Big East Conference (24-8, 13-5)
Big Wins: 1/2 at Syracuse (82-72), 2/12 West Virginia (98-95), 2/21 Villanova (70-65)
Bad Losses: 12/8 at Indiana (64-74), 1/24 at Seton Hall (61-64), 1/31 at USF (61-70)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009, Elite Eight loss to Villanova
Coach: Jamie Dixon (9-6 in 6 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Replacing a player like Levance Fields takes more than one player. Last year Fields led the Panthers to the Elite Eight averaging 10.7 points and 7.5 assists. However, a handful of players have stepped up to fill the void. And this is still Pittsburgh; a team that will always play tough defense and hit the glass hard.
But taking care of the ball and picking up the scoring slack left behind by Fields has been the job of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and Travon Woodall. Gibbs usually does not worry too much about passing, but he is certainly capable of creating opportunities for his teammates. Yet, Pittsburgh needs Gibbs on the perimeter since he is easily the most prolific outside shooter on the team. Wanamaker has turned into a surprisingly good all-around player. He is second on the team in scoring and also adds 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Woodall is a true point guard and will be on the floor when Coach Jamie Dixon needs another ballhandler.
Why They Can Disappoint:
In year’s past it was not a big deal that the Panthers would not create turnovers. They played safe, tough defense and rarely took a chance on a steal. That is not a bad thing to do when you have great interior scorers. However, this year the Panthers lack size and experience in the paint. Gary McGhee is a fine rebounder and a great shot blocker, but he is not a consistent scorer in the paint. Nasir Robinson is more of a wing than a power forward and Dante Taylor is an inexperienced freshman who has done an admirable job, but is certainly not ready to be a consistent scorer in the paint. While rebounding is not a problem thanks to athletes like Wanamaker, size and experience in the paint will be the undoing of Pitt sooner or later.
Who To Watch:
Two of Pitt’s superstars spent part of the year on the bench and their return has made this a deep and even more talented team. Gilbert Brown is a 6-6 wing who is physical enough to play at the four spot and crafty enough to hit the three-pointer with consistency. He has been quite inconsistent since missing the first dozen games of the season, but Brown is an experienced player who will help the team dominate the boards even more. Being the only returning starter from last year, Jermaine Dixon was supposed to be the leader of this team in every way. However, Dixon missed the first eight games of the season and was later slowed by an ankle injury. His absence allowed other players to gain valuable experience, but he is ready to take over this team in the tournament.
Ashton Gibbs, Sophomore, Guard, 15.8 ppg, 1.9 apg
Jermaine Dixon, Senior, Guard, 10.7 ppg, 2.3 apg
Brad Wanamaker, Junior, Guard, 12.1 ppg, 4.7 apg, 5.7 rpg
Nasir Robinson, Sophomore, Forward, 6.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
Gary McGhee, Junior, Center, 7.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Gilbert Brown, Junior, Forward, 10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Dante Taylor, Freshman, Forward, 4.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Travon Woodall, Freshman, Guard, 4.8 ppg, 3.2 apg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.8 (178th in nation, 12th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.7 (37, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.7 (107, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.8 (34, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.4 (249, 14)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.8 (140, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.4 (152, 8)
Rebound Margin: 4.8 (37, 4)
Assists Per Game: 16.0 (22, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.5 (71, 6)
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