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Pitt Basketball: The J.J. Moore Lovefest

J.J. Moore figures to be an integral piece of Pitt's future. He's athletic and as he proved in some early games this season, he can score. Still, I don't know that I'm quite ready to pronounce him as a go-to guy for Pitt.

Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette is a bigger fan than I am, though.

I mentioned here that in his Pitt chat last week, he pronounced Moore ready to take on a big scoring load next season. Particularly, he thought that Moore will be the team's second-leading scorer behind Ashton Gibbs next season.

Does Moore have the talent to do that? Maybe. But Nasir Robinson and Travon Woodall both figure to start next season and both are not only capable scorers, but they have considerably more playing experience that Moore.

I'm also not even sure that Moore starts. While the move makes sense (assuming Moore progresses between now and then), he'll need to beat out Lamar Patterson, who played many more minutes than Moore did this year. And while I don't see it happening, Dixon could always opt to move Nasir Robinson down to small forward if he wants to play freshman Khem Birch alongside Dante Taylor. Again, I don't see it happening, but you never know.

Fiitipaldo, who I respect a great deal, was back at it again. In a look ahead to next season's roster, he mentioned how Moore would fit in. He started by saying something I totally disagreed with:

After watching the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games this weekend one thing became abundantly clear. Teams such as Kentucky, VCU, North Carolina and Connecticut were a lot more athletic than Pitt. In some ways, I came away more impreseed with the job Jamie Dixon did this season. He won a Big East regular-season championship by outworking the competition with rebounding, defense and an efficient offense that lacked one player who could consistently get his own shot.

So I'll start my look ahead to 2011-12 at small forward because Jonathan Moore is Dixon's top returning athlete. Moore would not have looked out of place in the game between Kentucky and North Carolina.

Really? Are we talking about the same Moore who looked out of place at times this season? That's part of the reason he didn't play much down the stretch. Now, does Moore have the athleticism to play with some of those Tarheels or Wildcats players? Maybe. But his game isn't anywhere complete enough to be able to step into a game between those two teams and be a solid contributor. The logic is completely flawed - if Pitt isn't as athletic as those teams and Moore couldn't play with the Panthers this year, how could he do it with the Wildcats or Tarheels?

Fittipaldo then goes on to say:

Position grade: B. I love Moore's potential, but he'll need some time to come into his own. If things go well, this position could one of the team's biggest strengths in March.

Man, I want to believe this, but that position could be one of the weakest, not the strongest. Pitt is clearly set at shooting guard with Ashton Gibbs. If Birch stays at power forward, he and Nas would have a pretty good rotation there. Dante Taylor still has a lot to prove, but I expect him to improve next season with more minutes and the same can be said for Travon Woodall.

That's no slam towards Moore, who I think will be a bonafide star by the time he leaves Pitt. But for him to go from a little-used bench player to one of the team's best players in one season just might be too big of a reach.