ACC Team Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 22nd, 2013

Of the three new members in the ACC for the 2013-14 season, the Pitt Panthers are probably generating the least amount of excitement. Of course that’s understandable considering the deserved elite reputation of Syracuse, and the national brand name of Notre Dame. But make no mistake, Coach Jamie Dixon brings one of the top programs in the country to the ACC this year. In fact, during his 10 year tenure as head coach, Pitt has averaged 26 wins per season.


Pitt’s First Season in the ACC Will Be an Interesting One

2012-13 was a bounceback season for the Panthers after missing the NCAA Tournament the year before (for the first time under Dixon). It was an interesting year in which Pitt finished 24-9 overall and 12-6 in the Big East. The computers loved the Panthers, as they finished #11 in both Ken Pomeroy’s and Jeff Sagarin’s popular ratings systems. But the NCAA Tournament selection committee saw things differently, giving Pitt a #8 seed, no doubt because of a non-conference schedule that rated #269 in the RPI. Even though losing in the first round to Wichita State looked better when the Shockers made the Final Four, that 73-55 beating ended the Panthers’ season on a downer. Soon after the season’s end, Pitt’s roster suffered an unusual bout of heavy attrition. In addition to losing seniors Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor, talented seven-footer Steven Adams left after one season for the NBA, and two others, juniors J.J. Moore and Trey Zeigler, decided to transfer out of the program. Dixon and his staff deserve credit for restocking the roster with some late additions and transfers of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Number of Last Year’s ACC Freshmen Are Poised for Breakout Seasons

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 16th, 2013

A common theme in college basketball is the jump in productivity from a player’s freshman to sophomore seasons. In a player’s second year with a program they are more apt to be familiar with the defensive schemes and offensive playbook of the coaching staff. They have also hopefully better adjusted to the speed and physicality of the college game and added some weight to their frame with a full offseason of serious strength and conditioning. In a premier basketball conference like the ACC, sometimes blue chip recruits struggle to acclimate to the game in their first year and may even spend a good amount of time on the bench. Their sophomore years represent a time for these players to make their names on the national stage and achieve a breakout campaign that will live up to their prodigious high school reputations. In the ACC, some freshmen have already ‘broken out’ and made a name for themselves with their play, like Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan (2012-13’s ACC ROY) and Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon. Here are 10 ACC sophomores ready to make the leap this coming season (listing in no particular order).

1). Justin Anderson, Virginia

Anderson Returns to a Virginia Team With High Hopes

Anderson Returns to a Virginia Team With High Hopes

This sophomore forward averaged 7.6 points  and 1.2 blocks per game in his freshman campaign. He started 17 of Virginia’s 35 games last season, and at 6’6″, 230 pounds, he has the frame necessary to take some of the burden off of the Cavaliers’ senior stars, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. He ended the season strong, leading the Cavaliers in scoring during their NIT run, and can only hope to build off of that positive momentum.

2012-13 stat line: 7.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 BPG in 24.0 minutes per game

2). Mike Tobey, Virginia

The 7’0″ behemoth has good hands and is continuing to develop the post moves necessary to make himself a force to be reckoned with in the middle. His elite-level footwork has him poised to make the jump in his second season in the ACC. Making the U.S. U-19 World Championship team has only increased his confidence in his ability to play with the best, and strengthened the bond between coach and player, considering Virginia’s Tony Bennett was the U-19 head coach.

2012-13 stat line: 6.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.6 BPG in 13.9 minutes per game

3). T.J. Warren, N.C. State

The 6’8″ marksman flirted with a jump to the NBA after his freshman campaign, but instead watched teammates C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown make the leap. The incredibly efficient forward had 14 starts for the Wolfpack and shot an impressive 62.2% from the floor, 51.9% from three-point range. The 2012 McDonald’s All-American and Brewster Academy graduate will have plenty of scoring opportunities this year without Brown, Leslie, and Richard Howell to contend with. It also can’t hurt having N.C State’s two-headed point guard tandem of Tyler Lewis and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber feeding him the ball.

