Pitt Basketball: Looking Ahead To 2011-12 Lineups

I typically don't break down chat sessions. Typically, there aren't too many questions of value and sometimes the answers can be even worse because unless the questions come in beforehand, there's little time to think and respond.

That said, the chat held by Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette this week had a lot of good discussion about next season, so thought I'd take a look at some of the questions and answers.

There was a lot of talk in the chat about lineup projections for next year and Fittipaldo threw out his projection:

Here is my projected starting five: Woodall, Gibbs, Moore, Robinson, Taylor. Here are my top reserves: Patterson, Birch, Cam Wright and either Gilbert or Richardson. Probably not as depp as this past season, but I think there is plenty of talent to build around.

I'm with Fittipaldo about Birch - as I said last month, I don't think he starts. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but at the beginning of the season, I just don't see it. Not sure I agree on Moore, though. Not only does Fittipaldo think he'll start, he sees Moore as a huge contributor:

I think Jonathan Moore is going to be the second-leading scorer behind Gibbs. I know it's a bold statement, but I liked what I saw from him in limited action this season. The kid can score.

That would be a huge leap. Nas is a very capable scorer and with Woodall starting...

Well, I'm not so sure about that statement.

There was also quite a bit of talk about Isaiah Epps. We didn't hear much about Epps and other than playing a handful of minutes this season, we didn't see him, either. If you'll notice, he's conspicuously absent from Ray's rotation mentioned above. According to Fittipaldo, Epps isn't looking all that great. In response to a comparison about Epps and Carl Krauser:

I have not heard Epps compared to Krauser once in the past year. I just haven't heard that he's playing all that well.

He added:

Not sure about Epps either. I hear Cam Wright is a little further ahead at this point.

That would be a huge surprise if Epps never pans out. Fittipaldo also theorized a bit about the possible scenarios of Pitt fixing their problem of being two scholarships over the limit:

I am addressing this is a story for Sunday. The short answer is no one knows yet. It could be a situation where one player currently on the roster decides to transfer and one of the recruit fails to qualify academically. Or two of the freshmen fail to qualify. Or two current players move on. I mentioned this earlier, but where does Talib Zanna fit on this team in the short-term? At the very least, Zanna is looking at another year where he plays very little if Birch is as advertised. Does he want to stick around and sit the bench for another year? Does JJ Richardson want to continue being a reserve, or does he want to go somewhere where he can be a starter? Does isaiah Epps want to sit for two years behind Travon Woodall? This is going to be one interesting offseason, more flux than usual for Jamie Dixon and his staff.

I've avoided talking too much about this, but for the most part, I think Ray has some valid points. With Malcolm Gilbert, Pitt's big man rotation also includes Dante Taylor, Khem Birch, Talib Zanna, Nasir Robinson, Jaylen Bond, and J.J. Richardson. All of those guys except for Nas should be around in two years, so it's a pretty crowded situation. So his idea of Richardson maybe being the/an odd man out makes sense. Richardson could be needed as a backup, but Birch previously said he could see minutes at center - so maybe he sees minutes there when Taylor needs a breather. At this point, it's really anybody's guess.

And like he says, it's going to depend on if everyone qualifies academically.

Stay tuned.

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