I had the chance to go to the Pitt-Albany game Friday night. Figured with the weekend here, the excuse of needing to get up early the next day didn't really apply.
Here's what I saw ...
Pitt looked very good offensively. Much like last year when we saw a team with the potential to score in bunches, I think this team has the same type of mindset. They're not going to shoot 59% from three-point range most nights, but they could do it again. With Ashton Gibbs, Lamar Patterson, and Tray Woodall, this team is capable of hitting the three-point shots with regularity.
Gibbs is Pitt's best player, obviously, and had a great game with 21 points ... but Woodall was clearly the story. As I wrote in the post-season recap over at SB Nation Pittsburgh, the Panthers are in need of a consistent No. 2 scorer. One game isn't going to convince anyone, but this team will have another dimension if Woodall turns into that guy.
Then there were the freshmen.Khem Birch made a surprisingly small impact with only two points (coming at the free throw line) in 17 minutes of action. Dixon's obviously going to need to see more for him to warrant those types of minutes. What I saw from Birch was that he (unsurprisingly, by the way) needed to assert himself a little more. I think he'll be fine and will contribute ... and no, this isn't Dante Taylor all over again. But he will need some time to adjust.
I've seen lots of reaction to John Johnson out there because of his eight points in 13 minutes. But the thing that impressed me was how comfortable he looked and how active he was. He played aggressively, but smart, on both ends of the floor and is a guy I could see getting minutes throughout the season.
The other thing I wanted to mention was that I was a bit surprised to see about 20-30 kids in the Zoo file out with about 11 minutes left in the game. Now, before you get the wrong idea - this isn't bash the Zoo time. They do an amazing job and I'm talking about a relatively small amount. And heck, even I left early, filing out with about five minutes left. But if you're supposed to be one of the premier student sections in the country, you don't leave the season opener with more than ten minutes to go in the game.
YOU'RE THE ZOO. You're students and most of you live within a stone's throw of the Pete. If you want to check out a couple of minutes early to get to a party Bouquet Street, knock yourselves out. But leaving that early in the second half was a bit much for me.
I realize most students today have only known good Pitt basketball, but (and without sounding too much like the crotchety old neighbor kicking little kids off his lawn) there was a time when Pitt wasn't always so great. While you were running around in diapers watching
He-Man the Power Rangers, students that came before you were sitting in a half-empty Field House that sat about 5,000 people watching bad basketball.
For the majority of the Zoo that's in the opponents' faces night in and night out - great job. Not only is the basketball program better because of you, but the school is as well. For the small amount of you that can't even sit through the entire season opener: Being a part of the Zoo is a privilege - act like it.