Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pittsburgh 73 LaSalle 69

Well, let's just say that there's still a lot of work to do.  LaSalle is not as bad as their preseason ranking of 13th (out of 14) in the A-10, but still the Panthers were a 15 point underdog over the young and inexperienced Explorers.

First let's start with the good.  Welcome to the party, Khem Birch and J.J. Moore.  Head coach Jamie Dixon finally saw the light and went with talent over age midway through the game, sitting Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson for the more talented Birch and Moore.  Yes, both of the youngsters will make mistakes but their upside is just too much for them to be sitting on the bench.

Moore hit three three pointers on his way to 9 points and 6 rebounds in 19 minutes.  Patterson had a down game with 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in 21 minutes, but if Moore continues to play this well, Pitt's small forward position will be strong with these two for the next few years.

Birch was just as impressive with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks in just 13 minutes.  While he's still raw on offense and doesn't always know what he's doing, I feel he should be out there a lot more.  If he got 20 minutes a game I have no doubt that he would average 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks a game easily.  That would be a big upgrade over Zanna, who tonight had 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 turnovers in 16 minutes and has just 9 total points in four games this season.  Zanna's ineffectiveness is even harder to take since Dante Taylor, despite 11 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes, is showing no signs of becoming a star.

As for the upperclassmen, Ashton Gibbs had his second straight poor shooting night going 3-15 from the field, but his free throw shooting helped him get 14 points.  The stars of the game once again were Travon Woodall and Nasir Robinson.  Woodall ended up with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 blocks, including a doozy at the end of the game that stopped LaSalle for good.  Robinson was 8-10 from the field on his way to 17 points and 6 rebounds.

While LaSalle's 43.5% from the field is better than the past two games, the Panthers still have a way to go on defense.  Pitt's rebounding edge of 42-24, though, was also a great thing to see.

Bottom line, there is still a lot of work to do if Pitt wants to be a top 10 team.  Beating LaSalle by four is not a good sign for how well they will perform in Big East play.  The Panthers three best players right now are Gibbs, Woodall, and Robinson, and while those three performing well can win the Panthers a lot of games, they probably aren't going to be good enough to get them deep into the NCAA tournament.  That will depend on the Panthers two most physically talented players, Birch and Moore.  If they can continue to improve, they may be the missing pieces to make the Panthers a Final Four contender.  But there's a long way to go for that to happen.  The good news is, every season the type of elite talents that makes good teams become great do just that.  Time will tell if Pitt is one of them.

12 comments:

  1. A very shaky finish by the Panthers after it seemed they were finally going to pull away for good. They struggled with Lasalle's press at the end. Lasalle committed a bad foul after they cut the lead to two with plenty of time left that was probably the difference It's early in the season but I'm just not seeing it with this team. One of the big men needs to step up his game.

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  2. I look at this line-up and I do not see a great defensive team. If Jamie wants that, maybe he should try to put Nas at the 3. I think JJ though needs to play more so he is comfortable. To me he might be the best offesnive guy we have, but I think his is looking over his shoulder if he makes a mistake. Birch showed me more in 8 minutes that Dante in 2 years. I keep waiting for him. I do not understand how he can lift weights for 2 years and still look weak.

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  3. You have to want it and Taylor has never shown that he wants it bad enough. If he played aggressively and tenaciously he probably would average 14 ppg and 8 rpg.

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  4. This is arguably the worst Pitt "team" in over a decade. (2005 maybe, but...)

    There's talent, for sure, but I just don't see the fiery leadership necessary to drive a team, particularly at the guard position. Instead there's a lot of uncertainty on the court.

    With that said, there is a lot to like about some of the youth on this team. I wouldn't be surprised to see Moore and Birch playing significant minutes from here on out.

    It will be interesting to see how this team responds to more serious challenges and adversity down the road. Is this a team playing down to the opposition because they're thinking too much? Trying to be too precise in the system?

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  5. I think Taylor is a role player, and could be a good one if surrounded by high-level talent. He's not the guy that's going to demand the ball in the crunch and lead a team to victory. I think that was an unfair assumption by a lot of people because of his McD's status.

    Not saying it will ever happen, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him blossom more as a professional than in college.

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  6. Until shown otherwise, Pitt is not one of them. NIT here we come.

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  7. I just don't see it with this team, they played a veteran team in LBS and were beat soundly, now they play a young LaSalle team that will be a bottom dweller in A10 and they were lucky to win.

    This team has problems, they are fundamentally flawed in all aspects of the game. Unless there is dramatic improvement we are looking at a possible 8/9 seed come NCAA selection time, and that's a big maybe.

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  8. The one thing we have on our side is Jamie Dixon. I remeber a couple of years ago against Indinia watching the game late at night and texting my friends telling them we might not make the NIT. We have talent, I think Jamie will make adjusments and speed the team up. I think we are capable of running more than we have had in the past. Chriss, I saw NBA Express has Birch as a number 13 pick right now. How can he be a number 13 pick next yr when he is only seeing 10 min a game.

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  9. I wrote that about Birch in here last week. I know he doesn't know the nuances of how Pitt plays yet but I'd rather he play and have mistakes than have Zanna in there. Birch at 60% is better than any other low post player they have. I say play him a lot and he'll get better quickly.

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  10. This is Jamie's weakest team since he started. They will struggle in the Big East and to make the Tournament. I hope I am wrong. I like your writing by the way.....

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  11. Pitt won't make that step until Dixon realizes he must play his best talent. Hopefully he comes around but you need to play Moore and Birch a lot of minutes, live with their mistakes early (Even if they drop some games) and benefit in March. I'm not sure Dixon will do this though.

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  12. Now that is more like it. Not to be mean, but we were better today with Birch and JJ playing the majority of the game. Held teamto under 40%. Zanna even looked alive today.

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