by Joel Welser
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, Sweet Sixteen loss to UCLA
Coach: Jamie Dixon (5-4 in 4 NCAA appearances)
Levance Fields, Junior, Guard
Keith Benjamin, Senior, Guard
Ronald Ramon, Senior, Guard
Sam Young, Junior, Forward
DeJuan Blair, Freshman, Forward
Gilbert Brown, Freshman, Guard
Brad Wanamaker, Freshman, Guard
Tyrell Biggs, Junior, Forward
Why They Can Surprise:
Pitt knows what they are good at and they play within themselves. They will make smart passes and play through their forwards Sam Young and DeJuan Blair. Young has emerged this year as the team’s go-to-scorer and averages an impressive 18.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Young, at 6-6, is not a post player by any means, but he has enough strength to mix it up in the paint. Blair, a 6-7 freshman, is the more traditional post player, albeit undersized for the Big East. He is a superb rebounder and a big time defensive presence, but his ability to score in the paint really opens up the rest of the floor for the guards.
Pittsburgh has one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the nation and that is because of Levance Fields and Ronald Ramon. Fields averages 5.1 assists and just 2.0 turnovers per contest. Ramon even has a better ratio than that. With those upperclassmen guards bringing the ball up the floor, the Panthers are in good hands and will surely keep the game under control.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The defense is good, but Pitt does not force a lot of turnovers and get easy fast break points. Usually that is not a big deal, but if the offense is sputtering in the half-court set, a fast break bucket or two could be exactly what they need to get back in the flow. The absence of a three-point shooting game, combined with the lack of steals, makes it very difficult for the Panthers to come from behind. Generally speaking Pitt will utilize their solid, non-aggressive defense and their relatively efficient offense to stay in any game, but if they start getting blown out, they probably will not be making a quick comeback.
Who To Watch:
If the three balls need to start falling, it will be up to Keith Benjamin. The part-time starter is the most effective shooter from behind the arc and can put up 20 points in a game if he is feeling it. However, he has been pretty inconsistent this year and Fields and Ramon have yet to prove they can be any more consistent from long range. Pitt can get the job done without Benjamin, but if they want to start thinking about an upset or two, they will need him to knock down some shots from the outside so the defense has to at least think about guarding the perimeter.
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