Jamie Dixon is a very good basketball coach, and now he has to prove that. Sure, he has a spectacular record—the most wins of any coach ever in his first seven years. He has never made it as far as the Final Four, though, and his teams have underachieved in the NCAA Tournament more than once.
This year Dixon should have no excuses. Several of the Big East powers aren’t likely to be at their best, and Pitt has a deep, experienced and talented squad. The Big East title is definitely in reach, and a No. 1 seed should be there for the taking as well. In fact, I would suggest that failing to achieve at least one of those two things would make this season a disappointment.
Pitt Panthers Offseason Changes
Simply put, there weren’t many. Four of the five starters return, and the returning players represent 91 percent of the rebounds and 86 percent of the scoring last year. The only starter who is gone is Jermaine Dixon.
On top of that there is a very strong group of young players joining. There are three new freshmen, though Dixon is not afraid of redshirting players, so not all may see time this year. On top of that, Talib Zanna is a young Nigerian with star quality coming off a redshirt, and Lamar Patterson got a medical hardship, so he is starting his first of four years of eligibility despite having played in 10 games already.
Add in that youth to a powerful returning lineup and you have a team ready to make some noise.
Pitt Panthers College Basketball Betting Outlook
When you return four starters, that’s a very good thing...as long as they are the kind of starters that you would like to have back. That’s the case here.
Ashton Gibbs came from nowhere to become one of the biggest stars in the Big East last year. Brad Wanamaker is a natural shooting guard that started at small forward last year and somehow managed to be second in the Big East in assists. Needless to say, he’s versatile and hard to play against.
Gilbert Brown is perhaps the biggest reason to be excited about this team. The 24-year-old didn’t start any games last year but was the third highest scorer on the team. Last year he missed the first 11 games of the season because of academic issues. This year he’ll be there from the start, and his athleticism and scoring touch will make this team very dangerous. Nasir Robinson is one of those guys that just won’t quit. Gary McGhee is a very legitimate big man. Dante Taylor is the McDonald’s All-American who looks to be much improved as a sophomore after a rocky freshman year.
I could go on, but the main point is this: This team is very, very deep. There are very few teams—none really—in the Big East that can make a similar claim this year. It’s a dangerous thing to say, but the conference really is Pitt’s to lose.
What’s interesting about that, though, is the evolution this team has faced. Two seasons ago they were a great team that came as close to a Final Four berth as you can without making it. Last year they were a team everyone wrote off that managed to win 25 games, including one in the tournament. Now they are a front-running team that everyone will be out to beat.
Pitt Panthers Betting Odds
Bodog has Pitt at 20/1 to win the National Championship, higher odds than just six teams. College basketball handicappers have them tied with Villanova at +250 as the favorites to win the Big East.
If Jamie Dixon can be criticized for anything it’s that he doesn’t schedule particularly challenging nonconference games. That has changed this year, with teams like Rhode Island, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas or Illinois on tap. If this team is as good as they could be, then they will be battle-tested by the time the Big East rolls around.
Pitt Panthers College Basketball Picks and Predictions
I think that there is a lot of value in the Panthers. There are six teams with better odds to win it all than the Panthers. I don’t necessarily dispute the number of teams, but I certainly don’t think that Pitt deserves to be seen as having less of a shot than Memphis, or especially North Carolina. I am not yet convinced that this team can win it all. I put them a solid distance behind Duke, for instance, but the price is right. I will not at all be surprised if this is a No. 1 seed team by tournament time, one that plays like a No. 1.
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