Pittsburgh Season Preview
|Record Last Season
||24 - 9, 12 - 6 Big East
||Tray Woodall, Trey Zeigler, JJ Moore, Steven Adams, Dante Taylor
||Jamel Artis, Michael Young, Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk, Joshua Ko, Joseph Uchebo
||James Robinson, Cameron Wright, Lamar Patterson, Michael Young, Talib Zanna
||11/12 vs Fresno State, 11/25 vs Texas Tech, 12/3 vs Penn State, 12/17 @ Cincinnati
|Pittsburgh Scouting Report
Things to Watch
Jamie Dixon will lead the Pittsburgh Panthers into the ACC with a roster missing a few key players from last season, but there is talent in the ranks. The Panthers lost a first round pick, but Steven Adams' numbers last season mean he is not irreplaceable. A good crop of newcomers mixed with three returning starters could be as competitive as last year's NCAA Tournament team. A few players will need to step up to send Pitt to its tenth tournament in eleven years under Dixon, but an experienced frontcourt and talented backcourt look capable of providing that.
After deferring to departed point guard Tray Woodall as a freshman, sophomore James Robinson will take control of the team. Robinson led the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and will begin looking for his shot more with the absence of Woodall. Freshman Josh Newkirk will likely be the primary backup to Robinson, but expect the sophomore to see around 30 minutes a game.
On the wing, there is a lot of depth, but only one position is settled. Lamar Patterson will surely start in one of the spots. The senior started every game last season, averaging 10 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Patterson's versatility could put him at any position from shooting guard to power forward, but he will likely see most of his time at small forward. The battle for the starting shooting guard will be intense. One of Cameron Wright, Durand Johnson, and Chris Jones will be the winner of that contest. Signs point to the junior Wright and sophomore Johnson as the front runners, at least early on. Wright played almost 15 minutes per game and was an efficient shooter from all over the floor. Johnson has a size advantage and is a more electric scorer. Both will see plenty of minutes due to their experience and ability to shoot from the perimeter. Jones, a redshirt freshman, will play, but may be crowded out of seeing big minutes. Detrick Mostella would have been an intriguing option but didn't qualify Mostella has bundles of athleticism and was an elite scorer at the high school level.
While the Panthers lost center Steven Adams and forward J.J. Moore, there is solid talent in the post. It all starts with senior Talib Zanna, who started to hit his stride last season. Zanna averaged with 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in just 24 minutes per contest as a junior. He will become the go-to option in the paint due to his athleticism and experience. Junior Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall and freshmen Jamel Artis and Michael Young will compete for the power forward position. Young may be the best bet to lock up the starting spot. The top 100 recruit is versatile, athletic scorer who could take some pressure off Zanna. Randall never averaged more than 11 minutes per game for Rutgers, but will have to play more for Dixon's team. At 6'9" 240 lbs, he will be a load to deal with on both ends of the court. Artis also brings good size to the post and will be looked at to produce around 10 minutes per game. Pitt took a hit when it became apparent that junior college transfer Joseph Uchebo will not be able to play due to chronic knee problems. He would have seen major minutes down low.
Pittsburgh will be able to ease their many newcomers into action with a less than daunting non-conference schedule. While there are a few dangerous mid-majors, the major big names on the schedule are not that scary. Texas Tech, Penn State, Cincinnati, and either Houston or Stanford make up the bigger names on the schedule. In conference play, the Panthers have a balanced schedule with home and away matchups with Clemson, Maryland, NC State, and Syracuse.
Pitt is set up to have a nice introduction to the ACC. They are well-prepared after having played in what was once perhaps the best conference in college basketball. With three returning starters and healthy competition at the other two spots, the talent is in place to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. If Patterson and Zanna have strong senior campaigns, this team will be able to get a top 6-7 seed in the tournament. Pitt will likely make the tournament with a seed in the 7-10 range and finish with a winning record in conference play.
by Matt Purdy @UMWolfpack87
Fantasy Player to Watch
Talib Zanna presents the best opportunity to make a difference in your fantasy basketball season. For a center, he should put up above-average numbers with a likely increase in minutes. With over 9 points and 6 rebounds per game last year, an increase to 12 and 9 is completely within reach. James Robinson and Lamar Patterson are other good options.
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