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Integrating Ryan Murphy

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Ryan Murphy has been the driving force in the Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1, 1-0) two games this season. The New Mexico Junior College transfer, by way of UNC-Charlotte, has averaged 20.5 points per game while connecting on 7-13 (53.8%) three-pointers to start the year. Given the numbers and his pivotal role in their opening game victory over the Florida State Seminoles, and being nearly the sole reason they lost by just 5 against the Nicholls State Colonels, one might suggest that he’s already pretty integrated into the teams offense.

While that’s true to a degree, Pitt fans will be pleased to learn that the Panthers will be able to get a lot more out of Murphy in the future.

Not to necessarily toot my own horn here, but it’s very clear that Pitt needs to do this more often to score points.

The first clip here shows how limited the Panthers are sometimes, offensively. Au’Diese Toney still isn’t a slasher because he just isn’t the same guy leaping off one foot, and subsequently can’t finish. Xavier Johnson is not a catch-and-shoot player, and Trey McGowens missed his only kick out three-point opportunity of the young season against Nicholls State.

Murphy on the other hand warrants an aggressive, hard close out because of his shooting ability. The bonus here for Pitt is that he’s their second best ball handler and a willing passer with above average vision. The Panthers have exactly TWO baskets that are the result of the ball going from high, middle to low - attacking from all three primary areas of the floor - and Murphy was involved with both.

The third clip just shows how tough a position the defense is in with Johnson as a threat to drive and Murphy in the strong side corner. Just that quick jab dribble influences Murphy’s defender enough to allow an easy pass and uncontested look. Can you imagine doing that while Johnson feints right?

Well, obviously good things happen. Even if the drives get shot down (going right in clip 1), Murphy is so good at moving without the ball it doesn’t really matter (ideally drives don’t just get shut down). The threat of his shooting forces the defense to commit so much earlier, and like most good shooters, Murphy knows how to pump and take a dribble to clear some more space before rising up for a jumper.

I’d bet on head coach Jeff Capel and his staff finding even more ways to involve Murphy, and also use the attention that he draws to their advantage. Currently, forwards Au’Diese Toney, Gerald Drumgoole and Justin Champagnie aren’t going to create their own shot, but with some more spacing they at least would have more room to operate. Murphy’s presence will definitely add that.

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