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Pitt Basketball: Closing Thoughts On 2014

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How closely did my initial expectations align with how the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-3) have performed through the first two months of the season?

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I wasn't able to watch as much Pittsburgh Panthers basketball as I wanted to in 2014. I've only managed to find the time to watch about five or six games in their entirety. However, I did manage to see three in-person.

In some ways, I think that's a good thing: I am a firm believer that strictly watching one team can often lead to underrating and overrating players on said team. That isn't always the case, it's merely the product of a small sample size in many ways, at least in terms of knowing what else is going on throughout the country.

With that said, I didn't feel comfortable doing a complete report card when I've seen less than half the games. Instead, I took a look back at some of my articles before the season and decided to see if some of my predictions were true or not.

I am proud to say that my 'hype' article about sophomore forward Michael Young in terms of what he brings to the table has more or less been true. Despite averaging just six points and four rebounds as a freshman, it was rather apparent that his skill set was vast and it's been on display through the first 13 games of the season.

His range hasn't been on display, but it hasn't been necessary. Young has been a stud on the block where he seals exceptionally well, is patient, and a strong finisher. He's undoubtedly the best player for the Panthers, and they'll go as far as he can take them.

There is probably a diminishing camp that still calls for sophomore point guard Josh Newkirk to start over his junior counterpart, James Robinson. People may deny it now, but that would largely be because of how well Robinson has played during non-conference play. He's continued to assert himself more on the offensive end and take the open shots fans pined for last season.

While he currently doesn't carry a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season, his usage rate is the highest of his three-year career. Despite an increase in turnover percentage (17.3%), he also has a career high in assist percentage at a little under 32%.

Sadly, junior center Joseph Uchebo has played more or less exactly how I thought he would when games started to actually matter.

Now, I certainly wasn't right about everything. I definitely missed the mark on sophomore forward Sheldon Jeter and at the end of July I pegged him as a worthy starter. While Jeter has a very nice skill set for a player of his size, he simply hasn't been able to put it all together mentally and that is hampering his development. He always seems a step slow because he isn't processing everything as quickly as most of the other players.

I am still a firm believer that Jeter will contribute in a meaningful way at some point, but it may take a full year before that happens.

Obviously, I didn't think that sophomore guard/forward Chris Jones would play this well, but I am not sure that many did, including Chris Jones. He did an admirable job filling in for senior guard Cameron Wright in the early part of the schedule, and has kept his starting spot.

Who would have thought that true freshman forward Ryan Luther would be playing meaningful minutes? Luther gives his all on every possession and mostly plays within himself. He never gives up on a play and generally does the handful of things he's asked, that's exactly the kind of player that head coach Jamie Dixon will play.

Overall, the individual Pitt players in which there was a decent sample to pull from have mostly progressed the way I felt they would, outside of Jeter. I don't think 10-3 is a disappointment, but I think this group is still one year away from being really competitive in the ACC.

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