#4 Pittsburgh: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #1 Big East Conference
2009-10: 25-9, 13-5
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jamie Dixon (188-54 at Pittsburgh, 188-54 overall)
Pittsburgh keeps winning games, but faltering in the NCAA Tournament. It has been the story for the Panthers for too long. However, this year could be different. There is little doubt that the Panthers are one of the favorites in the Big East after returning just about every impact player except for Jermaine Dixon, but how prepared they will be in March is always a question.
Key Losses: G Chase Adams, G Jermaine Dixon
What may be a difference maker come March is the depth on the perimeter. Isaiah Epps is a tough, pass first point guard who should be forced into action as a freshman. He is a good fit in the system and should be more than capable of filling in ten minutes per game. Shooting guard Cameron Wright will be in the same situation at the two guard spot. J.J. Moore will add a little more size and depth on the wing and could be a surprise player this year if he continues to improve as much as he has lately. The frontcourt adds walk-on Aron Nwankwo and redshirt freshman Talib Zanna, who still needs some work before he is ready to contribute.
Travon Woodall started 11 games as a freshman and did a superb job running the point. Without Dixon, this is Woodall’s team. After dishing out 3.2 assists per game and only tallying 1.7 turnovers, Woodall should be a steady point guard who can find the scorers on the floor. Woodall is not much of a scorer, but he will be asked to do a little more of that this time around. Woodall has plenty of experienced help in the backcourt with the return of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. Gibbs had a breakout season as a sophomore and led Pitt with 15.7 points per game. He is a prolific outside shooter, but will also use his quickness to attack the basket and finish above the rim. Wanamaker is one of the most intriguing players in the Big East. He is not a great shooter, but the 6-4 senior can hit the long ball on occasion. Most of his 12.3 points per game of last year came around the basket. However, it is not his scoring that makes Wanamaker so valuable. On top of his scoring, Wanamaker led the team with 4.7 assists per contest and ranked second with 5.7 rebounds. Lamar Patterson was a capable wing off the bench during his freshman campaign until he injured his ankle. Now healthy, he will have to team up with the other freshmen to provide a majority of the depth on the perimeter.
The frontcourt returns starters Nasir Robinson and Gary McGhee. Robinson, a 6-5 junior, will rarely put up big numbers, but he is a strong rebounder and a capable scorer who can hit the mid-range jumper. McGhee is the true big man at 6-10 and 250 pounds. The senior has developed into a decent interior scorer and a very good rebounder and shot blocker. Dante Taylor failed to live up to expectations as a freshman, but he is full of potential and should be a fine player off the bench or even as a starter over Robinson. J.J. Richardson is the only other experienced big man on the roster, but he too can build off of his freshman season where he rarely saw the floor.
Who to Watch:
Gilbert Brown is one of the best sixth men in the nation. The 6-6 senior is a superb small forward who has the size to fill in at the four spot when necessary. However, with his ability to hit the long ball and his relative ineffectiveness on the glass, he fits better at the three spot. No matter where he plays, what Brown provides is a superb scorer off the bench who was third on the team in scoring last year with 10.7 points per game.
Yet again this is a Pitt team that does not lack in talent. All the pieces are there for this to be a Final Four team. The only thing stopping them is themselves. After performing well through a tough Big East Conference, it seems like the Panthers would be ready for anything in the NCAA Tournament, but that has not been the case and Pittsburgh needs to put that stigma behind them and finally make a deep run in March.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Travon Woodall, Sophomore, Guard, 5.0 ppg
Ashton Gibbs, Junior, Guard, 15.7 ppg
Brad Wanamaker, Senior, Guard, 12.3 ppg
Nasir Robinson, Junior, Forward, 6.6 ppg
Gary McGhee, Senior, Center, 6.9 ppg
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