Good Wins: @Florida State, @Georgetown, Syracuse, @West Virginia, West Virginia, Cincinnati, @UConn
Bad Losses: None.
1. Strength. For over a decade the weight-lifting program of the Pitt Panthers has borne outstanding results. The oncourt benefit has been the castle-strong defense, which served as the backbone of Jamie Dixon’s success. This year is no exception. Defensive FG% (39.8%) and rebounding numbers disclose the practicality of strength. Pitt owns a +10 rebounding margin over opponents. No clearer case can be made for the tangibility of their Herculean strength.
2. Agreeable personalities. There is not a single loose cannon in this locker room. Bubbly jokesters and quietly determined leaders integrate to form a driven, light-hearted atmosphere. The kind of environment everyone wants to work in. This locker-room wide attitude generates success.
1. Frontcourt Depth. This is very nitpicky but foul trouble can expose a hole in Pitt’s frontline. DaJuan Blair and Tyrell Biggs are capable Big East players, but Gary McGhee is plodding and clunky. No other post players are deemed ready by the coaching staff. Star Sam Young can play the four, but thrives on the wing. Most games three post players suffice, but through late January Blair started to collect more first half fouls.
Bench: The versatility of wings Gilbert Brown, Brad Wannamaker, and Nasir Robinson rarely gets noticed outside of western PA, but these guys are improving faster than anyone else. Brown has always defended, but both he and Wannamaker are starting to shoot with confidence. Their size and athleticism enable Pitt to actually get bigger by going to their bench. And the perimeter defensive intensity unquestionably improves with their insertion.
The Departing: Tyrell Biggs and Levance Fields are both seniors, sure to be missed. Sam Young has shown enough to NBA scouts to leave to a future. Because of his height Blair will be forced to come back at least one more year. Fields will be remembered the most fondly of the departing because of his unwillingness to back down. His brave spirit and mental toughness represent qualities Pittsburgh sports fans fall in love with.
Elite 8. It’s difficult to envision Pitt faltering. On top of the traditionally committed defense emblematic of Pitt basketball, this band of Panthers is the most powerful cats in the jungle. One defensive shortcoming exists in the leader, Fields. Because he doesn’t slide quickly, Pitt tries to hide him on defense. An opponent with two scoring guards could expose this. Few teams in the country have two great guards though. North Carolina, Villanova, and Memphis are two potential ousters.