ACC Preview: Pittsburgh’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Pittsburgh overcome key personnel losses and injuries to compete with the ACC’s big boys?

Last year was Pittsburgh’s first season in the ACC, and the Panthers came out of the gate like gangbusters, winning 18 of their first 20 games and starting conference play with a 6-1 record. Then things headed south as Jamie Dixon’s squad limped home, finishing fifth in the league with an 11-7 mark. There was even some talk that Pittsburgh was on the bubble before they won two games in the ACC Tournament to secure an NCAA bid. Now the Panthers are ready for a second go-round in an improved ACC, but without the services of last year’s two best players, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna.

Jamie Dixon's Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon’s Team Has Already Suffered Some Key Injuries in the Preseason (US Presswire)

The explanation for last year’s dropoff midway through the ACC season was twofold. The primary reason was a series of injuries that ran through the squad like a mini-epidemic. Durand Johnson was Pitt’s third-leading scorer when he tore his ACL in a January win over Wake Forest, immediately ending his season. While his was the only major injury, the team was soon beset by nagging ailments that seemed to hit at the same time. Patterson was mentioned as a possible ACC Player of the Year candidate before a hand injury caused the senior to lose his shooting touch. Zanna played through a severe ankle sprain, but the injury zapped him of his explosiveness and caused the Panthers staples — interior defense and rebounding — to suffer immensely. Others that played hurt were freshmen Michael Young (back) and Chris Jones (thumb). The second problem was that the schedule got tougher after that excellent ACC start, and the Panthers subsequently went 0-5 against the ACC’s top four teams. That issue, combined with an extremely weak non-conference slate (278th nationally), is what put Pitt in the position of needing quality wins in Greensboro to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers got that cherished victory when they barely held off North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals. Can Dixon’s squad avoid the same scenario this season?

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ACC M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 5th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Here’s a good look at three of the most efficient guards in the ACC: London Perrantes, James Robinson, and Tyler Ennis. Ennis and Robinson may best Ty Lawson’s assist-to-turnover ratio (although neither can touch his other offensive numbers), and it’s even more impressive when you remember that all three are freshmen and Ennis is the only one likely to leave school sooner rather than later. Their teams also currently reside in the top three in the conference standings (though Duke is hot on their trail).
  2. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Jamel Artis is going to be really good in a couple of years for Pittsburgh. Injuries are never good, but they always open the door for different players to see more time. Artis has been soaking up some of Durand Johnson’s leftover minutes, and he made the most of his newfound playing time in the team’s loss to Virginia. Like many other young players in the league (think: a young Ian Miller at Florida State), Artis is mostly held back by his defense. Once that comes around, he could become one of Pittsburgh’s top options in a hurry.
  3. Washington Post: Let’s just say that after a disappointing performance against North Carolina — especially in the first half — I think Mark Turgeon may have gotten a little too optimistic that all of his yelling was paying off. Now, playing in Chapel Hill is no easy feat, and it’s easy to make the Bzdelikian argument that it would have been a totally different game if North Carolina hadn’t started with an 11-0 lead. But Maryland gave up that lead. And it gave up another run to close the first half. Those flat stretches offensively are what Turgeon needs to find a way to avoid. Maybe yelling will be the answer. Maybe a healthy Seth Allen will. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs does a good job dismantling a context-less stat from a Virginia broadcast that the Cavaliers are 32-2 when holding opponents under 50 points with Tony Bennett at the helm. The ACC as a whole this season is 30-3. The one bit of context that makes the statistic more meaningful is that Virginia usually plays with an abnormally slow tempo (meaning an opponent scoring 50 against the Cavaliers likely played better than an opponent failing to reach 50 against the Tar Heels).
  5. SBNation: Great story from SBNation on Kendall Marshall‘s NBA resurrection. Marshall looked like he might be destined for Europe just a couple of months ago, but now he’s starting at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. What remains to be seen is how he can improve his defense (which will be the determining factor on a team not coached by Mike D’Antoni). But all facets of his game weren’t clicking in Phoenix, and James Herbert points to a change of attitude from the former North Carolina guard.
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