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Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on May 15th, 2013

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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Big East M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 7th, 2013


  1. An ugly fight broke out at Tuesday night’s Notre Dame-St. John’s game between the Red Storm’s Sir’Dominic Pointer and Irish freshman Cam Biedscheid. After battling over a rebound, Pointer appears to take a swing at Biedscheid, who then retaliated. Despite the fact that Pointer seemed to be the aggressor in this situation, Pointer and Biedscheid will both miss their teams’ next games because both engaged in the fight.  Mike Brey tried to appeal Biedscheid’s suspension to the conference to no avail: “There’s no appeals process, which is disappointing… Once it’s deemed a fight, which it was, and he was throwing punches, it is what it is.”
  2. Mike Brey seems about ready to hop off the conference realignment carousel. With the news that the Catholic 7 will be breaking away from the Big East to become… the Big East… it is unclear whether Notre Dame next year will stick around with UConn, Cincinnati, and friends, or join the Catholic 7 for a season, or head to the ACC a season early. If the ACC will have the Irish, that solution seems to make the most sense, but then again, this is conference realignment. Sense was checked at the door years ago.
  3. James Robinson has flown a bit under the radar this season for Pitt nationally, but those in the program hold the freshman in very high esteem. Former Panthers great Brandin Knight sees great potential in the young point guard: “He’s just one of those guys that you get the feeling that there’s something special about him… He has the poise and he really understands the game. He’s very mature beyond his years.”  Robinson averages 6.1 points and 3.5 assists per game in 26.7 minutes of action for Pitt, and in the team’s last game against Villanova he scored 14 points in the overtime win.
  4. Villanova has had a number of statement wins this season, but coming into Wednesday night the Wildcats were still not a sure thing for the NCAA Tournament. Knocking off Georgetown last night should help secure Nova’s spot in the Big Dance. The game with the Hoyas was an ugly affair, with three Georgetown players fouling out and the Wildcats hitting 30 free throws while the Hoyas could only muster four there. The win keeps Villanova from entering postseason play on a multiple game slide, and sets them up well for next week’s Madison Square Garden processions.
  5. Another day, another weird story coming out of Syracuse. Moments after the Orange defeated DePaul Wednesday evening, the school’s official Twitter account published a message speculating that it could be Jim Boeheim’s last game as Orange head coach with a link to a blog post, which stated that according to “sources,” Syracuse was under investigation by the NCAA and Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross had asked Boeheim to step down. After the game, Syracuse released the statement that the story was completely false, as most who read it had assumed, but the larger story here is that there has been a long line of social media incidents stemming from the official Syracuse University accounts. Last year, one of the student interns who runs @SyracuseU tweeted about the upcoming DaJuan Coleman decision before the center had formally made his college choice between Syracuse, Kentucky, and Ohio State — a clear violation of NCAA rules. There have been numerous other instances of similar mistaken tweets. On an individual level, these tweets seem like minor mistakes, but when taken as a group, it shows that the school needs to take their social media presence more seriously.
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Big East M5: 02.18.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 18th, 2013


