2007 Pittsburgh Panthers Basketball Preview
The Panthers of Pittsburgh (29- 8 overall, 12- 4 Big East) were good enough last season to make their sixth straight NCAA appearance. They went three deep where they lost to UCLA 64- 55. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon (104- 31 in four years at Pittsburgh and overall) has continued to rebuild the club, making it a perennial contender for the conference tournament brackets.
From the floor, the Panthers were one of the top teams in the Big East, hitting 47.2% of their shots, and many of our college basketball picks. Their ability to hit threes was unmatched as they sunk over 38% of their shots from downtown. But those stats did not translate into overwhelming point production or college basketball point spreads. Pitt was ranked ninth in the Big East, scoring an average of 71.3 PPG. Their scoring defense, which was rated fourth in the league, let in an average of 62.8 PPG. In rebounding margin (plus-4.7), turnovers (11.9 PG) and assists (17.5 PG), the Panthers were rated fourth or better. Those were sound stats.
Center Aaron Gray, the foundation of the frontcourt, is gone and that means that various players including junior forward Tyrell Biggs (3.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 50.0 FG%) will occupy the middle position. Biggs needs to step-up and become a real force. Freshmen DeJaun Blair and Gary McGhee and junior college transfer Cassin Diggs will all see time upfront. The powerful Blair will probably have an impact immediately. The others will be rotated throughout the game with Diggs offering solid post play. Senior Mike Cook (10.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 49.8 FG%) is a fine shooter and a major force on the team.
The dynamic duo of Levance Fields (9.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.6 APG, 41.2 FG%) and Ronald Ramon (8.8 PPG, 2.2 APG, 46.4 FG%) will command the backcourt. Fields, a junior, is an exceptional ball handler and a skilled floor commander, while Ramon offers experience, drive and a fine shot designed for go-to points.
The Panthers are one of only five teams to have made the Sweet 16 four of the past six years. That’s quite an accomplishment. Unfortunately, they have not gone any farther. For this club to be considered a true contender an Elite Eight appearance is in order. However, these Panthers will be hard pressed to get past the NCAA’s college basketball bracket second round.