Do-Everything Seniors Supporting Transition Year at PittsburghPosted by Charlie Maikis on December 2nd, 2016
When Pittsburgh hired Kevin Stallings away from Vanderbilt last March, some were skeptical of how it would work out. Stepping into a new program in a much tougher conference, Stallings faces numerous long-term challenges. The one area where he found an immediate advantage is that he inherited the 22nd-most experienced roster in college basketball (per KenPom), led by two of the ACC’s best players: seniors Michael Young and Jamel Artis. On the backs of their leadership and talent, the Panthers have begun the Stallings era with a 6-1 record against a good schedule, including a decisive win at Maryland in this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Almost everything Stallings’ team does begins and ends with the senior duo. The pair uses a combined 58.3 percent of the team’s possessions while playing over 80 percent of the available minutes. At 6’9″, Young anchors the team down low while the 6’7″ Artis acts as a point forward. The two highest ACC scorers thus far, Artis and Young combine to average 43.3 points per game while converting at high rates from the field (51%), three-point line (37%) and foul line (83%). Stopping just one of these two scorers is difficult enough, but teams are finding that limiting both is a near impossibility. The pair have gone for 20+ points in five of Pitt’s seven games this season and have made or assisted an astonishing 77 percent of Pitt’s field goals this season. Young also ranks among the top 500 players nationally in offensive (8.0%) and defensive rebounding (18.6%) rates as well as block percentage (4.2%); whereas Artis ranks among the top 300 nationally in turnover rate (10.7%).
Stallings is off to a fast start in his new gig because of his seniors’ efforts, but the key question is whether the two stalwarts can sustain their fantastic play for the entire season. Both have proven extremely durable over their careers, and perhaps their new coach’s distaste for the bruising style of defense favored by his predecessor will allow for some rest on that end of the floor. With six more non-conference games remaining against teams ranked #100 or lower (per KenPom), it is likely that the Panthers will enter ACC play at 12-1. Whether that will translate into success in the most rugged basketball league in college basketball is an open question, but it certainly does not hurt that Stallings can rely on two rock-solid seniors who have been through the conference wars as he gets his feet wet in the ACC.