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Pitt Panthers Rebounding Woes

In two ACC games, the Pitt Panthers (14-1, 2-0) have yet to outrebound either of their two opponents. It's very early in the conference schedule, but is this something Pitt fans need to be concerned with going forward?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Towards the end of the non-conference schedule, I started getting questions from people who comment about whether or not I thought the Pittsburgh Panthers had an issue rebounding. I generally don't put a lot of stock in the non-conference portion of the schedule, as evidenced by my analysis about how much it actually matters, which you can check out here. With that said, Pitt hasn't been very good at rebounding the ball thus far to start ACC play.

During the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Panthers outrebounded their opponents by an average of 10.4 rebounds per game. However, against their four BCS opponents[1], that average dropped to .5. They were outrebounded in two (Texas Tech and Cincinnati) of those four games, and were also outrebounded by Loyola Marymount during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Pitt is currently pulling down 37.8 rebounds per game, good for 88th[2] in the country, and middle of the road in the ACC. However, the Panthers only allow 29.2 rebounds per game for their opponents, which is good for 6th in the country, and the best in the ACC. This is where the non-conference portion of the schedule really helps the numbers. If you just look at just the two ACC games, Pitt is averaging 32.5 rebounds per game. N.C. State and Maryland averaged 35.5 rebounds per game against the Panthers.

While Pitt occasionally fails to get a body on guys, particularly against the Bearcats, they aren't caught out of position on a recurring basis. Senior forward Talib Zanna pulled down nine rebounds in both ACC conference games so far. However, freshman forward Michael Young only managed to snag two rebounds against the Wolfpack and the Terrapins. Young doesn't need to be a 10 rebound per game guy, although that would be great.

It isn't just on Young though, there are a few things that the Panthers might not be able to overcome regardless. One is their size; Zanna is the tallest active player on the team at 6'9". Yes, we just saw sophomore center Joseph Uchebo play last night. But, if Pitt is playing him big minutes at any point this year, something has gone seriously wrong.

Junior forward Derrick Randall is as tall as Zanna, but his lack of leaping ability is showing in conference play. In 16 minutes of play, Randall has just two total rebounds, and he hasn't been able to use his bigger frame to get into the body of opposing bigs to limit their ability to sky over him. The team constantly plays volleyball when trying to secure rebounds, and thus far, they aren't winning as many of those battles as the Panthers would like.

Pitt is also playing more zone than they ever have under head coach Jamie Dixon. Rebounding out of the zone is difficult, especially for players who haven't been asked to play in a zone during their basketball careers. The Panthers will probably get better at it as the season goes on, however, it could cost them a close game before they get there.

Securing extra possessions while simultaneously limiting an opponent's second-chance opportunities is a tried-and-true formula. Pitt has done a good job of that thus far when it comes to limiting their turnovers - averaging just nine per game in ACC play. They have also averaged 10.5 steals per game against their first two ACC opponents, however, that is probably unsustainable - only seven teams in the country average more than 10 per game.

The rebounding margin is going to matter at some point. In fact, Wake Forest (11-3, 1-0) is the best rebounding team in the ACC[3], and the 11th best team in the country. It's hard to complain when the Panthers have won their first two games to start conference play by an average of 16 points. Still, given what I've seen thus far in terms of rebounding, it's probably not something that can be "fixed" very easily, and that should make Pitt fans a little nervous.

- Stats courtesy of Stat-Sheet.

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[1] In order, and rebounding margin: Texas Tech (-2), Stanford (2), Penn State (9), Cincinnati (-8).

[2] Tied with Maryland-Baltimore County, Virginia, Fordham, and Vanderbilt.

[3] Although, they just got crushed on the boards by UNC in their 73 - 67 win over the Tar Heels on Sunday; they were outrebounded 53 - 34 and somehow won, so what do I know.