Typically, I'm all over basketball preseason games. I'm not quite sure what my allure is to the exhibitions, but it's likely just a need for something else after football season hasn't gone the way I'd hoped.
This season, though, I've just been too busy to give it much attention. I insisted I'd watch each game on replay over on ESPN3, but that never materialized. Our basketball coverage will, of course, pick up once the regular season gets underway. But yeah, to this point, hoops hasn't had my attention.
I did have a few thoughts, though.
Pitt looked less than dominant in their first game against UC San Diego, winning by only 13. They looked better against Slippery Rock this past Friday, winning by 36 in a rout.
I'm not here to tell you that Pitt will be a great team this year. There's the potential to be pretty good and anything less than the NCAAs would be a disappointment. Still, lots of moving parts here - a power forward playing center. A true center that's injured and recovering off of major knee surgery. Losses of Steven Adams, J.J. Moore, Dante Taylor, Trey Zeigler, and Tray Woodall. Three freshmen expected to play big roles. Just has all the makings of a 'meh' kind of year with so much transition.
One thing you shouldn't be concerned about, though, is the close preseason win in the opener. Pitt's had plenty of those in the past, including an uninspiring 15-point win against IUP last year. These games happen all the time and good programs like Syracuse and, this year, UNLV, have even found themselves on the losing ends of games against D-II opponents. Frankly, it's the equivalent of an NCAA tournament game for those schools - a way to test themselves against a quality opponent. For Pitt, they're just trying to get out of there with some experience for their younger guys and healthy.
Seriously, don't get too bent out of shape over that first game.
The one thing I'm dying to see play out is the overall rotation. Not so much the starting lineup, rather, which players will get serious minutes come ACC time. Some guys that play in the preseason will see their minutes shrink considerably in conference games and the first dozen games or so is really like an audition.
And just as we shouldn't take the exhibition game too seriously, these early non-conference games against weaker schools have to be taken with a grain of salt, too. When Talib Zanna goes off for 20 and 10, try not to get too excited - you'll just be disappointed later on once you find out he can't do that against Duke.
I'm excited for the season because I think it will provide a glimpse into the future. I'm really excited to see what this team will be able to do in two years. The loss of Adams was a big blow, but guys like Mike Young, Jamel Artis, and Josh Newkirk in this class will get some early experience this season. With a year of seasoning, those guys will be even better this season.
But let's take it one game at a time - and it starts with Savannah State on Friday.