#49 Pittsburgh Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #49
Conference Rank: #8 ACC

Pittsburgh Team Page#49 Pittsburgh Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Pittsburgh Basketball Tickets

Pittsburgh ended last season with five straight losses, including a defeat against North Carolina State in their ACC Tournament opener and a loss at home to George Washington in the first round of the NIT. There were some nice wins along the way, most notably at home against Notre Dame and North Carolina, but the Panthers often looked like a team that deserved a spot in the NIT and not the NCAAs. The story could be the same this year, but much will hinge on the development of Jamel Artis. The 6-7, 220 pound forward averaged 13.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a sophomore. He is a great shooter and it would be a tremendous help for Pitt on the glass if Artis can spend most of his time as a big, athletic small forward instead of a stretch four.

2014-15 Record: 19-15, 8-10
2014-15 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Jamie Dixon
Coach Record: 307-111 at Pittsburgh, 307-111 overall

Who’s Out:
Cameron Wright is the most significant loss from last year’s team. As a senior, the 6-5 guard averaged 9.3 points and 2.9 assists. He was basically a shooting guard who could not shoot, but Wright still found ways to score. Josh Newkirk spent his sophomore season as the backup point guard, yet he still averaged nearly 21 minutes per game. Newkirk let others do the scoring, but he was a decent ball handler with a very promising future. His future plans now lie at Indiana. Derrick Randall, Joseph Uchebo, Aron Phillips-Nwankwo and Joshua Ko are also gone after seeing very limited playing time in 2014-2015.

Who’s In:
Pitt will definitely be deeper this season with the addition of seven newcomers, including six with experience. Rafael Maia, a graduate transfer from Brown, led the Ivy League in rebounding the last three seasons. A thumb injury could slow his early season progress, but when healthy, Maia has the experience to step right into the ACC and be a very strong rebounder. Alonzo Nelson-Ododa comes to Pitt from Richmond. He has never been a big scoring threat during his time with the Spiders, but he can certainly play some defense and protect the paint. Sterling Smith is the last of the graduate transfers. He averaged 13.9 points per game with Coppin State last season. Junior college transfers Jonathan Milligan and Zach Smith will add depth on the perimeter, but the best of the junior college transfers is 6-11 center Rozelle Nix. He is listed at 300 pounds, yet has been reported to weigh nearly 100 pounds more than that not long ago. He needs to get in shape and stay in shape to see too many minutes, but he moves extremely well for a player his size. The lone incoming freshman is Damon Wilson. He could be the point guard of the future.

Who to Watch:
This is no longer your typical tough Pitt team. The team ranked ninth in the ACC in rebounding margin. Moving Artis to the small forward spot should help and Michael Young, a 6-9 junior, is a very good frontcourt player to work around. He averaged 13.4 points and a team high 7.3 rebounds last season. Sheldon Jeter has been terribly inconsistent and sophomore Ryan Luther averaged just 8.0 minutes per game last season, but those two will join the newcomers to give Coach Jamie Dixon plenty of options in the frontcourt. That should be enough to keep Artis at the small forward position with James Robinson and Chris Jones starting on the perimeter. Robinson averaged 5.1 assists per game last year and committed just 1.6 turnovers. He is a superb leader on the floor who can do everything but score. He may look to score more often this season and if he does so successfully, Robinson will be one of the best point guards in the ACC. Chris Jones, a 6-6 wing, could be in for a huge junior season. Jones was the most prolific shooter on the team a year ago, knocking down 41 three-pointers and now he will be asked to do even more. Pitt was not a good shooting team last year and having a couple players who are threats to knock down shots will really open up the offense.

Final Projection:
Pitt does need to find an identity in the ACC. Since they left the Big East, this really has not been a particularly great team. This year should be more of a team. Pitt has plenty of depth and that will help the frontcourt, but there is a lot of work to do on both sides of the floor before this team turns into a contender in the ACC. Robinson will take care of the ball and share it effectively, but the rest of the team needs to start knocking down shots. Playing better defense and not ranking ninth in the conference in rebounding margin would help too.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
James Robinson, Senior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Chris Jones, Junior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Jamel Artis, Junior, Forward, 13.6 points per game
Rafael Maia, Senior, Forward, 9.9 points per game at Brown
Michael Young, Junior, Forward, 13.4 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.0 (184th in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.6 (143, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.7 (96, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.8 (270, 14)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.8 (311, 13)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.9 (190, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.5 (204, 8)
Rebound Margin: 1.9 (110, 9)
Assists Per Game: 16.5 (6, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.9 (10, 3)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#91 Damon Wilson


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