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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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: 03.21.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 21st, 2013


  1. So technically the first four games of the NCAA Tournament have already been played but today is the day that truly feels like the start as games tip off early and will be broadcast all day long. Speaking of folks who are excited, how can you not want to root for a team that has a fan base comprised of a hodgepodge of students, faculty, and of course 79-year-old Indiana transplants living in nearby Fort Myers. Yes, the ride has already been a fun one for Florida Gulf Coast and its fans, and I don’t think any of them care that the team’s chances of beating Georgetown are not very good. The Eagles may have thought they deserved a slightly higher seed, but the chips have fallen where they did and FGCU is apparently thrilled at the chance to play giant-slayer against one of the best teams in the Big East. It is more fun for us when Big East teams are playing well in the NCAA Tournament, but let’s just say that if FGCU were able to pull off a shocker, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
  2. I really can’t agree more with the opinion that “if you value a player based on how much worse his team would be without him, Otto Porter would be your pick for National Player of the Year.” The Hoyas were, at one point this season, a team that scored 37 points against Tennessee and got a 26-point beat down from Pittsburgh. When the Hoyas lost second-leading scorer Greg Whittington to academic suspension, Porter put the team on his back for the rest of conference play and Georgetown ended the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Admittedly, this is an opinion that is shared by many others, but I still feel like calling it out because Porter really isn’t getting enough NPOY consideration and so I’ve taken on the job of single-handedly jump-starting his campaign myself. 
  3. I called point guard Tray Woodall my key player on Pittsburgh in the Panthers’ NCAA Tourney capsuel, but Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette makes a pretty good case that streaky Lamar Patterson is actually the key to the Panthers’ tournament success this March. Big things were expected of Patterson this season and while he remains a versatile defender and dangerous offensive player, he has been inconsistent and seemingly nonchalant, resulting in an up-and-down year that he is not particularly proud of. The Panthers desperately need a good showing in the Big Dance to silence some of the critics and if Patterson can rise to the occasion and be the guy for coach Jamie Dixon, their chances of making run improve greatly.
  4. While this story about potential major and wide-ranging violations committed by the Syracuse basketball and football programs is somewhat old news, sources in the CBS story certainly do not paint a flattering picture of the sort of things that the NCAA is investigating. UConn fans are already having some tempered fun with the story, while head coach Jim Boeheim has already issued a surprisingly tempered “this happens every year and I don’t care” statement. This no longer feels like it is always something with the Orange, it IS always something with the Orange. The NCAA and its investigations have proven to be a giant joke, but considering the fact that NCAA investigators are sniffing around an alleged 2007 sexual assault and several academic suspensions at the school, brace yourselves for yet another story about some scandal that took place under Boeheim’s watch. At this point, is there anyone in the country who feels confident in saying he will be back on the sideline next season?
  5. It has been rumored for some weeks now because there are good reporters on the beat that Butler, Creighton, and Xavier would be the three schools likely to join the new Big East and, now that it is official, those three teams will join the former Catholic 7 to form a basketball-first conference that is already being over-hyped by giddy college basketball fans forgetful that DePaul has been terrible for nearly two decades. The door is still open for two more teams (good reporters say Saint Louis and Dayton are next) to join the conference in the near future, but for now, the new Big East is set and it will be fascinating for college basketball lovers to watch. These additions make sense on every level and for everyone involved. The Bulldogs, Bluejays, and Musketeers haven’t really been true mid-majors in a long time and there is a chance one of these teams could win a conference title in its inaugural season. They will get a bigger profile and some lovely television cash, while the new Big East gets three teams to further improve their basketball chops and make sure that media rights deal will remain a lucrative one.
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Big East M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 21st, 2013


