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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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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Morning Five: 05.09.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2011

  1. Most of the attention of the college basketball world was focused on the retirement of Gary Williams and who would replace him. Over the weekend quite a few names were thrown around as potential replacements, but it looks like the Maryland athletic department may have a harder time finding a suitable head coach than they expected as their apparent initial targets – Sean Miller, Brad Stevens, and Mike Brey – have all turned down the Terrapins. Miller was able to parlay the offer into a contract extension at Arizona, while Brey is expected to sign one later this month. We doubt that this will turn into a fiasco like what NC State experienced trying to find a coach, but it is worth keeping an eye on the situation if the search drags on as the list of suitable replacements will certainly grow shorter.
  2. While Maryland continues to search for its head coach, another school in the DC area (George Washington) was able to find its guy as they are set to announce Vermont coach Mike Lonergan as its next head coach. Lonergan will replace Karl Hobbs, who struggled to keep the Colonials at the level of excellence they showed between 2004-07 when he led them to the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons. Lonergan may not be as well-known to the casual fan, but he has a solid resume with an excellent career at Catholic University where he won a D3 national championship and then at Vermont where he succeeded Tom Brennan and managed to keep the Catamounts near the top of America East.
  3. In another coaching move that will probably go underreported, former Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel has decided to return to Duke to serve as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the fact that Capel probably would have had to take a mid-major position if he went straight back to the sidelines as a head coach. Now Capel can get back to Cameron on the sidelines with a contingent of other well-known former Blue Devils and hope that he can parlay some of Coach K’s success into another major coaching position. The bigger question for us is whether this potentially puts Capel in position to succeed Krzyzewski when he decides to call it a career (a scary notion for Duke fans?).
  4. Most of the interest in player movement over the weekend was focused on players deciding on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft there was also some major transfer news as Aaric Murray decided to transfer from La Salle to West Virginia and Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk is reportedly considering leaving the Bulldog program. The Murray news isn’t particularly surprising as he had considered joining the Mountaineers coming out of high school, but he should be a major addition for them when he becomes eligible in the 2012-13 season. Olynyk’s potential transfer is more interesting as it raises questions about Mark Few‘s program in that multiple players have transferred from GU in the past few years. We would imagine that Few is working pretty hard to keep Olynyk in the program as the transfers are beginning to pile up and could ultimately affect Gonzaga’s ability to recruit.
  5. As we near the time of year when high school seniors are graduating, it is interesting to look at which players are still available. Skimming through the latest top 100 (feel free to use the rankings of your own preference) there are only a few top guys available with DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ware, Trevor Lacey, and Joseph Uchebo being the biggest. We would expect to see them announcing their decisions in the next few weeks and each of these guys could help round out some school’s class that is missing a crucial piece.
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Who’s Got Next? Reviewing the Jordan Brand Classic

Posted by rtmsf on April 18th, 2011

 
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. Each 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 in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

Throughout the past week, there have been many great performances and match-ups at high school events such as Austin Rivers (#1 – Duke) and Bradley Beal (#6 – Florida) at the Jordan Brand Classic; there have been numerous developing stories such as where Oklahoma is on Perry Ellis’ (#20) list and what Greg Whittington’s (Georgetown) impact on Otto Porter’s (Georgetown) commitment to Georgetown will be; there’s been a key commitment which will make a big impact on the ACC; the New York Times did an interesting article linking Facebook and recruiting; a West Virginia commit joined the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard; and much more.

Austin Rivers (#1 – Duke) and Bradley Beal (#6 – Florida) fought for the #1 spot at shooting guard in the Jordan Brand Classic. (Credit: ESPN)

What We Learned

The Best SG in the Class of 2011. Going into the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night you knew that the battle between Rivers and Beal would be the primary match-up to watch. Both of these guys are great scorers and can hit shots from anywhere on the floor. They also have excellent three-point range and finish well above the rim. In this game, Rivers got the best of Beal as he finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four steals (the steals being very impessive due to the lack of defense in all-star games) whereas Beal had 15 points and eight rebounds.  Neither player shot the ball very well, combining for 11-32 shooting from the field and 1-8 shooting from the three-point line. However, the bad three-point percentage is in large part due to both guys taking very long threes that they wouldn’t normally take in a serious game. Look for these two guys to be two of the best scorers in college basketball starting next season.

Perry Ellis Likely Not Oklahoma-Bound. From what Fonda Ellis, Perry Ellis’ mom, told me (see full quotes from her in the “What They’re Saying” Section, below), it seems as though Oklahoma is losing ground in the Ellis sweepstakes (#20). This loss of interest looks to primarily be a result of the Sooners’ coaching change from Jeff Capel to former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger. Although Kruger said in a phone call to Ellis last week that he was still the Sooners’ top priority and that he wanted him to take an official visit to the OU campus, Ellis will have to get used to an entirely new coaching staff there. Ellis is also considering Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis and Wichita State and told me in an interview last month that he’s looking to “be comfortable, have a good relationship with the coach and be in a system I like.”

Greg Whittington and Otto Porter’s Commitments. According to what Greg Whittington (Georgetown) told me Sunday after The Capital Classic, he is the one who got Otto Porter (#40 – Georgetown) to become a Hoya this past week (see full quotes from Whittington in the “What They’re Saying” Section, below). Whittington was able to convince Porter to commit to Georgetown due to the conference they’ll be in, among many other things. However, one thing that seemed to really help the Hoyas was the coaching change at Missouri since the Tigers were believed to have been the frontrunners. According to an ESPN source, the new staff at Missouri did not even have a chance to meet with Porter and his family before Porter made his decision to attend GU. Porter was a big-time pickup for the Hoyas since he is very long and has one of the best mid-range games in his class. He is a match-up problem for almost everyone he faces due to his height and he rebounds the ball and runs the floor well too. He is also good on the defensive end on the floor and is a solid ball-handler. Porter needs to improve on his strength more than anything else but his all-around game is solid and he should make a positive impact at Georgetown next year.

What You Missed

Anthony Davis (#4 – Kentucky) and James McAdoo (#7 – North Carolina) were the Co-MVPs at the Jordan Brand Classic.

Power Forwards Dominated Jordan Brand Classic. Anthony Davis (#4 – Kentucky) and James McAdoo (#7 – North Carolina) were the co-MVPs in the 10th annual Jordan Brand Classic Saturday with Davis recording 29 points (second highest in event history to LeBron James’ 34 points) on 13-15 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds, and McAdoo tallying 26 points on 10-16 shooting from the field and 14 rebounds. Davis also added four blocks and McAdoo hit the game-clinching free throws with 1.6 seconds left which gave the East a 113-109 victory over the West. Both players ran the floor well and were able to knock down the perimeter shot. Although Davis had the better overall game, McAdoo was more impressive since he showed the ability to not only score in the paint, but he also made several nice mid-range jumpers and multiple three-pointers which showed off his range. Both showed good court vision and passing skills as well as an ability to  make the pass in transition or out of the low post when double-teamed. Kyle Wiltjer (#26 – Kentucky) also brought back his sky hook from the McDonald’s game to this event and Johnny O’Bryant (#28 – LSU) consistently knocked down a turn-around jumper that will be deadly if he adds other moves to his arsenal.

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