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Creativity Is Needed

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NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Notre Dame vs Pittsburgh Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Now that former head coach Kevin Stallings has been shown the door, fans of the Pittsburgh Panthers have taken to all forms of social media to express their opinions about who the best candidate is to right the ship. While I don’t want to detract from the coaching search frenzy, which may have already peaked due to Rhode Island Rams head coach Danny Hurley being in town, no matter who ultimately accepts the job, there is plenty of work to do.

If there was one thing that I felt Stallings was right about, it was how limited Pitt currently is offensively. They simply don’t have any one player who can consistently create offense for themselves, let alone others. Each player has one, maybe two discernible offensive skills, and there is very little overlap. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, but if you only have one player who can drive (Marcus Carr), one player who can shoot (Parker Stewart), and one utility player (Jared Wilson-Frame, by default) opponents can easily take those things away game-after-game.

Those players do provide a framework that someone can work with. What the Panthers currently lack are the pieces that often compliment that framework. Can someone add cutting to the basket to the top of their resume? I am looking at you Kham Davis. Can someone dedicate themselves to rebounding on both ends (not named Ryan Luther)? Terrell Brown, please stand up.

Below, you’ll find a video of a Pitt offensive possession against the Virginia Cavaliers. This type of stagnant offense was systemic to how the Panthers played for long stretches throughout ACC play. A few notes:

  • Yes, I understand this is just ONE possession. #SampleSize
  • Yes, I know this was against Virginia.
  • Yes, I did say I was impressed with their off-ball movement early in the game during my recap.
  • No, I clearly am not a professional videographer or camera man. They would have done a much better job.
  • No, I didn’t video multiple possessions and just pick this one. If you’ve watched this team play, this happens during a lot of their possessions.

With that out of the way, let’s watch the clip:

The initial passes that resulted in a player finding someone on the weak side - Davis popped out and Stewart just happened to be there - and then change sides of the court, didn’t create any mismatches but it did get the defense to move a little bit. Ideally, they would have found a way to move the backline of the defense a little bit, or at the very least done something so Mamadi Diakite didn’t get to just stare at the ball handler the entire possession. He didn’t even bother to follow Brown outside of the paint; at one point he was at least 10 feet away from him.

The play design here isn’t bad, as Shamiel Stevenson does attract two defenders when he attempts to drive off all the ball movement, leaving Stewart unguarded. The issue is that Stevenson likes to drive to his left AND finish on the left side of the rim (with either hand to his credit). This would have played into the hands of Diakite who later blocked Stevenson despite the freshman using a pretty nice Eurostep on a drive to his left and trying to finish on the left side of the basket.

Obviously, this would have been a “good” play had Stewart made the jumper. Again, the problem is that making the jumper was Plan A and Plan B. Only 8.5% of Stewart’s attempts came at the rim during the season. Clearly, he wasn’t a threat to drive and he doesn’t attack closeouts in that manner. Instead, he waits for the hard recovery and still only gets off a contested, fadeaway jumper.

The fact that the teams best shooter was also involved in this quick two-man game doesn’t help matters. The teams best player with the ball in their hands arguably did the least on this possession, and their only “big” on the floor wasn’t even a good decoy.

Regardless of who ultimately becomes the next head coach for Pitt, they’ll need to get a lot more creative on the offensive end if this team is going to be successful. Of course an influx of new recruits and/or a complete overhaul of the offensive system (if you want to call it that) could change things drastically. Fingers crossed.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author @Stephen_Gertz