It seemed we were headed in this direction and on Thursday, the news was confirmed - Ashton Gibbs will return for Saturday's game. And while Pitt is 3-0 without Gibbs, if you've been watching, you know the offense just hasn't been the same.
Pitt's offense in the three games Gibbs has missed has been down, averaging only 65 points per game - that's down about nine points from their Big East average of approximately 74. Pitt did an amazing job to find ways to win games against West Virginia, Villanova, and South Florida, but they're obviously a much better team with Gibbs.
Travon Woodall, who's been filling in for Gibbs, recognized the offense wasn't as good:
“[Dixon] shows us that we’re a veteran group and prepares us well enough to go out there and play our game,” Woodall said. “Obviously, our scoring kind of went down, but we got to step up on defense and do a lot more of the things we didn’t when we had Ashton in the line-up.”
It'd be nice if the defense was just as good regardless of how the offense performed, but there's always a tradeoff.
A huge benefit is that Pitt's bench can return to normal. While Woodall played significantly more minutes, his numbers didn't really improve. Woodall averaged 32 minutes per game since Gibbs has been out (about 11 more than his average before), but averaged only about 1.5 more points per game. Even worse, he actually averaged slightly fewer assists and rebounds per game. Woodall didn't play horribly in Gibbs' absence, but he is much better suited for a bench role right now.
Gibbs isn't completely healthy, but he says he's close to it:
"It's close to 100 percent," he said. "I can feel it a little bit, but it's nothing major at all. It's definitely close to 100 percent. I'll just keep taking it day by day, rest it, ice it and keep playing on it."