Monday, April 30, 2012

Panthers offer a top 2013 PG

The Panthers have offered 6'1" PG Jaren Sina of Gill St. Bernard's School (Gladstone, NJ).  Sina originally committed to Alabama as a sophomore but then decommited.  Sina reminds me very much of former Pitt great, and current Arizona head coach, Sean Miller.  Both are coached by their fathers, both have a great basketball IQ, both can pass well, and both are superb outside shooting threats.  Sina is considered a top 100 prospect and has offers from the likes of Alabama, Miami, Penn State, Cincinnati, Memphis, Northwestern, Virginia, Rutgers, Virginia, and St. John's.  The Panthers are expected to land a PF and a PG in the 2013 class

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm tightening things up in here from now on

I keep getting emails from people telling me to ban this person or that person and let me say right off the bat that as far as I know I can't ban people on this site.  But I can delete posts and that's what I'm going to start doing more often now.  When I started this blog I asked everybody to behave and for awhile it went well.  But lately there's been more and more sniping going on so we're going to stop that right now.

If somebody made mostly good points in a post but threw in some shots, I let it go because I thought most of the post had valid points.  Unfortunately, however, people are taking advantage and it's getting carried away.  From now on, if I think you're instigating even a little I'm deleting the post.  If people comment on the post that was deleted, I'm deleting those, too.  If you complain about a person instigating I'm deleting that.  If somebody even hints at taking a shot at another poster I'm deleting that.  You get the point.  I don't care if I have 100 posts go down to 2, if I have to I'll delete 98 out of 100.

This blog averages anywhere from 5-10k a day so most people read and don't post.  And those who do post almost always do so in a mature way.  But like every sports message boards, there is a very tiny minority who ruin it for everybody else because they can't play well with others.  These small factions ruin every message board they go on and I'm going to do my best to keep them in check in here even if I have to delete them every day.

Bottom line, don't complain if your post gets deleted.  It's nothing personal. I'd just rather be safe than sorry.  That doesn't mean you have to agree with me or anybody else on here.  But it does mean that you have to state your position in a mature, intelligent manner.  This is just a sports message board.  It's not war, or birth, or love, or any of the other biggies in life.  Everybody on this blog are here because they are on the same side.  It's pointless to fight amongst yourselves.  So everybody post as much as you want but do so in the right way or you'll be deleted into oblivion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ranking the Pitt Football Offers 1-50

1.  Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca, PA) WR-  Even though he can be a little flaky, he is the biggest must get for the Panthers for two reasons. One, he's one of the top ten prospects in the country, and, two, getting him will give the program great buzz.  Legitimate chance.

2.  Su'a Cravens, Vista Murrieta HS (Murrieta, CA) S- One of the top ten prospects in the country.  No chance.

3.  Eddie Vanderdoes, Placer HS (Auburn, CA) DT-  One of many elite California players that the Panthers have offered, thanks to Inoke Breckterfield, but a superstar west coast player is not coming to Pittsburgh to play.  No chance.

4.  Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill, PA) TE- Would have been great for Pitt's offense and you would think with the great tight ends that Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph produced, they would have had a serious chance.  It turns out that they never even came close.  Committed to Penn State.

5.  Jalin Marshall, Middletown HS (Middletown, OH) WR- The Panthers were one of the first to offer but this kid was staying home right from the beginning.  Committed to Ohio State.

6.  Mackensie Alexander, Immokalee HS (Immokalee, FL) CB- Well, it's obvious that the Panthers are going to go for it in the Sunshine State.  Unfortunately one of the top corners in the country are out of their league.  No chance.

7.  Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon, PA) OT- One of the fastest risers in the country and a potential superstar left tackle.  Getting him would be huge and with him being a Pitt fan and Rudolph being a Belle Vernon alum, there's no excuse to lose him.  Legitimate chance. 

8.  Patrick Kugler, Wexford HS (North Allegheny, PA) OG/C- Yeah, he wasn't in the area for long but it was still hard to take the fact that the Panthers never even stood a chance. Getting him would have been huge. Committed to Michigan.

9.  Tashawn Bower, Immaculata HS (Somerville, NJ) DE- Offered first by the previous staff, but the Panthers didn't even make his top ten.  No chance.