  1. Well, just when everyone had become enchanted with the idea of Providence giving Syracuse a stiff challenge, the Orange came out and showed everyone why they hadn’t lost at home in 37 games. Boeheim’s defensive length sparked a 31-5 run to close the first half, and the Friars were run out of the gym, 84-59. CJ Fair logged his second consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Orange shot almost 57% on a Providence defense that had held Notre Dame to 39% last week. Most encouraging for Syracuse fans was the impeccable performance Michael Carter-Williams turned in after his tapering assist numbers had raised eyebrows. The sophomore ended with 12 assists and an absurd 6:1 assist to turnover ratio to go along with 15 points and five rebounds. Any doubts about Syracuse’s trajectory were erased as they moved back into a tie for first place in league play.
  2. In another Wednesday night blowout, Georgetown freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera played a career game as the Hoyas pounded DePaul, 90-66, to extend their winning streak to eight. Coming off the bench, the stocky Thompsonian guard racked up 33 points on 10-of-12 (83%) shooting, hit 5-of-6 threes and 8-of-10 free throws. It was the most points scored by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page put up 34 in the 1996 Big East Tournament. It also warrants some further research to determine the last time anyone accumulated as many points shooting 80% or higher from both the field, three-point and free throw lines. We’ll look into it.
  3. Jamie Dixon’s emphasis on rebounding is well documented, but it’s even more important this season without a reliable scorer. Despite entering last weekend’s game tied for the best rebounding margin in the Big East, Pitt emerged bloodied from its Notre Dame embarrassment with a -22 margin between two straight losses. In fact, Pitt’s lost six of the last eight games in which it hasn’t earned an advantage on the glass. Dixon stresses the need for “rebounding from every position,” but Lamar Patterson had questioned the effort from his big men after last weekend’s Marquette loss: “We’ve got big guys, too. Steve [Adams] and Talib [Zanna] are big guys. It came down to who wanted it more.” The two performed even worse on the boards against the Irish, collecting four and two rebounds, respectively. Maybe it’s not the kind of criticism you’d pose publicly, but it appears to have some merit.
  4. Notre Dame forward Scott Martin is poised to return to full participation in practice this weekend after missing eight games with chronic knee issues. Despite the leadership and production Martin brings to the table, the Irish are 6-2 in his absence, as Tom Knight has ascended from obscurity to become a reliable starter. It’s not an unfamiliar situation for Mike Brey: “Luke Harangody came back to us at time we were rolling along with a different nucleus. Scott will have to work himself in and he and I talked about that. His attitude is great… I would love to have that body available down the stretch.” Brey also revealed he’s also contemplating inserting Martin at the three spot, which would alleviate the problematic numbers game in Notre Dame’s frontcourt. It’s hard to imagine a hobbled Martin having the lateral quickness to guard many Big East threes, though.
  5. Eric Crawford at the Louisville Courier-Journal juxtaposes the patchwork understanding of basketball Gorgui Dieng brought to Louisville with the astute mind for the game he’s developed in three seasons. He’s gone from not grasping that offensive and defensive fouls count toward one’s foul total, to becoming one of the team’s best passer, whom Rick Pitino compares to former point-center David Padgett for his passing ability and intellect. “He’s our coach on the floor,” says Pitino. While Dieng demurred when asked about his coach’s comments that he may encourage the 23-year-old junior to test the draft after this season, Crawford picks up on subtleties in Dieng’s speech that suggest he might be preparing for an exit. Responding to concerns about fatigue, Dieng said, “I will do whatever to help this team. I’m not worried if I play a lot of minutes or less minutes. I don’t know if I’m going to have this chance again, ever.”
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Walk-on Contributions Help Louisville Exorcise Late-Game Demons Against Pittsburgh

Posted by Will Tucker on January 29th, 2013

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent and Big East microsite writer. He filed this report after Monday night’s Louisville-Pittsburgh game.

Louisville endured a three-point shooting onslaught from Pitt down the stretch to hold on to a 64-61 victory on Monday night in the Yum! Center. The Panthers hit five of their eight threes in the final seven minutes, but the Cardinals made the necessary plays in the final possessions — demonstrating a resilience conspicuously absent in close losses to Syracuse and Georgetown. Most impressive was the fact that the Cardinals pulled out the win in spite of sudden attrition on its wings. Wayne Blackshear (sprained shoulder) and Kevin Ware (unspecified suspension) weren’t in the lineup, subtracting 38 reliable minutes per game from Rick Pitino’s rotation.