  1. Providence defeated its second ranked opponent in as many weeks after pasting Notre Dame 71-54 in The Dunk on Saturday. The Friars’ four-game Big East winning streak is their first since 2004, and a tangible affirmation that Ed Cooley has his program trending toward relevancy after a long series of setbacks. There was a lot for Providence fans to celebrate in Saturday’s win: Vincent Council became the school’s all-time assist leader; Bryce Cotton broke out of his shooting slump; and the Friars shut down the league’s second most efficient offense. But it was junior center Kadeem Batts who Mike Brey singled out after the game as his choice for the Big East’s Most Improved Player. Coming into the season as a question mark whose production and minutes had decreased in 2011-12, Batts has become the centerpiece of his team’s turnaround, particularly in the aftermath of Sidiki Johnson’s leave of absence.
  2. Louisville reopened its recruiting pipeline to Seattle over the weekend, as 6’7 junior guard Shaqquan Aaron committed to the Cardinals over UCLA, Syracuse and Arizona, among others. Aaron concluded Louisville was “a perfect fit” after probing current players about the rigors of playing for Rick Pitino during his official visit. “I want to play for a coach that is going to be hard on me. I like how coach P is going to push me every time.” The California native attends the same high school as former Louisville point-forward Terrence Williams, and would carry the mantle of Emerald City transplants for Pitino after Peyton Siva graduates this year. The commitment also reestablishes a presence in Seattle after the Cards’ staff struck out in the highly visible recruitment of Tony Wroten in 2010.
  3. Georgetown may be one of four nine-win teams atop the Big East bottleneck, but it’s unquestionably the hottest one after winning its seventh consecutive game on the road in Cincinnati. After Otto Porter picked up his fourth foul with more than seven minutes remaining in a three-point game, the specter of a fifth consecutive loss to the Bearcats probably loomed over many a Hoya fan’s living room. That Georgetown remained committed to its defensive game plan and rebuilt its lead on the road, against a style of opponent they’ve traditionally struggled against, quells any doubt that John Thompson III’s team is a leading Big East contender.
  4. After collecting praise and accolades in the first months of his Pittsburgh career, freshman guard James Robinson has hit a dramatic scoring slump in the past seven contests. The 6’2″ former Big East Rookie of the Week has shot 16% from the field and failed to score more than one basket in any game during that stretch, despite averaging 21 minutes per game. Moreover, Robinson has failed to score from the field at all in three of those seven contests. He continues to contribute in other ways, like hitting all eight of his combined free throws in the past two games. Nonetheless, Cardiac Hill suggests it might be time to curtail his playing time for the time-being.
  5. On the Catholic Seven front, we learned last night that the nascent league will pursue a 12-team structure by recruiting either Richmond or Siena (?) to join assured invitees Butler, Dayton, Xavier and St. Louis. More importantly, we learned that nobody wants to lead the Catholic Seven: that task fell to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, “in large part because of a lack of interest on the part of the presidents of St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, DePaul, Marquette and Providence.” The quote illuminates the kind of visionary initiative you would expect from the league that elected to cast its lot with DePaul rather than UConn and Cincinnati. Then again, they’re on the verge of stumbling into a huge payday. VU Hoops still voices some anxiety over the symbolism of allowing fairly trifling logistical concerns to dictate that the league is courting the likes of Siena and Detroit Mercy rather than Creighton.
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The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

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Top Incoming Freshmen Battling For Under-18 USA Team

Posted by EJacoby on June 8th, 2012

Who are some of the most college-ready freshmen players heading to school next season? Gain insight into that answer by following the USA Men’s Under-18 National Team tryouts, whose roster was announced this week. Twenty-three of the country’s top young players, comprised mostly of recent high school graduates, are fighting for 12 spots to compete at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship. It’s a short tryout, as the team will fly out for competition on June 12. While there are plenty of factors that go into the team’s selection, the final cut could give us some insight as to which players’ games are most developed at this point. Of the group of participants, 15 are recent high school graduates. There are also seven high schoolers from the class of 2013, and the final player is Jarnell Stokes, already at Tennessee after reclassifying up last year to join the Volunteers in the second semester. Our biggest interest involves which of the 15 high school graduates will make the squad, perhaps proving that their college teams can expect big things next season after outperforming their peers and gaining some international experience.

Rasheed Sulaimon Has a Strong Chance to Play on the U-18 Team USA (AP Photo)

The 15 high school Class of 2012 participants are as follows:

  • Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
  • Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
  • Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
  • Kris Dunn, Providence
  • Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
  • Jerami Grant, Syracuse
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
  • Joel James, North Carolina
  • Jake Layman, Maryland
  • Rodney Purvis, NC State
  • James Robinson, Pittsburgh
  • Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
  • Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
  • Robert Upshaw, Fresno State
  • Adam Woodbury, Iowa

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Pittsburgh: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on May 18th, 2012

Our apologies for plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Pittsburgh.

What Went Wrong

For a team that began the season in most pundits’ Top 10, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Pittsburgh’s season an unmitigated disaster, especially given the consistent high level of play we have grown accustomed to from Jamie Dixon’s teams. It started with a casual loss to Long Beach State at home in the third game of the season, and after a disappointing loss to Wagner a month later, the free fall began. Shortly after the loss to The Beach, star point guard and offensive catalyst Travon Woodall got hurt and missed the next two months of the season.

The Sudden Departure Of Prized Recruit Khem Birch Early In The Season Was Only The Beginning Of The Problems For Jamie Dixon's Club.

