The Pittsburgh basketball team and head coach Jamie Dixon experienced an incredibly prosperous regular season in 2010-11. Despite playing a challenging Big East schedule the team ended up having a the best record in the conference at 15-3.
The Panthers beat eventual national champion UConn handily in the final regular season game, but were beat by the Huskies by two points in the conference tourney. Pitt didn’t have much success in the NCAA tournament either, getting beat in the second round to Butler. Both tournament losses were by two points or less, but that probably didn’t lessen the sting of getting bounced so early despite their regular season dominance.
This season’s edition of the Pitt basketball team will have only two starters returning. The three starters lost: Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, and Gary McGhee both contributed a lot and will be missed. Still, coach Dixon has created a winning tradition and the school has a history of reloading when losing superb talent.
Pittsburgh’s guard play centers around Asthon Gibbs. Gibbs thought about entering his name in the NBA draft, but withdrew due to the likelihood of a lockout. That proved to be a wise decision as the NBA still isn’t ready to hit the floor. Last season he averaged almost 17 points per game on nearly 50% 3-point shooting. He’ll be counted on to improve his production as much as possible to make up for the losses of some of the other key players off of last year’s team.
Taking the place of Brandon Wanamaker will be Travon Woodall. Woodall is a good defender who must live up to the hype of being an excellent distributor since Wanamaker was the team’s leader in assists a year ago. Also getting plenty of action will be Cameron Wright, Durand Johnson, and John Johnson.
Pittsburgh’s biggest losses occured from the post that will be devoid of Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee. Brown averaged 11.3 points per game while McGhee was the interior stopper. Even so, the Panthers do get some stable players returning to go in addition to some exciting recruits.
Nasir Robinson will deliver the experience to the court. Last season he averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest, but he ought to get more minutes this year. With the additional playing time I expect to see his numbers jump up quite a bit.
Khem Birch was a McDonald’s All-American and one of the most-wanted centers coming out of high school. Malcolm Gilbert was also wanted by a whole lot of universities on account of his rebounding and shot blocking capabilities. Both of these players have enough talent to contribute as soon as they hit the floor.
Providing the team with some extra minutes might be Dante Taylor, JJ Moore, and Talib Zanna.
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