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Pitt Basketball Roster finally set, and it's pretty good

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Jamie Dixon has assembled an unlikely roster, but it looks pretty good if you ask me.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Amid all the excitement with the football season about getting under way, Jamie Dixon made some noise of his own by bringing in a last minute addition to his roster with Junior College transfer Jonathan Milligan. While this is an under the radar move nationally, it bolsters the Pitt roster heading into the 2015-16 season.  Pitt is coming a season in which they missed the NCAA tournament, but have transformed the roster over the past few months in an attempt to get themselves back into the big dance.

With all of these moves, Pitt still does not enter the season with high expectations from national pundits. Jamie Dixon has played that game in the past, and found no trouble exceeding mild expectations. I think this year can certainly be one of those years for Dixon. Pitt has talent, and depth at every position (not to mention three solid starters, plus a pair of guys that split starts last season). With a bench and supporting cast to complement those starters, you have to think the Panthers fortunes will change this upcoming season.

The point guard position is diverse, and talented. James Robinson will be one of the very few four-year starting players in a power five conference. You can probably pencil him in now as among the ACC's leaders in assist to turnover ratio, a place he always seems to find himself.  Sometimes Pitt fans get so worked up about what he cannot do they forget to appreciate what he can do. Robinson is a steadying presence on a roster with a great deal of turnover, and could be one of those guys saving his best year for last, not uncommon for this program.

Backing up Robinson will be incoming four-star freshman, Damon Wilson. Assuming his eligibility is in good shape, the talented newcomer will certainly see an opportunity for playing time at both guard sports this season. You also have the newest member of the team figuring to make an impact. Milligan is a quick guard with a shooting touch that should add a change of pace from Robinson. In a sense, he will fill transfer Josh Newkirk's role, and potentially could be the better player of the two altogether.

Point guard seems to be a sign of strength, while shooting guard comes in with a few more question marks.  Chris Jones, though, is going to be returning after a bit of a breakout year. The junior to be started much of the season and was streaky at times, but proved to be a good scoring option for the most part. To help shore up the position, Dixon brought on Sterling Smith as a transfer from Coppin State. Both players provide outside shooting threats and experience at the position.  Cameron Johnson looked to be one of the team's better players last summer, but an injury cut his season short.  He has grown an inch and reportedly added 30 pounds. That gives Pitt six guards that can likely mix and match and that gives Dixon much more versatility than last season.

I think it's safe to assume Jamel Artis will start the season on the wing, but they can go back to their three-forward lineup of last season if the situation calls for it.  He is one of the ACC's better players after averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds in 2015. Artis does not have the ideal quickness as most small forwards, but his style and ability fits well into Pitt's offensive scheme.  His defense will ultimately be his most tested asset playing small forward. Part time starter, Sheldon Jeter, is also back and will likely log big minutes whether as a starter of off the bench. Jeter came up big down the stretch, and Pitt posted some of their biggest wins when he played well.

Mike Young should return to his more natural position of power forward, and like Artis, is one of the better players in the conference. Young had a very strong season, and played good basketball despite being undersized in most of his individual matchups. Young can stretch the defense, and playing more away from underneath the basket will only benefit him.  Ryan Luther returns after a tale of two seasons for him. Luther has skills, but was rushed into playing time initially. With another year in the program, his play should improve.

The center position sees the most dramatic makeover personnel wise, and may also see the biggest upgrade in the production department as well.  Pitt got very little from Randall and Uchebo last season, and Tyrone Haughton could not even contribute at all.  Rozelle Nix is a Junior College transfer that adds an immediate defensive presence with his gigantic 7'0" frame.  Rafael Maia was a high level player in the Ivy League, and should factor in as big player as a power forward or center.  Alonzo Nelson-Ododa also has had solid seasons at a lower level for the Richmond Spiders, and adds athleticism to the front court.

Jamie Dixon's roster last year gutted out 19 wins and a near berth in the NCAA Tournament, even after it was apparent the team did not have the overwhelming talent to do so.  The Panthers had some magical upsets at home, and the home court advantage of the Petersen Events Center returned after a few dropoff seasons.

I am not calling this a great Pitt team by any stretch. They do not deserve a ranking in any preseason top 25, but what you have is a roster that showed promise at times last season without depth and versatility. Now they are getting those needed reinforcements.  Not only are the newcomers talented, they have experience. Pitt all the sudden is not some young team trying to find their way anymore, they are a veteran team with some stars and depth. The ACC appears loaded for the 2015-16 campaign, but Pitt did what was necessary to throw their name into the hat and give themselves a chance to compete. Jamie Dixon may not have hype on his side, but he has something to work with, and that's usually good enough for him.