Let's throw caution to the wind here and over-analyze a game that was called after halftime due to poor floor conditions and another that wasn't against a St. Joseph's team that was never up to the task. With that in mind, I give you my biggest concerns of the season thus far.
Can the Pittsburgh Panthers afford to keep junior power forward Michael Young at the four if senior centers Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Rafael Maia don't warrant playing time? The former figures to be the starter at the center position, which subsequently allows Young to occupy the power forward slot with junior Jamel Artis playing the small forward position. Given that Young and Artis are the team’s two best players, Nelson-Ododa plays an indirectly vital role for the team.
That doesn't mean the team won't lean heavily on his abilities on the defensive side of the court. Especially, given their woes on the defensive end last season. All of that is a moot point is he can't stay on the floor, however. He averaged just 2.4 fouls per game in 23 minutes of play while a member of the Richmond Spiders over the last three seasons. For Pitt, he has committed seven fouls in 13 minutes. While, the game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs was cancelled and they feature one of the best frontcourts in the country, he averaged a foul every other minute until he eventually fouled out. It's very unlikely he continues to foul at this rate, but it is something to monitor.
Maia is recovering from a thumb injury he suffered in September, so there's still time for him to work himself back. Granted, his overall conditioning should have been unaffected by this. My focus is on how the Panthers will utilize a player that is accustom to playing a majority of the game in a more limited role. At Brown, he averaged a little over 28 minutes for his career, and ranked 5th in both total field goal attempts and usage percentage two season ago in the Ivy League. It's extremely unlikely he ranks 5th on the team in either of those metrics, let alone the ACC.
Clearly, Maia isn't on the floor to provide a ton of offense, but he's statistically better on that side of the court. While he was top-10 in defensive rebounding percentage and top-3 in total rebound percentage over his last three seasons at Brown, he was on the floor for a majority of the game and in a conference that wasn't nearly as competitive. Again, it's ridiculously early. I am just saying that his impact in limited minutes may not be as simple as using his prior production as a base to calculate his production over less minutes. Lastly, if he's unable to hedge screens and recover, consistently, he won't be seeing a lot of time on the court, period.
As I mentioned above, perhaps the biggest win in having two centers is allowing Young to play power forward. Offensively, Young is a nature four, and there will be less pressure on him to guard the opposing teams best frontcourt player if Nelson-Ododa and Maia can stay on the floor. It wouldn't surprise me if the team goes with Young, Artis, junior forward Sheldon Jeter, senior guard Sterling Smith, and senior point guard James Robinson down the stretch. Still, it would be nice if that's simply one of many options and not the only one.
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