Pittsburgh Basketball Predictions
Overall: 28-6 (17-1 H, 7-2 A, 4-3 N)
Big East: 15-3 – Regular season champions (8-1 H, 7-2 A)
Conference Tournament: Lost to Connecticut in 1st round
Postseason: Lost to Butler in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament
It was a very successful regular season for Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon and his Panthers. They played a grueling conference schedule and came out on top with a 15-3 record in the Big East.
They defeated Connecticut handily (78-63) in their regular season meeting, but the Huskies got hot at the right time and pushed past the Panthers 76-74 in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
The Panthers were ousted in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, losing by just one point (71-70) to Butler, who would ironically go on to play (and lose) to Connecticut in the NCAA Championship’s final game.
Returning Letter Winners
Other Returning Players
The Panthers lose three starters from last years team: Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, and Gary McGhee. Replacing Wanamaker at point guard will be the most difficult task for Pitt as he led the team in assists and was the second leading scorer on the team.
That’s not to say that Brown and McGhee won’t be missed. Brown averaged 11.3 points per game (third best on the team) and McGhee was the Panther’s best defender in the paint, leading the team in both blocks and rebounds.
|10/22/2011||Blue Gold Scrimmage|
|10/29/2011||vs. La Roche College (Exh.)|
|11/7/2011||vs. Kentucky Wesleyan (Exh.)|
|11/16/2011||vs. Long Beach State|
|11/22/2011||vs. La Salle|
|11/27/2011||vs. Robert Morris|
|12/10/2011||vs. Oklahoma State|
|12/17/2011||vs. South Carolina State|
|12/20/2011||vs. Saint Francis (PA)|
|12/27/2011||@ Notre Dame|
|1/30/2012||@ West Virginia|
|2/12/2012||@ Seton Hall|
|2/16/2012||vs. West Virginia|
|2/29/2012||vs. St. John’s|
|3/6/2012 – 3/10/2012||Big East Championship|
Only two starters return from last year’s squad, but Pitt has a basketball program that can easily reload at just about every position on the court. Jamie Dixon has instilled a tradition of winning that is likely to continue given his history and the expected talent on the court.
The Panthers will be less experienced this year, but a strong recruiting class should have them excited for the future. A lot of their success will depend on how well junior point guard Travon Woodall steps in to run the offense in the absence of Wanamaker.
Pitt’s leading scorer, Ashton Gibbs (16.8 points per game) opted out of the NBA draft, which is good news for the Panthers and probably the right decision for Gibbs with the NBA labor situation still uncertain. Gibbs has incredible range, shooting or 49 percent from three-point range last season. He will be the Panther’s go-to player on offense and should again lead the team in scoring.
Point guard Brandon Wanamaker is gone, but Pittsburgh is high on junior Travon Woodall to replace him. Woodall has the potential to be a better offensive catalyst than his predecessor, but much of the Panther’s success defensively will rely on Woodall’s ability to shut down opposing point guards.
Redshirt freshman Cameron Wright is also expected to see extended playing time at guard. Wright is a good defender, is strong in the open court and can go on hot streaks offensively.
Durand Johnson and John Johnson will provide depth at guard (provided they don’t redshirt). John Johnson is raw, but is seen as a potential point guard of the future, while Durand Johnson should see playing time this season thanks to his defensive prowess.
Pittsburgh has some question marks in the frontcourt with Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee gone, but solid returners combined with highly-touted recruits will give the Panthers something to look forward to this season.
Nasir Robinson is the only player in the front court who returns with any significant experience. He averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year, but will see his role expanded significantly in the 2011-12 season.
Dixon scored two important front court recruits with centers Khem Birch and Malcolm Gilbert. Birch was a McDonald’s All-American and ESPN had him ranked as the top center in the nation coming out of high school. Gilbert was also heavily recruited and will see time because of his rebounding and ability to block shots.
Dante Taylor, J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna stepped in occasionally last season and may do the same this year if none show any significant improvement.
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