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Pitt Basketball: Khem Birch Expectations Falling?

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Far be it from me to overspeculate (let alone on a kid I've not seen in public), but buried in a Post-Gazette Plus article about incoming freshman Durand Johnson was another implication that Khem Birch may not have the impact originally thought this season.

Ray Fittipaldo of the PG doesn't seem all that convinced that Birch will be a star for Pitt right away, echoing some thoughts I had a while back.

 

Now, I'm of the mindset that Birch will be a big defensive contributor. The blocked shots stat is one of the most useless in all of sports, but Birch gets so many that I expect him to alter a large amount as well. But offensively, just not sure I'm sold yet on him being an immediate force.

Fittipaldo had some interesting words in his article:

Birch struggled in the first few games and looked out of shape. He played much better last night, easing fears that he won't be much of a contributor this season. I'm still not sure how much he will contribute, but I think he has enough natural talent as a defender and rebounder to play some backup minutes.

That's, obviously, far from an indictment. But 'out of shape'...'play some backup minutes.' Those are hardly the words Pitt fans want to hear, I'm sure. I think many Pitt fans get the idea that Birch will start right away. While he could be starting mid-season, I'm believing more and more that he'll be coming off the bench to start with. I mentioned it back in March and I've had that sentiment for a while.

But Birch will obviously get on the court and should at the very least be a solid contributor in his freshman season. How much is anybody's guess and I'm sure Jamie Dixon doesn't even know yet. With Dante Taylor, Nasir Robinson, and Malcolm Gilbert, and Talib Zanna, the frontcourt has its share of players that should see time this year and Birch's minutes will depend on how quickly he can adjust to life in the Big East.

Those early non-conference games just got a lot more interesting.