everyone knew the game between these two physical teams would be a low-scoring one, but Pittsburgh’s shot-making ability is predicated on Woodall’s ability to drive and kick. Instead he spent a lot of time on the perimeter, missed all five of his three-point attempts, basically ignored the roll guy on pick-and-rolls and barely ignited the offense at all, leading to the disastrous performance by the whole team.
- No one will ever confuse either of these two teams with offensive juggernauts. Both teams play great defense and the defense deserves some credit, but the two teams were a combined 3-of-37 from behind the three-point arc and they also combined to shoot just over 36 percent from the floor. At one point early in the second half, it seemed like spectators should have been running for cover after watching these guys brick as many jump-shots as they did. The difference was that Wichita State eventually realized they were having a rough day shooting the ball and started attacking the rim, which led to 41 free throws attempts and they converted 33 of those. The Panthers meanwhile seemed content to hoist ill-advised shots and only made it to the free-throw line 20 times. I don’t think there was a single casual college basketball fan who watched more than five minutes of this game and not just because Pitt was getting blown out midway through the second half.
- Where does this leave Jamie Dixon? Another year, another early flame out of the NCAA Tournament from the Panthers who have consistently underachieved in the postseason despite all of the success they have had under Dixon during the regular season. There has been rumblings that Dixon is the presumptive favorite for the USC job if he wants it, and considering the chorus of doubters in Pittsburgh will only be getting louder after today’s uninspired performance, it would be surprising if Dixon didn’t at least listen to what Trojans’ AD Pat Haden had to offer. To be fair to Dixon, this year’s team was hardly his best, and they were also quite young, so just making the NCAA Tournament is an accomplishment. But the fans in Pittsburgh have been spoiled by Dixon’s regular season success and have grown increasingly restless watching them fall short in the NCAA Tournament, so the allure of a laid-back atmosphere and less pressure on the West Coast could seem inviting to the California native.