Heading into the 2013-14 season, Pitt obviously has a lot of questions marks. They lost players in all sorts of ways from last year, and nobody is entirely sure who the starting five will actually be. Many had it figured that Lamar Patterson, James Robinson, and Talib Zanna were locks, and that certainly appears to be the case as Pitt heads into its final exhibition game with Slippery Rock on Friday night. We also figured Cam Wright would ultimately win the shooting guard spot, and that appears likely as well, which leaves us with the power forward spot.
Jamie Dixon certainly threw a wrench into the equation last week by starting Durand Johnson instead of true freshman. Michael Young. Many had it figured that the top 50 recruit from McKeesport would walk into a starting job, and from most reports out there, he has not done anything not to to deserve the job. Young is a 6-9 body, and is actually bigger than starting center, Talib Zanna. Some may have expected Jamel Artis to come in and challenge for this job as well. Artis is a rangy forward that fits the profile of a Pitt four.
Still, Dixon went with Johnson in the first exhibition as a starter, and that certainly has some ramifications. First of all, it hurts in terms of rebounding. As a whole Pitt rebounds well from all five positions, but to lose a big man would hurt any team. Secondly, it hurts the bench in some regards. I expected Johnson to be a scoring spark off the bench, and now that option could be lost if he remains in the starting lineup. Josh Newkirk and Chris Jones are two talented freshmen, but there have to be questions about what they can do offensively in their first year of playing.
It may be all a wash right now, because after you take a look at how the minutes broke down, Young played 18 and Johnson played 19, while the other four starters all played over 30 minutes each. Still, this battle is something we should monitor Friday, and throughout the rest of the non-conference schedule.