(Credit Andy Lyons)

Louisville’s Tim Henderson played 14 sound minutes off the bench (Credit: Andy Lyons)

Leading up to the game, the two teams appeared headed in vastly different directions. Louisville had lost three consecutive Big East gut-punches and was facing the possibility of a 4-4 record in conference play less than two weeks removed from a #1 ranking in the polls; Pittsburgh had won four straight, capped off by an emphatic 38-point win over DePaul. Rick Pitino’s team needed no extra motivation (nor anxiety) to get up for Pitt, but that’s exactly what they got when they learned in the past couple days that Blackshear and Ware would sit out.

The outlook was bleak on paper, with the eighth-most efficient offense in the country entering the Yum! Center. Who would defend Pitt’s Lamar Patterson and Tray Woodall, who were shooting 39% and 37% from beyond the arc, respectively? Louisville’s lineup was about to get smaller, and it had already allowed Big East foes to shoot more than 34% from outside (fourth worst in the league). Could UofL’s increasingly anemic offense survive the void left by Blackshear’s scoring, which accounts for 12% of their points in league play?

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Big East M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 14th, 2013


  1. The big off-the-court news in the Big East this weekend was the mysterious suspension of Syracuse forward James Southerland for an eligibility-related issue. The Orange were still able to handle Villanova without their second-leading scorer, but if Southerland is going to miss an extended period of time, Syracuse will be in trouble. Southerland is one of the team’s best outside shooters and scorers and replacing his production and athleticism will be nearly impossible, That is why it will be important for freshmen Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney to step up and replace some of that production. As longtime Syracuse Post-Standard columnist Bud Poliquin noted, this marks yet another season marred with off-the-court controversy for Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim and the fact that the program has announced what the eligibility issue is that Southerland is being suspended for is rather ominous. This is obviously a story that is still developing and we will have more on where Syracuse goes from here later this week.
  2. After an impressive start in non-conference play, things have gotten markedly worse for Pittsburgh. The losses are one thing but now the Panthers will be without the services of its playmaker and point guard Tray Woodall as the senior suffered a concussion thanks to a head-on collision in the team’s loss to Marquette. The good news is that freshman James Robinson is mature beyond his years and an excellent point guard already. The bad news is that now Robinson will be playing a lot more and could burn out down the stretch, and Woodall is one of the best playmakers and passers in the conference. Coach Jamie Dixon played Lamar Patterson and Trey Ziegler a bit at point guard and both are relatively versatile, so it will be interesting to see if they can adapt. How much playing time Woodall will miss is anyone’s guess at this point, but its likely he will miss a good chunk of the conference schedule, not good news for a Panthers’ team struggling to find its way.
  3. There is no question that one of the main reasons Connecticut is overachieving is because of the newfound consistency of junior point guard Shabazz Napier. The Massachusetts native was terrific in the team’s huge road upset win over Notre Dame this weekend and he has been the heart and soul of the team this year. Napier is leading the team in scoring, shooting as well as he ever has from beyond the three-point arc, and cut down on his turnovers all while leading a young and undersized team with no hope for postseason play this season. Those are all compelling reasons why some folks are outraged that Napier didn’t make the final cut for the Bob Cousy Award. The junior has better statistical numbers than most of the field and has dramatically cut down on the maddening inconsistencies and questionable shot-selection that plagued him last season so it is a little strange that the committee didn’t give Napier the nod. It doesn’t matter much to Napier but it would be nice for the Huskies to have something to look forward to.
  4. The Big East will likely boast the No. 1 team in the country when the new rankings come out as a few top-ranked teams went down over the weekend and Louisville will likely stand alone at the top when all the dust is settled. More importantly, coach Rick Pitino is in rare form already, calling his team a bunch of Michael Jacksons when they don’t talk on defense and finding new and creative ways to motivate his team, which he has done effectively. The top billing is not always a welcome place to be but if any team has the mentality to hold onto it, its Louisville. The Cardinals are deep and their defense is downright scary good. As long as they are giving full effort, there is no one better, in the conference at least.
  5. The start to conference play has been rocky for Cincinnati as well. Coach Mick Cronin felt his team needed to toughen up and they responded by playing the best defense of the season in a 10-point win over Rutgers. The Bearcats do not have a lot of interior scoring options and often struggle offensively, so playing suffocating defense like they did Saturday will be crucial if they want to have success in the Big East. Of course beating the Scarlet Knights by 10 isn’t going to impress anybody for long, it is a step in the right direction for Cincinnati and if they can carry that over into the rest of the season, there is still a chance they can finish atop the conference.
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #7 Pittsburgh

