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Pitt's resurgence due to stunning statistical efficiency

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you're discussing the most exciting teams in college basketball this season, there's a good chance Pitt won't come up. And with good reason: Pitt is scoring a pedestrian 71 points per game, good enough for 88th place in Division I. But what Pitt is , and what has in part fueled the Panthers to a 7-1 record of late, is deadly efficient.

Basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy has been high on Pitt all season. Currently he has the Panthers ranked fourth in the nation, ahead of Michigan, Duke, Miami and Ohio State. And that's not too far off where Pomeroy has had Pitt all season, despite Dixon's squad sitting outside the Top 25 for a majority of the season. The reason is simple: according to Pomeroy's calculations, Pitt is the only team besides Florida to be ranked in the top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency.

The calculation is fairly complex, the idea is simple: Pomeroy's stats aim to represent how Pitt would fare against the average Division I defense given 100 possessions and how that team would fare against Pitt with the same number. In both categories, Pitt currently ranks ninth in the country, scoring 117.5 and giving up 86.4.

A big part of the offensive equation is Pitt's patient but extremely effective offense. An offenses that's built around assists. Pitt ranks seventh in assists and an astonishing third in assists to turnover ratio.

So how is Pitt doing it? Well, playing what is essentially two point guards helps. And as Ken Gorman writes, playing for the best shot doesn't hurt either:

Afterward, Dixon discussed the importance of spacing, setting screens and making the right reads to get the ball to an open man. The pass, he said, is what makes the play. And making the extra pass was pivotal to Pitt's shot selection, especially on a night when it shot a higher percentage from 3-point range (4 of 8) than from inside the arc (16 of 36).

“We take what's available. That's what we do,” Dixon said. “That's why our offensive efficiency is so high year after year. It's among the tops in the country this year.

“You can't rely on one thing, one play, one set, one player. It's recognizing that the passing speaks for itself, the numbers, the assists. The 13 assists and seven turnovers, that's what's impressive to me against a team that's pressing the entire time.”

Dixon always preaches that rebounding is everyone's responsibility, and I can't help but imagine that he applies the same thing to assists. How else do you get a beautiful Steven Adams pass to a cutting Talib Zanna for a critical dunk against Cincinnati's zone?

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