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Pittsburgh Midseason Report

by Andrew Force | February 5th, 2010

Offensive Identity: Most of the early important possessions are scripted, with the director being associate head coach Tom Herrion. The former College of Charleston head coach holds up a dry erase board with the play name on it.

The plays themselves typically involved scoring ace Ashton Gibbs, who has led the Panthers in scoring all season long.

Gibbs plays gobs of minutes and probably does not know where the bench is. A dozen times this season he played 35 or more minutes in a game. From buried bench player to bona fide scorer in just one year, Gibbs now takes the big shots for Pitt.

Where the post players of Pittsburgh struggle is the offensive end. They are all getting their first meaningful Big East action this season. Junior Gary McGhee has gradually improved over the course of his career, which was spent predominantly as an apprentice. Though he picked up 10 points against St. John’s, McGhee poses no real scoring threat.

Slashers Gilbert Brown and Brad Wannamaker thrive in transition. The power guards hammer home fast-break jams periodically. The BW3 remains a work in progress. Neither Brown nor Wannamaker appears completely confident in the outside shot despite each playing in his third season within the program. Wannamaker has the right form, but he tends to hesitate a touch when the shot presents itself.

For the Panthers be successful, they truly need to attack the offensive glass. The team’s greatest success has come in games where it yanks down double-digit rebounds on the offensive end.

In Wannamaker and Brown, Pitt has two aggressively pursuing wings. They can get denied on defense occasionally, but no one can keep the high fliers out of the paint.

Defensive Identity: Interior D struggles. Samardo Samuels had his way with the Pitt post players; two baby hooks converted in the last two minutes of a nip and tuck game in the Pete.

Lately, head coach Jamie Dixon plays McGhee alone in the post with Brown serving as the four. Brown has a strong body capable of defending the post along with rebounding well. Either way, Pitt will be undersized at the four. Oddly, after Nasir Robinson exploded for a career-high 26 against Louisville, his minutes have dwindled.

Pittsburgh consistently produces some of the most imposing bodies in the Big East. The dudes put the “big” in Big East as their strength & conditioning coach Tim Beltz puts the men through hell. Their weight room has gained regional renown for how it caters to men taller than six feet.

With this power working for good, not evil, Pitt’s posts consistently uproot opponents from the blocks.

“I think their defense is the same, but last year with Sam [Young] and DeJuan [Blair] they trapped ball screens so hard they blasted them,” explained St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts. “They could really get you out of rhythm. These guys don’t move their feet quite as fast as they did.”

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