Posted by Will Tucker on October 31st, 2012

Despite being picked fourth in last year’s preseason Big East coaches’ poll, Jamie Dixon’s squad went 5-13 in conference play and finished at a dismal 13th place in the standings. Pitt fans expect a big rebound from the disappointment of last season: Their team returns fifth-year senior Tray Woodall, seven of its nine top scorers, and a blockbuster recruiting class featuring hulking Kiwi Steven Adams, the school’s highest-ranked basketball commitment of all-time. Big East coaches seem to agree that Pitt is on the uptick, placing Pitt sixth in last week’s preseason Big East coaches’ poll. While the writers at RTC’s Big East microsite have their reservations about Pitt’s ability to reverse course over a single offseason, there’s enough talent at Jamie Dixon’s disposal to envision a substantial improvement. But the loss of leading scorer and leader Ashton Gibbs, coupled with lingering doubts about Woodall’s health, makes it difficult to place Pitt any higher in our predicted standings.

2011-12 Record: 22-17, 4-14

2011-12 Postseason: 5-1, College Basketball Invitational Champions

Tray Woodall is the key to Pitt’s success (Photo credit Fred Beckham/AP)


Pitt opens up the season with a fairly rigorous non-conference slate. Oakland, Detroit and crosstown rival Duquesne will test the Panthers in November, while neutral-court games in Madison Square Garden against Michigan, Virginia and Kansas State could materialize depending on how the Preseason NIT bracket unfolds. Apart from that tournament in late November, Pitt won’t leave the familiar confines of Pittsburgh until January 5, when it travels to Rutgers.

The Panthers draw a fairly advantageous Big East schedule in 2012-13, with home-and-home series against Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and Villanova (two of whom we predicted to finish in the bottom third of the conference). The most brutal stretch of the Big East schedule takes place between the end of January and the third week of February, when Pitt plays at Louisville, Syracuse, at Cincinnati, at Marquette, Notre Dame and at St. John’s. How the team weathers that gauntlet will likely define its season.

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Big East M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 26th, 2012

