#29 Pittsburgh Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #29
Conference Rank: #6 ACC

Pitt Team Page#29 Pittsburgh Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy Pitt Basketball Tickets

Pittsburgh always seems to be in the NCAA Tournament and Coach Jamie Dixon has led his team there ten times during his 11 year tenure at the school. However, the Panthers have not made many tournament runs and the story was the same last season. After winning 25 games heading into the tournament, and finishing fifth during their debut season in the ACC with an 11-7 mark, Pitt added just one more win against Colorado in the 8/9 game before falling to top-seeded  Florida. A lot will be asked of guard Cameron Wright to step up his scoring production. He is the only returning player to average over ten points per game. He is a great scorer off of the dribble, but will need to be much more consistent with his outside shot if he is going to be Pitt’s top scorer this season.

2013-14 Record: 26-10, 11-7
2013-14 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jamie Dixon
Coach Record: 288-96 at Pittsburgh, 288-96 overall

Who’s Out:
Only two players are gone from last year’s roster, but Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna combined to average 30.1 points per game. That was nearly 42 percent of the team’s scoring. Patterson led the way with 17.1 points per game and was really the only major threat to shoot from beyond the arc. He knocked down 38.8 percent of his attempts from long range and drained 80 on the year, more than three times as many as anybody else on the team. Zanna was the interior scoring threat and a dominating force on the glass. He averaged 8.6 rebounds per game to go along with his 13.0 points.

Who’s In:
This group of newcomers is directly looking to help replace Patterson and Zanna. Sheldon Jeter and Cameron Johnson are the options on the wing. Jeter spent the 2012-2013 season at Vanderbilt where he averaged 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds as a freshman. Those numbers are a bit misleading since Jeter was much more productive later in the season against SEC competition. He is a big 6-8 small forward who can shoot. He may not be the next Patterson when it comes to three-point shooting, but Jeter can certainly help replace some of that lost production. The frontcourt adds an experienced option of their own with junior college transfer Tyrone Haughton. The 6-9 center is not going to be a great scorer, but he can play solid defense and hit the glass effectively. Incoming freshman Ryan Luther should be capable of filling in some minutes here and there if necessary. He may never develop into a superstar, but is a nice secondary forward who can do the dirty work and clear up space for more prolific interior scorers.

Who to Watch:
Along with Wright, James Robinson and Michael Young both started all 36 games in 2013-2014. On a national level, Robinson is a vastly underrated point guard. He dished out 4.1 assists per game as a sophomore and committed just one turnover per contest. Those are great numbers for anybody, but even more impressive for an underclassman. Now a junior, the expectations are rising for Robinson and the rest of the ACC and the country will start to take notice. Robinson is a decent enough shooter to keep the opposition honest and he will likely look to score more this season after averaging 7.6 points per game. Young is ready to take over the frontcourt after a promising freshman campaign. He is a tough 6-9, 235 pound forward, but can step outside and knock down some shots too. He is also the team’s top returning rebounder at 4.1 per game and now we will get to see how effective he can be on the glass without Zanna by his side. The question is who will start beside Young in the frontcourt. Jamel Artis is a good bet. He was the Panthers top forward reserve last season and, like Young, had some great moments as a freshman. Artis is a very versatile forward. However, both Artis and Young are better built as power forwards in Coach Jamie Dixon’s system. Ideally Derrick Randall or Joseph Uchebo will step up and join Haughton at the five spot.

Final Projection:
Replacing Patterson will be the bigger issue for this team. Durand Johnson could step into that role if he can fully recover from an ACL injury that limited him to 16 games last season. In those 16 games he did average 8.8 points per game and was on pace to easily be the second most prolific three-point shooter on the team. Josh Newkirk will again be the backup point guard, but he is also a fine shooter who Coach Dixon may want to play off of the ball on occasion if nobody else is stepping up in the outside shooting game. Johnson, along with Jeter, may be able to replace Patterson’s scoring, but there is a lot more lost with Patterson than just his scoring and replacing those intangibles is always much more difficult. This team does have a lot of young talent though and if everything comes together, this group could seriously compete in the ACC.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
James Robinson, Junior, Guard, 7.6 points per game
Cameron Wright, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Durand Johnson, Junior, Forward, 8.8 points per game
Jamel Artis, Sophomore, Forward, 4.9 points per game
Michael Young, Sophomore, Forward, 6.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.8 (139th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.9 (20, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.0 (78, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.2 (64, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.1 (287, 11)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.1 (136, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.2 (132, 6)
Rebound Margin: 5.9 (17, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.6 (18, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.4 (28, 6)


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