With basketball season just around the corner, we're kicking off three straight weeks of Big East team previews. First up? Pitt, of course. Check back each day for a brief preview on every team in the conference.
Returnees: Coach Jamie Dixon will hand the ball to Tray Woodall to run the show yet again. Woodall will be entering his fifth season in the program, and will be the senior leadership on the floor. Woodall improved his three-point shooting through the years and is a solid candidate to average around ten points and seven assists per game. Pitt has two solid players at small forward. J.J. Moore came on strong in the tail end of last season and he is Pitt's premier athlete. Lamar Patterson could very well be Pitt's best all around player. He is a "stat sheet stuffer" that does a lot of little things for the team. Talib Zanna will look to man the power forward post. He averaged 19 minutes a game last season, and was forced into playing center at times. Dante Taylor will be back for his final season. At the time, Taylor was the most heralded recruit under the Dixon regime, but has yet to live up to the hype. He is still a solid bench player, though, and adds great depth for Coach Dixon along with sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert. Reserve guards, John Johnson and Cameron Wright also return, but could see their roles reduced.
Newcomers: Pitt is bringing in a few potential stars this season that are new to the program. Everyone has heard of Pitt's new big man, Steven Adams. The seven-footer from New Zealand is now Pitt's highest rated recruit ever, and it is hard to imagine he won't live up to the expectations as Taylor failed to do. Even more than the scoring, he will add a big rebounding presence to Pitt - something they lacked heavily last season. Then there's Trey Zeigler, a transfer from Central Michigan who's eligible to play immediately. Zeigler has an excellent chance to start for Pitt. He is a former top 30 recruit that has plenty of ability. James Robinson will be Pitt's starting point guard in the future, and will see some time this season. Chris Jones was a lightly recruited small forward from New Jersey, but has already impressed the coaching staff. Durand Johnson, who redshirted last season, should also be in the mix.
Final Outlook: Pitt is coming off a forgettable 2011-12 campaign. They have a good nucleus in place, and an outstanding group of newcomers coming into the program. All signs point to a turnaround for Pitt this year. They have the size and versatility to be a top notch Big East team. The ceiling on this group is very high, and could find themselves in the rankings quite a bit this season. There is no reason Pitt should not be dancing in the Big Dance this March ... perhaps even as a pretty good seed.