  1. Connecticut’s basketball’s academic woes have reared their ugly head once again, this time in the form of the team’s graduation success rate (GSR). The Huskies’ GSR dropped from 36% to 11% this year, representing the lowest such mark in all of Division I basketball.  The score, which reflects how many of the team’s players were able to graduate within six years of their enrollment at school, is different from the APR, the Academic Progress Rating that is currently preventing UConn from participating in the 2013 postseason. On the bright side for the Huskies, their APR is on the rise. Academic success is one of the major black marks on the end of the Jim Calhoun era at Connecticut, and as the NCAA’s APR requirements continue to increase every year, it needs to be a major focus for Kevin Ollie or whoever has control of the program in the long term.
  2. Big time non-conference series are always fun, and yesterday we learned that Georgetown and Kansas have agreed to play four games starting next season.  The series will open at Allen Fieldhouse on December 31, 2013 and continue on for three successive seasons home-and-home until 2016-17. Georgetown and Kansas have only faced each other twice, including last year in the Maui Invitational, a 67-63 Kansas victory. The all-time series is tied at one win apiece.
  3. Pitt’s J.J. Moore may be a bit rusty on the court after missing months of basketball from an April surgery to repair his fifth metatarsal, but he spent his summer wisely. After living in the weight room during his rehabiliation, Moore put on around 15 pounds of muscle, and is now a stout 6’6″ and 215 pounds. Moore was not a major part of Jamie Dixon’s rotation last season, sitting behind Lamar Patterson and Nasir Robinson at the forward slots, but with his added size and strength he should factor in at both small forward and power forward this year. Moore adds some added quickness and versatility at the four when Dixon wants to go with a smaller, more athletic line-up: “I’m definitely ready to make that transition and play power forward,” Moore said. “We’ve been practicing right now with me being the power forward. It’s looking good. I think it’s looking good for the team, as a matter of fact. With me as a power forward, the guys can get open because we can space the floor.”
  4. Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle is running a player preview series for the start of the 2012-13 season. Today featured “silky” freshman forward Steve Taylor, whom Buzz Williams has called the best freshman he’s ever signed at Marquette. While Taylor has a ton of potential, he is going to start behind Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson in the rotation, and the AE guys don’t foresee him seeing a lot come Big East play, especially with Williams’ penchant for leaning on experienced players down the stretch.  There is also an excellent photoshop done involving Taylor, Williams, and a 1995 Chevy Chase film, so the full profile is definitely worth your time.
  5. Having spent four years in Syracuse, I can verify that there are a number of notable food spots in town. Dinosaur BBQ is the first place to roll off of most tongues, but Jim Boeheim’s favorite hot dog joint Heid’s and the nearly-90 year old Varsity on the SU hill both deserve all the recognition that they receive as well.  However, there is one particular Syracuse food item that is particularly legendary – the Mother’s Cupboard frittata.  This six-pound heap of egg, pepperoni, home fries, sausage, and vegetables has been finished by few and has conquered many, but another brave soul was able to put down the entire dish on Monday: Syracuse basketball walk-on Russ DeRemer. DeRemer utilized a strategy that allowed “Man vs. Food” host Adam Richman to overcome the mighty frittata, and he was able to put away the entire plate in 25 minutes. DeRemer was quite humble about the accomplishment, but fellow walk-on Albert Nassar was more candid about his teammate’s impressive feat: “Honestly, he didn’t even struggle,’’ Nassar said. “Until the last bowl, he didn’t pause once. He just kept going. Then on the last bottom, he paused for like a minute and then knocked it out.’’
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Big East Summer Capsules: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on July 20th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Pittsburgh.

1. Not to be outdone, this season will be Pittsburgh’s last hurrah in the Big East too.

After Syracuse announced it had come to terms with the Big East on a departure date, you knew it wouldn’t take long for Pittsburgh to follow suit and the Panthers surprised no one when they announced they would be leaving at the same time as Syracuse. The school will have to pay the Big East $7.5 million, but that is chump change compared to what the school stands to make after the switch to the ACC. The real losers here are once again Big East basketball fans. Physical, gritty, and well-coached, the Panthers epitomized Big East basketball and also just so happened to be one of its best programs under Ben Howland and now Jamie Dixon. They don’t have the same storied history and star power that Syracuse has, but fantastic players such as Brandin Knight, Levance Fields, Carl Krauser, and DeJuan Blair all left indelible marks of the basketball memories of fans, and the league will be hard-pressed to find a team to replace Pitt.

2. Get ready for the emergence of Lamar Patterson.

Lamar Patterson is poised for a huge junior season. Photo: Associated Press

Ashton Gibbs has graduated after what feels like eight years in a Panthers’ uniform and he has taken an awful lot of points with him. The Panthers are in the market for some scoring. Transfer Trey Zeigler – more on him in a minute – should help, but based on summer league reviews, the player who will be the most help in the scoring department is junior Lamar Patterson. Everyone seems to agree that Patterson’s solid but unspectacular statistics have been because he wasn’t selfish enough. Well apparently he got the message, and so he has used his improved shooting touch and aggression to basically dominate summer league competition and put himself atop the list of potential breakout candidates for next season. He has always had physicality and athleticism to become a standout performer, but now it appears he has added the necessary polish to be one of the conference’s most improved and well-rounded players.

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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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