Thoughts Pitt basketball from Thursday by reader SlicenDice112 - read other Fanposts and write your own using the link to the right.
After watching the Pitt game last night there are reasons to be excited and reasons for concern. Pitt is scary deep at every position, which is reason for excitement, and I can wrap the concerns into one word: CONFIDENCE.
With more confidence, last night would have been a massacre.
Ashton Gibbs, Tray Woodall, John Johnson and Nasir Robinson all play with a ton of confidence. Ask Ashton Gibbs if he can name one person in the country who can lock him down. He won’t. His body language says it all. Whatever you do, all you can hope for is that I have an off night or that your defense is stellar enough to keep me from going for 30+. He brings the ball up the court with a confidence and swagger that discourages his defenders from taking a risk at a steal.
Even though Johnson is only a freshman (I'm sure I'll get push-back for what I'm about to write), he plays with the same type of swagger. He has a certain "thing" that makes you feel like he’s got everything under control. He doesn’t panic when a defender is up on him and he plays effective in your face defense. Johnson is a crisp and smart passer and has a butter smooth stroke.
Nasir is the same way. He attacks the glass with a vengeance and he doesn’t get rattled. Even though he isn’t the most gifted offensive player, he is poised when he has the ball, crafty and smart. He lets the game come to him. Woodall is on this list, but barely.
I think Woodall has experience and has produced in big time situations and plays with a ton of confidence, but I just don’t think he gives us the edge at the position that we’ve had in the past. I like Woodall and I think he is an excellent player, but his position is the most important position on the team and he isn't a final four caliber starting point guard. The past 4 national champion point guards: Kemba Walker, Nolan Smith, Ty Lawson and Mario Chalmers...All NBA players. Travon is following Ashton/Brad last year, Levance, Carl and Brandin. These guys instill(ed) fear in defenders that Woodall just doesn’t do...and none of them are even in the league.
For whatever reason, opponents don’t respect him the way our past starting point guards have been and I think it is having a material impact on the team. I think Ashton should be starting at the 1, but whether Woodall starts or comes off the bench, he needs to be a true pass first point guard and really understand where other players should get the ball so they can have the highest chance of success…especially our big men.
Which leads me to my next point…
Dante Taylor, Khem Birch, Lamar Patterson, J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna are all athletic nd talented. If two things happened, I think you would see their productivity soar. Firstly, they need to be Blair-like on defense and the glass.
Nasir Robinson should give a class on this. They need to box out and go after boards like they have a crack addiction and the ball is a taste. They should take it personally if the other team scores or gets an offensive board, and they need to play defense and challenge shots with that attitude. We need to get nasty on defense and the boards…think Dejuan flipping Thabeet. (Kudos to Khem. Dude tries to block everything.)
Offensively, I can’t really blame the big guys. The guards and coaching staff have done nothing to show that they have confidence in their ability to score. This is kind of a chicken and an egg scenario, but if you show that you have confidence in someone and give them an opportunity to perform, they will naturally become more comfortable in those situations. So secondly, I think more plays need to be run for the big guys, and they need to be given the opportunity to at least mess up.
Lastly, JJ has the potential to be the best player on the court and he needs to start playing with that level of confidence.
It’s early in the season and we’ve struggled at times, but defense, rebounding and ball security are non-negotiable, and our success in those areas is a byproduct of our desire and confidence. Additionally, I think we need a lot more fluidity on offense, and I’m a little worried that we don't seem to have any type of offensive identity and a lot of our scoring come on second chance points and broken plays.
On a totally unrelated topic. Isaiah Epps…I think I read one time that he would be a one and done. Anyone know his deal? Is he good/bad/bad attitude/why isn’t he playing?