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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

November 4th, 2006

By Joel Welser

jwelser@collegehoops.net

Broadcast Basketball

 

Pittsburgh Panthers

 

Overall Rank: #5

Conference Rank: #1 Big East

 

2005-06: 25-8, 10-6, 4th (t)

2005-06 postseason: NCAA

 

Pittsburgh has been successful lately and the last three years under Coach Jamie Dixon has only improved the Panthers achievements.  However, a trip to the Final Four has been lacking, and this year’s squad hopes to take that next step.

 

Who’s Out: The Panthers will have to reach those high hopes without the services of Carl Krauser, who averaged 15.0 points, 4.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds as a senior.  John DeGroat started 27 games on the wing, but his production of 2.9 points and 1.6 rebounds can be easily replaced.

 

Who’s In: Incoming freshmen Austin Wallace and Gilbert Brown will find it difficult to earn minutes as freshmen, but both are quality players who are expected to contribute sooner or later.  Wallace needs to continue to work on his strength and offensive output, but the power forward is a solid rebounder and has plenty of potential.  Brown has nice range on his shoot and the 6-6 wing can use his strength to get to the basket.  Mike Cook will have the biggest impact of the newcomers this year.  The transfer from East Carolina averaged 15.0 points per game as a sophomore for the Pirates in 2004-2005.  His experience and shooting stroke could give the 6-4 wing a starting nod, but at the least he’ll provide a quality spark off the bench.

 

Who to Watch: Aaron Gray exploded onto the national scene last year averaging 13.9 points, 10.5 points and 1.5 blocks on the season.  Opposing defenses will once again key in on the 7-0 center, but that won’t stop Gray.  Sam Young and Levon Kendall will battle for minutes at the power forward spot.  Young, who came off the bench most of last year averaged 7.9 points and 4.4 boards.  Young has proven to be more productive than Kendall, but Kendall has the experience to be an effective starter again this season.  Young will get plenty of minutes, especially while Kendall has to back up Gray at the center spot.  Tyrell Biggs will add depth up front after averaging just 8.2 minutes per game a season ago.

 

Final Projection: Levance Fields, Ronald Ramon, Antonio Graves and Keith Benjamin all have starting experience and will be mixed around in the backcourt.  Fields came on strong at the end of last season and showed his potential to be a future star at the point guard spot.  Ramon is a long range threat and had a somewhat breakout season as a sophomore.  Without Krauser on the floor taking his three balls, Ramon is ready for a bigger breakout campaign in 2006-2007.  Graves and Benjamin are expected to provide experience off the bench, although Benjamin has the toughness to see starting time if his long range shooting can become more consistent.  This is a tough, deep and experienced squad.  Even the contributors that aren’t upperclassmen have starting experience.  Anything but a top two seed come March will be disappointing, but even without a top two seed, the Panthers will be dangerous in the tournament.

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA

 

Projected Starting Five:

Levance Fields, Sophomore, Guard, 6.8 points per game

Ronald Ramon, Junior, Guard, 8.0 points per game

Mike Cook, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Levon Kendall, Senior, Forward, 7.0 points per game

Aaron Gray, Senior, Center, 13.9 points per game

 

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