ESPN.com is starting a series in which they look at various college basketball teams throughout the offseason and how they will be in the upcoming hoops season. Today was the Panthers turn, and although you need an Insider account to view the full profile, I can give those of you who don't have one an idea of what the writers said about Pitt.
"We don't allow the loss of players to be a setback," says the ninth-year Panthers coach, who has brought in a top-25 recruiting class four of the past five seasons yet hasn't had a one-and-done freshman. "We're balanced. Not too many guys come in or too many leave. It's overlooked how consistent we are."
That quote sums up the Pitt program quite well. Take the 09-10 season, when Pitt came off an Elite Eight appearance and lost Dejuan Blair, Sam Young, Levance Fields, and Tyrell Biggs, was picked 9th in the Big East preseason poll, and won 25 games and finished 2nd in the conference.
The article brings up Pitt's main weakness, which is depth on the perimeter. Pitt loses Brad Wanamaker, who pretty much did everything when he was on the court, whether it was set up the offense or be the lockdown defender. How will they overcome his loss? The writers believe that Woodall will start and play SG while Ashton stays at point. I'm not sure I would agree with this. Gibbs, while he started at PG for the past 2 seasons, would be a better SG while Woodall plays PG. Woodall seems to be better at running and setting up the offense while Ashton is a better shooter. By sliding Gibbs over to SG, it allows him to focus on getting open for perimeter or mid-range jump shots.
Some quotes from each writer after the jump
The only real question for Pitt seems to be, beyond yet another 30-win season and another high seed in the NCAA Tournament, what is special about this team and what will set it apart? Dixon's 2009 team had that special feel, and finished a Scottie Reynolds lay-up away from the Final Four. This team does not have that feel, or at least not yet. In today's game, we won't know just how special until they lace 'em up and take the floor.
Can't say I disagree with his statement. What is going to be Pitt's one thing that separates this team from other teams? The 2008-09 and 2010-11 teams had veteran players at each position. I think this team has potential to be a great defensive team like the 2009-10 team was. The offense will take a hit, but if Pitt can have a lockdown defense (and of course get better at free throws), they can at least make the second week of the NCAA tournament.
Cameron Wright and J.J. Moore may be the whole key to the team, as Dixon has told anyone who will listen that Moore may be the best wing the Panthers have had during Dixon's tenure. Wright redshirted and is more skilled than the ridiculously athletic (Gilbert Brown-like) Moore. With the loss of Brad Wanamaker and Pitt's lack of perimeter go-to players, if Moore and Wright are the right fit, Pitt will once again win 30 games and likely be in position for another NCAA one-possession game.
Oh, Doug Gottlieb. I can't think of another sportswriter that gets the blood of Pitt fans boiling quite like Doug Gottlieb. And yet, he has a point. I'm not sure about Wright, but J.J.'s play will be an important part of Pitt's team this year. We've talked about how J.J. simply looked out of it last season, one reason for why his playing time went down as conference play began. He'll need to get a better feel for the offense and defense if he's going to be a big contributor. As for Wright, it's not clear how he'll do this season, as he redshirted last year. But if he's as skilled as Gottlieb says, then we can look forward to big things from Wright in the future.
The Panthers are the top current program without a Final Four to their credit and, if recent NCAA tournaments are any indication, who knows if and when Pitt will be able to get over the hump...But what if they don't? Is Pitt's program a failure? Is Jamie Dixon? "Of course not," say the experts of the game, but we all know how die-hard fans of any team react to knocking on the door without ever unlocking it. This is where the NCAA tournament is both a blessing and a curse, as it tends to value three weeks in March more than three months of a long, hard season. No one understands this dynamic better than Pittsburgh, unfortunately, and it's as good a reason as any to root for the Panthers in 2012.
Again, hard to argue with Lunardi. I would hardly say that winning 216 games in 8 seasons, an average of just over 30 wins a season, is a failure. But people look at what you did in the postseason and unless Pitt starts making some Final Fours (which with Dixon's success, you figure it's only a matter of time), it's going to be hard for Dixon to be considered among the elites like Coach K, Roy Williams, and Jim Calhoun. But if there's consolation, it took Calhoun 13 seasons at UConn to make his first Final Four. It took Jim Boeheim 11 seasons to reach his first. Jamie Dixon SHOULD get to a Final Four at some point in his career with the Panthers, but of course it's no guarantee.
A big key for the Panthers could be the emergence of 6-6 sophomore wing J.J. Moore, who was stuck on the bench last season but is the type of player who usually emerges for Dixon. Moore has star potential.
Like Gottlieb, Fraschilla says J.J. Moore will be a key contributor this season. I won't go into further discussion about it, although Moore will have some competition at starting SF with Lamar Patterson.
We know Gibbs will get his points, but who is going to be the other scoring option? One of the reasons why the 2008-09 team was so successful is that there were three reliable scorers in Blair, Young, and Fields. This year, we have Ashton, but it'll be up to guys like Nasir, Dante, Woodall, and J.J. to provide another option. That was the main concern last season and it will continue to be one until Pitt finds another scorer.