2009-2010 Pittsburgh Panthers Basketball Preview
The Panthers of Pitt (31- 5 overall, 15- 3 Big East) made it to the NCAA Elite Eight last season. With head coach Jamie Dixon, last season’s Naismith College Coach of the Year, at the helm the Panthers earned a first seed in the tournament. They made it to the Elite Eight where they were eliminated by Villanova in a 78- 76 squeaker. Now the Panthers must face four key personnel losses that will turn this team’s fortune for the worse in 2009- 2010.
Rebounding was this team’s strength last year as they garnered a plus-9.3 margin, which was first in the Big East. Although the Panthers were 10th in free throws, hitting 68%, the club placed fifth in scoring offense and defense, posting 77.4 PPG and holding opponents to 64.4 PPG. They were also strong from downtown, connecting on 35% (4th) and from the field, hitting 46% (2nd).
The frontcourt of Biggs, Blair and Young are gone. Together, they averaged over 40 PPG and over 22 RPG. McDonald’s All-American Dante Taylor joins the frontcourt. He will have an immediate impact. Center Gary McGhee (1.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.0 APG), a junior, will be asked to step up. If he doesn’t perform well, then redshirted freshman Dwight Miller may get the nod. Finally, if junior swingman Gilbert Brown (5.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.3 APG) can find consistency, his dynamic play could revitalize the front.
Who will replace departed point guard Levance Fields and his 10.7 PPG and 7.5 APG? There are many fine candidates for the spot. Combo guard Ashton Gibbs (4.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 0.9 APG), a sophomore, has a fine three-point shot and is a tough, smart playmaker; Brad Wannamaker (5.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.1 APG), a junior, is a slasher who needs to cut down on turnovers; Chase Adams, a transfer from Centenary, can score and dish off effectively. Senior shooting guard Jermaine Dixon (8.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.0 APG) is the only returning starter on the club. He needs to be more accurate from downtown.
For coach Dixon and company, this season will be a bump in the road as Pittsburgh welcomes one of the best freshmen classes in the league. Next season, after a year of experience, this team should be back in the hunt for first in the Big East and for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Panthers are bound for the NIT. That’s all there is to it.