Two weeks later, prized freshman Khem Birch left the program just as he was showing signs of putting it together and blasted his teammates on the way out. Forced to play the point position with Woodall out, star guard Ashton Gibbs suffered through the worst shooting season of his career and neither Talib Zanna nor Dante Taylor developed into the consistent post threat Dixon had hoped for. The most obvious reason for their decline was the sudden absence of defensive intensity from the Panthers. They had never finished worse than 53rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency under Dixon. This season they finished 151st in the category. If you are looking for what went wrong, that is a good place to start.

What Went Right

To be fair, the team did go through a mini-resurgence down the stretch, but it was too little too late. The emergence of Woodall as a multi-faceted scorer and distributor was a blessing and he should be even better next year assuming he stays healthy. Senior workhorse Nasir Robinson was his ultra-efficient self, and increased playing time for sophomores Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore helped them become effective role players who will be counted on to play an even bigger role next season. he number one bright spot for folks on the Main Line was the emergence of Pinkston in conference play. I guess if you want to count winning the College Basketball Invitational Championship as an honor, then you can add that to the list of what went right. To be clear, we don’t count that.

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Who’s Got Next? Gathers Commits, McDonald’s All-Americans Announced And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on February 10th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Ricardo Gathers Chooses Baylor — Big Get For Bears

Ricardo Gathers Is A Huge Get For Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew.

Top-50 Power Forward Gives Scott Drew A Top-Five Recruiting Class. Three months after backing off his commitment to St. John’s, Class of 2012 power forward Ricardo Gathers committed to Baylor, joining point guard L.J. Rose and centers Isaiah Austin and Chad Rykhoek. The Louisiana native is a terrific fit for Baylor because he’s a double-double machine who can get it done on both ends of the court. He was second in scoring during the Nike EYBL last summer, averaging over 20 points a game while leading the EYBL in rebounding with about 12 a contest. He also recorded 20.7 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.9 BPG and 2.3 APG as a junior en route to winning the 2011 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year award. An interesting story that has unfolded recently is that Gathers de-committed from St. John’s in the first place to give LSU a chance to land him. According to the player, Tigers’ head coach Trent Johnson didn’t recruit him very hard which turned him off to the program. With the new addition of Gathers, Baylor has a top-five recruiting class featuring two of the best big men in the country (between Gathers and Austin).

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Ricardo Gathers on committing to Baylor: “The coaching staff made me feel like I was a main priority, and with the signing class they have coming in, we have a really good chance of being a potential national champion. That was one of the biggest things for me.”

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Big East Recruiting Round-Up: Inaugural Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 23rd, 2011

Big East Recruiting Round-up is a recurring feature that will focus on, well, recruiting.  Rumors, buzz, rankings…..everything potentially shiny and new.  

Class of 2012 Early Signing Period

The early signing period for class of 2012 recruits occurred this past week. Let’s take a look at how the Big East fared.

  • The hauls of  Providence, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have received the highest accolades amongst Big East schools nationally.
  • Providence’s class is currently the conference’s highest rated and most surprising, as Ed Cooley began his rebuilding effort with a much-needed infusion of talent.  The Friars inked consensus top 30 guards in Providence native Ricardo Ledo (6’6″ shooting guard – South Kent – CT – Ranks: Rivals 8,  ESPN 22), Kris Dunn (6’3″ point guard, New London – CT – Ranks: Rivals: 10, ESPN: 29) and sharp-shooter Josh Fortune (6’5″ shooting guard – Kecoughtan – VA).
  • Pittsburgh continued to leverage their connections with Notre Dame Prep (MA), landing premier 6’10” big man Steven Adams (Rivals: 4) along with 6’3″ point guard James Robinson (DeMatha – MD – Ranks: Rivals: 58, ESPN: 48).
  • Syracuse scored two highly rated recruits in local product DaJuan Coleman (6’10” center – Jamesville DeWitt – NY – Ranks: Rivals: 27, ESPN: 14) and Jerami Grant 6’7″ – forward – DeMatha – MD – Ranks: Rivals: 60 , ESPN: 43)

Coleman Stayed Home to Play in the Dome

Links to a few class of 2012 national rankings:

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