I’m a believer in Ken Pomeroy’s work. Statistical analysis is not nearly as reliable in basketball as it is in baseball but it is still somewhat effective. You learn a lot more about a basketball team when you are able to take tempo out of the equation and that’s what Pomeroy’s system does.
Pomeroy’s formula currently has Pitt as the 44th ranked team in America which would mean at this point the Panthers have played like a team heading to their ninth NCAA tournament.
Not so fast…
It’s way too early in the season for the Pomeroy rankings to be accurate. At this stage in the season the rankings disproportionately favor teams that played loaded out of conference schedules. According to Pomeroy, Old Dominion is the 13th best team in America and Wright State is 47th.
Even though Pomeroy’s rankings are skewed at this point in the season, there is still some value to his work, notably his scouting reports.
Pitt may be a better team than the cynics think. Part of the reason many seem to think the Panther’s have fallen so far is because they are playing an uglier style of basketball.
Last season Pitt’s tempo ranking was 186th (344 teams play D1 hoops) in America and they were the second most efficient offence.
This year they are ranked 323rd in tempo and 115th in offensive efficiency. However, their defensive efficiency ranking is 23rd this season, up from 35th last year. This team is undoubtedly less talented and cohesive then last year's team but maybe our eyes deceive us a bit when we watch this team because Jamie Dixon feels his best chance to get a W is to play an uglier style then we’ve been treated to the past two seasons.
Here some other notes of interest from Pomeroy’s scouting report…
This team can still rebound.
Even with the loss of DeJuan Blair, the greatest college rebounder of the decade (that’s fact, not hyperbole) Pitt ranks 18th in defensive rebounding efficiency.
Brad Wanamaker is a sneaky good rebounding guard who will create match-up problems at both the two and the three. I like him better at the three where he can hold his own rebounding against a bigger player on the defensive end then use his speed and his jumper to draw that bigger defender to the perimeter on offense.
They’re not committing stupid fouls.
Pitt ranks 32nd nationally in allowing the opposition trips to the free throw line; this shows that they are able to play smart defensively without compromising their aggression.
Ashton Gibbs ranks second in America in fouls committed per 40 minutes which is important because Pitt will need Gibbs to stay out of foul trouble as he is maybe the team’s most capable offensive player.
They are not a selfish offensive team.
In fact they might be too unselfish.
About 70 percent of Pitt’s field goals come off of an assist, the third highest ratio in America. While part of this is good passing, part of this is also because Pitt lacks a Sam Young like penetrator or a DeJuan Blair like put-back artist. In fact this team doesn’t even have a poor man’s version of those guys.
Pitt’s turnover problems have been well documented (204th nationally in taking care of the basketball). Part of the problem is that this team has to move the basketball if they have any hope of scoring and over reliance on ball movement exposes you to turnover issues.
This team can not score in the paint.
Pitt ranks 120th in two-point FG percentage and 235th in getting shots blocked. Nasir Robinson and Dante Taylor have both been disasters whenever they touch the ball down low. This problem is probably only going to get worse as they start to play bigger, more athletic big men in Big East play. We can say with certainty that this is going to be the most perimeter oriented Pitt offense under Jamie Dixon.
The Panthers are more like Geckos.
This team is small and green. Pitt ranks 273rd in average height and 306th in average experience. Pitt has always compensated for a lack of height with strength and toughness and we all knew Pitt would be inexperienced this season but those rankings are still jarring.
Because of the lack of experience there is going to be a lot of “wait and see” with this team, who knows how the young guys will progress as the season goes along. On one hand, you would expect any team coached by Jamie Dixon with a home court advantage like the Pete to be competitive. On the other hand, this team has some glaring weaknesses.
For all things Pitt athletics check out The First Church of Fitzgerald