"This Week at the Pete" is a weekly column that takes a look at all things Pitt basketball. Your comments are more than welcome, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
This week at the Pete is back by unpopular demand (really, only 20 readers last week? I thought you would want to read about Pitt vs. UMBC). Pitt played twice this week, both times against solid opponents who gave Pitt everything they had. They did not have their fastball either night but still found a way to win both games, making the Panthers 12-0 on the year. Let's get right into it.
The Week That Was Dec. 17 vs. Siena
The Week That Was
Dec. 17 vs. Siena
Despite a furious Siena comeback inside the last five minutes, the result was never really in doubt. Pitt won 79-66.
Led by DeJuan Blair, Pitt outmuscled Siena en route to a 44-28 advantage on the glass. This is an excellent sign for the Panthers come March. Upsets usually occur in the NCAA tournament when an underdog gets hot and out-hustles the opponent. Pitt has shown through its first 12 games that they will make you work for every shot and they will never be out-hustled.
This formula might not be enough to get the Panthers deep into the tournament, but it should at least get them back to the Sweet 16.
The game ball goes to DeJuan Blair, who was a man among boys. DeJuan had 21 points and 16 rebounds—eight of the 16 came on the offensive end. This young man might be the best offensive rebounder I've ever seen.
Tyrell Biggs also had a great night with 14 points on 50 percent shooting, including 2-2 from three-point land. At 6'8" Tyrell might be the team's best three-point shooter, and if used properly he could cause matchup nightmares in the Big East.
Dec. 21 @ Florida State
Dec. 21 @ Florida State
This game was just hideous as neither team shot more than 33 percent from the field. With both halfcourt defenses dominating, Pitt was able to generate points in transition while limiting FSU's fast break opportunities. The result was a 56-48 win for the Panthers.
The defenses. Pitt played their typical suffocating man-to-man, while FSU played an athletic and well coordinated 2-3 zone. The zone gave the Panthers fits on a night where they were not shooting well from the outside. The zone killed Blair and Young, who went a combined 12-27. Most of Pitt's open looks were from beyond the arc and they were unable to capitalize, shooting 6 for 21 (28.6 percent) on the night.
Pitt won this game because they were able to get enough run-outs off of strong play on the defensive end.
The game ball goes to Jermaine Dixon, who hit two big three-pointers in the second half to help erase an eight-point deficit. This game was a homecoming of sorts for Jermaine, who played community college basketball down the road at Tallahassee Community College.
Sam Young stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points but also forced the action on more than one occasion. After taking a few bad shots in the beginning of the game, Jermaine did a great job of staying within the offense and taking what was given to him. Each one of his 11 seemed to come at opportune times. His two three-pointers helped spark a 17-0 Pitt run, while his fast break finish with 23 seconds left iced the game for the Panthers.
Because I need a gimmick...
Because I need a gimmick...
This would always be the time of year in my household when I would receive my grades from Pitt and my winter break would be ruined. With no games this week to preview and Pitt students receiving their grades about now, I decided I would grade the performance of each player on the team.
Sam Young, A
Sam has made a seamless transition from power forward to small forward and should be a first round draft pick come June. There aren't enough superlatives to describe how well Sam is playing.
DeJuan Blair, A
As I mentioned earlier, he might be the best offensive rebounder I've ever seen. He is also a very heady defender—he leads the team in steals at 2.1 per game. While only 6'7", DeJuan has a 7'3" wingspan and a strong 255-pound frame. He is very quick for a big man, his footwork is exceptional, and he has a very soft touch. The sky is the limit for Mr. Blair.
Levance Fields, B+
The general has been a little underwhelming so far this season, hopefully for Pitt fans it because he's still a little rusty after foot surgery. He has a fantastic 4.28 assist to turnover ratio and still has a knack for making the clutch basket. However, his shooting percentage is a little low at 40 percent, 35 percent from beyond the arc.
I believe he's capable of shooting 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. If he can shoot at those clips, then Pitt's offense will be very dangerous.
Jermaine Dixon, B
Like Levance, Jermaine needs to shoot at a higher clip. He has been a great stopper on the defensive end, and his ability to fit into Jamie Dixon's system as a first-year player is exceptional.
Tyrell Biggs, B
A lot of people are down on Tyrell's game because they want him to be more assertive down low. That simply isn't who Biggs is; Biggs is a finesse player who will make a few mistakes on the defensive end. He is, however, the team's best three-point shooter at 56 percent, and if Jamie Dixon can find ways to get the ball in his hands on the perimeter, Tyrell could be a weapon in Big East play.
Gilbert Brown, B-
Like Levance, Gil is coming off a foot injury and looks a bit rusty. It does not appear that he will ever be a big-time scorer for the Panthers, but he is a high energy guy and one of Pitt's many lockdown defenders.
Aston Gibbs, C+
Gibbs is starting to separate himself from the other freshmen since his dead-eye jumper is something Pitt lacks. He does need to improve his defense and his passing. Aston has a bright future with the Panthers and should provide quality bench minutes for the team this year.
Brad Wannamaker, C+
Brad still has a bit of a deer in headlights look about him when he gets on the court. He has ability but still makes a lot of mistakes. He has played better over the last few games and will hopefully be good for 10 minutes a game in conference play.
Gary McGee, C
A lot of people will defend Gary McGee's poor performance by saying, "Aaron Gray didn't emerge until he was a junior." There are two problems with that statement. The first is Aaron Gray was one of the hardest workers to play for Pitt. I'm not saying Gary doesn't work hard, but I have a hard time believing he works as hard as Aaron did.
The second problem is that Gray was ahead of McGee as a sophomore. Aaron Gray shot 58 percent from the field his sophomore season, while McGee does not seem capable of such a mark. I do not think Gary McGee will ever become anything more than a career backup.
Nasir Robinson and Travon Woodall, Incomplete
Both players have a good amount of upside, especially Robinson, who probably leads the team in floor burns per minute. Unfortunately, they are both raw. I don't expect either player to be a part of the rotation come conference play.
Plug of the week
In a recent podcast, Bill Simmons turned me onto the club trillion blog written by Mark Titus, a walk-on at Ohio State. This blog is one of the funnier things I have ever read as Titus tells us about the lighter side of life as a walk-on for a big time basketball program. I recommend everyone check out this blog.