Assessment of the Pittsburgh Panthers as Big East Conference Play Approaches

Jonathan WeinbergCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2009

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 08: Brad Wanamaker #22 of the Pitt Panthers drives past a defending Jordan Hulls #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 8, 2009 in New York, New York. The Hoosiers defeated the Panthers 74-64.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Fear not Pitt fans.  While what I wrote last week still rings true (Pitt is young, inexperienced, and has no legitimate go-to scorer), there is still hope for this team yet…and the future looks dazzling.

Tuesday night’s game against clearly inferior, Ohio University, gave us a good look at what to expect from the Panthers this season.

Just Like in Years Past, Pitt Will Dominate the Paint:

A few examples from previous years: Chevy Troutman's absurdly high field goal percentage, DeJuan Blair's rebounding prowess, and Aaron Gray's pungent smell (taking the supposed Fabricio Oberto approach of not showering for days at a time)...Let's see you explain Aaron Gray’s dominance?

Tuesday night was no different. At the midway point of the first half, Pitt had 14 points in the paint to OU’s zero. They finished with 36. In the rebounding department, Pitt dominated OU, 47 to 33.

With big men like Gary McGhee and Dwight Miller and physical forwards like Nasir Robinson, expect Pitt to continue their inside dominance....especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Look For Big Years From Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson:

Gibbs is the most complete and well-rounded basketball player on this team.  The only problem Pitt is going to have is deciding how to best utilize his talents.

As the primary ball handler, he sees the floor very well and gets others involved.  Playing shooting guard, he is the team’s most dangerous offensive player. Gibbs is the only Panther who can consistently create his own shot.

Nasir Robinson is the emotional spark plug of the team. When you take Robinson's athletic ability coupled with his size and hunger for the ball, it creates a nightmare for his opponents. He will dive for a loose ball, take a charge, grab a big offensive rebound, and is developing a nice offensive game.

I see a potential first team all-conference in his future since he does not seem to be a candidate for early departure to the NBA.

Freshman Travon Woodall and Dante Taylor will be Vital to Pitt’s success:

Woodall is a red shirt freshman who spent last year under the tutelage of Levance Fields. This year, with Gibbs seeing time at SG, Woodall will be counted on to run the show. On Tuesday, as in other games, he showed signs of promise.

However, his penchant for untimely turnovers (four against OU), is something this team cannot overcome.  With a team that isn't going to score many points against top competition, protecting the ball is a MUST.

Taylor is the highest ranked Pitt recruit in recent memory: No. 16 overall high school player in the country. He is one of only a few competent big men on Pitt's roster with oodles of potential. 

Like Woodall, this frosh has shown glimpses of future brilliance. Other times, however, he appears to be no more than a lost little boy. Taylor is a very prominent rebounder and has fit nicely into Pitt's defensive system. We must hope, and maybe assume, that the offense will come with time. 

The only other worry for these two is conditioning. Playing big minutes all season long can lead to a burnout come tourney time.


In the Big East, expect Pitt to finish in the middle of the pack. Ahead of DePaul, Rutgers, USF, Providence, Seton Hall, and Marquette.

Most of their wins will come at The Pete.  Stats from the previous years don’t lie.  They have won 28 straight at home. All time, they are an astounding 122-10 (.924).

The outstanding fans are a big part of their home success...but please do not confuse Pitt fans with Philly fans .

Don’t let the Panthers’ record after the first four games scare you. Their schedule is brutal. After opening at home with DePaul, they go on the road to Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut. A young team going on the road for three straight games against the top teams in the conference is not a recipe for success.

The Panthers will make the NCAA tournament. With the conference being very competitive, it is likely that eight teams will be dancing. I see Pitt finishing between sixth and eighth in the conference, which will land them around a seven seed.

Pitt will be a far more competitive team next year and two years from now they will compete for a national championship.

Random Thoughts From Tuesday's Game:

Brad Wanamaker looks primed to have a very solid year. He had a double-double with boards and assists.

Gilbert Brown is apparently paying tribute to Sammy Sosa . As it would appear, in an effort to stand out, he bleached his headband.

How did players back in the day survive without arm spandex ?

Until last night, I never knew Pitt had male cheerleaders.

Why am I slightly annoyed by that last thought?

Do bench players actually enjoy hearing a standing ovation after hitting a jumper up 28 points with 15 seconds to play?

Oh yeah! Now I remember …trust me, its not.