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Pitt Basketball: Panthers' Bench Needs To Step Up

Travon Woodall and Pitt's bench need to contribute a few more points on a consistent basis (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Travon Woodall and Pitt's bench need to contribute a few more points on a consistent basis (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Pitt's depth is frequently mentioned as a reason the team is a favorite to get to the Final Four this season. While it's true there are quality reserves, the bench hasn't been a consistent source of offense recently.

That was again on display in Wednesday's win over South Florida. Pitt's bench scored only six points on 2-15 shooting. With the injury to Talib Zanna, Pitt's most important bench players are Dante Taylor, Travon Woodall, and Lamar Patterson and in the USF game, they were 1-9. Granted, the bench did contribute in other ways - they had ten rebounds, five assists, and didn't turn the ball over once.

But it's the offense that has me a little concerned. I've gone over Pitt's offensive woes recently ad nauseum on the site, but it's not only the starters - the bench is having issues as well.

It was the same story last Sunday against Louisville when they totaled only seven points to go along with three Woodall turnovers.

And while Pitt got 19 from it's bench last week against West Virginia, the previous game saw little production other than Ashton Gibbs' 26 points. Gibbs is, of course, generally a starter, so those bench numbers aren't really accurate. But that's not all.

There was three points (0-6 shooting) with one rebound against Villanova.

There was six points (1-9 shooting) against Rutgers.

There was eight points against Notre Dame.

And that's just over the past ten games.

So how much can the bench be expected to score? Well, to put it into perspective, the bench players collectively average about 25 points per game. Obviously, that number is a little misleading for a few reasons. For starters, those numbers are a little skewed from non-conference games when bench players got more minutes. Also, there are going to be games when a bench player gets more minutes due to foul trouble or injuries.

That said, putting up single digits in bench scoring generally is not very good.

Another interesting fact is that Pitt's opponents' benches haven't been nearly as bad. They've outscored Pitt's bench practically 2:1, averaging more than 21 points in that span to Pitt's 12. The problem is consistency - there are times when Taylor,  Zanna, Woodall, or Patterson will play well, but that doesn't always happen from game to game.

Now, obviously, part of that is going to be due to the flow of the game. Pitt might be deadlocked in a tight game and not play its reserves all that much. But if they're getting minutes, they've got to contribute more consistently. There's going to come a time when they'll be needed to provide an offensive spark - after all, the offense hasn't exactly been running on all cylinders. It's times like those the bench is going to need to step up.

But like I mentioned, the bench has contributed in other ways such as rebounding and assists. And there have been games when a reserve will step up and have a particularly good game (i.e. Patterson at West Virginia). But when it comes to scoring points, there's plenty of room for improvement.