#26 Pittsburgh Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #26
Conference Rank: #6 ACC
Coach Jamie Dixon left Pitt after leading them to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons. The Panthers went out and nabbed Coach Kevin Stallings from Vanderbilt in the hope of continuing that success. With Michael Young leading the way, there is no reason Pitt cannot get back to the NCAA Tournament, and do some damage once they get there. Young, a 6-9 senior, is one of the best forwards in the ACC and led the Panthers with 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds last season. He could be better on the glass, but few defenders anywhere can stop him on the offensive end of the floor.
2015-16 Record: 21-12, 9-9
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kevin Stallings
Coach Record: 0-0 at Pittsburgh, 455-283 overall
Who’s Out:
James Robinson is a big loss. The point guard averaged 10.2 points and 5.0 assists. But perhaps more impressively, he committed just 42 turnovers in 33 games last year. That is senior leadership right there. The backcourt also lost part-time starter Sterling Smith. Smith averaged just 4.5 points per game, but he could knock down three-pointers on a regular basis. The losses in the frontcourt were the two players brought in just for last season, Rafael Maia and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. Maia started 25 games and averaged 2.0 points and 3.6 rebounds. Nelson-Ododa added 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds.
Who’s In:
The frontcourt will hope to get some replacements for Maia and Nelson-Ododa. Rozelle Nix and incoming freshman Corey Manigault will help. Nix sat out last season after transferring in from Pensacola State Junior College and at 6-11 and 300 pounds, he certainly has the size to make an impact in the paint, but it remains to be seen how many minutes he can really play. Justice Kithcart will compete for the starting point guard spot. He is considered the point guard of the future, but the future could be right now. He is quick, tough and never afraid to attack the basket. Crisshawn Clark, a junior college transfer, and Zach Smith, a walk-on transfer from Pitt-Bradford, will add options on the perimeter. Clark is a versatile guard who should earn some minutes with his defense and Smith can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor.
Who to Watch:
Jamel Artis is one of the more dynamic scorers in the ACC. The tough 6-7 senior can play either forward spot and is a matchup nightmare for most small forwards. Artis connected on a team high 49 three-pointers, but he is also extremely comfortable scoring in the paint. Due to his size, Artis can help out on the glass too. Sheldon Jeter will likely play a bigger role in the frontcourt. Jeter transferred in from Vanderbilt a couple years back and will now join his former head coach at Pitt. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and could step into the starting lineup for Maia. Junior Ryan Luther will compete for minutes up front once again. He is a decent scorer, but his lack of rebounding limited his minutes.
Final Projection:
The returning talent on the perimeter is little more suspect. Sophomore Damon Wilson is the most experienced point guard on the roster after averaging just 10.8 minutes per game as a freshman. Wilson is a big 6-5 point guard and he can pass the ball very well, but he needs to be a leader. Chris Jones and Cameron Johnson are a couple big wings who will spend some time at the shooting guard spot. Jones is not much of a shooter, but can finish around the basket. Johnson had a very promising freshman campaign and hit 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts. If he can attack the basket on occasion and help out on the glass a bit too, Johnson could be in for a big 2016-2017 season. Finding a perimeter shooter is one piece of the puzzle for Pitt, but Wilson and Kithcart will be the most important players on the team. If they can handle the point, Pitt will be a very dangerous team come March.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Damon Wilson, Sophomore, Guard, 3.3 points per game
Cameron Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 4.8 points per game
Jamel Artis, Senior, Forward, 14.4 points per game
Michael Young, Senior, Forward, 15.7 points per game
Sheldon Jeter, Senior, Forward, 8.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.0 (130th in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.3 (60, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.8 (79, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.3 (157, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.2 (255, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.6 (168, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 75.2 (18, 2)
Rebound Margin: 7.2 (24, 3)
Assists Per Game: 16.6 (19, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.6 (76, 10)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#145 Justice Kithcart
#157 Corey Manigault