10. Kyle Fitts, East Valley HS (Redlands, CA) DE- Yet another California superstar that the Panthers had no chance with.  Committed to USC.

11. Dymonte Thomas, Marlington HS (Alliance, OH) S- It was over before the Panthers even got to try.  Committed to Michigan.

12. Dorian O'Daniel, Our Lady Good Counsel HS (Olney, MD) LB-  The Panthers have been hitting this school hard in recent years, but stood no chance with this kid.  Committed to Clemson.

13. Isaac Rochell, Eagles Landing Christian Academy (McDonough, GA) DE-  The previous staff offered him last year but it didn't help.  His final four are Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, and Clemson. No chance.

14. Billy Price, Austintown Fitch HS (Austintown, OH) DT-  Great Ohio players rarely leave and that was the case this time.  Committed to Ohio State.

15. Josh McNeil, Hillside HS (Durham, NC) TE-  Thankfully the Panthers have a bright future at tight end and this was just a luxury offer.  No chance.

16. David Williams, Imhotep Institute Charter School (Philadelphia, PA) RB- At one point the Panthers looked like a serious contender but after signing Rushel Shell they inexplicably quit recruiting this potential star.  No chance.

17. Shelton Gibson, Cleveland Heights HS (University Heights, OH) WR- Big time talent but his favorites are Ohio State and Auburn.  No chance.

18. Na'ty Rodgers, Maurice J. McDonough HS (Pomfret, MD) OT- He recently visited Pitt while playing in a local tournament, and liked what he saw, but the competition is fierce.  Would be a great addition and as of now there's always a chance if the staff pursues him.  Small chance.

19. Taco Charlton, Pickerington Central HS (Pickerington, OH) DE- The new staff offered immediately but he was pretty much wrapped up already.  Committed to Michigan.

20. L.J. Moore, Central East HS (Fresno, CA) CB- Another California elite prospect.  Talk about an exercise in futility.  No chance.

21. Ben Gedeon, Hudson HS (Hudson, OH) LB-  Mark the Wolverines down as somebody who isn't intimidated by Urban Meyer.  Committed to Michigan.

22. Alex Anzalone, Wyomissing Area HS (Wyomissing, PA) LB-  The Panthers need linebackers but never even came close to getting him.  Committed to Ohio State.

23. Shane Jones, Moeller HS (Cincinnati, OH) LB-  Many people didn't want to listen to me when I told them that it doesn't matter if his brother was Eric Thatcher, and that he still was never coming to Pitt.  Well, he didn't.  Committed to Michigan State.

24. Courtney Love, Cardinal Mooney HS (Youngstown, OH) LB- The Panthers had a better chance of signing the singer.  Committed to Nebraska.

25. Noel Ellis, Edna Karr HS (New Orleans, LA) CB- Offered by the previous staff and the new staff really never continued to pursue him.  No chance.

26. Travis Johnson, Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL) WR- Three dozen offers, including many elite programs.  No chance.

27. James Onwualu, Cretin Derhem-Hall HS (St. Paul, MN) WR- Well, at least the Panthers are recruiting some in Minnesota?  Committed to Notre Dame.

28. Rob Wheelwright, Walnut Ridge HS (Columbus, OH) WR- As of now, the Panthers aren't even recruiting him that hard, but as long as Ohio State doesn't offer, I'll be nice and say there is a snowball's chance in hell.  Small chance.

29. Marquel Combs, Pierce CC (Woodland Hills, CA) DT- The only juco on the list.  Committed to Mississippi.  

30. Marcell Lazard, Bloomfield HS (Bloomfield, NJ) OT- Would have been a great tradition and who they lost him to hurts even more.  Committed to West Virginia.

31. Mike McGlinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia, PA) OT- A 6'9" left tackle with great feet would have been perfect, but unfortunately it's perfect for somebody else.  Committed to Notre Dame.  

32. Malik Zaire, Archbishop Alter HS (Kettering, OH) QB- This one hurt because it looked like the Panthers had an excellent chance. he could have been special under Chryst.  Committed to Notre Dame.  

33. Corey Clement, Glassboro HS (Glassboro, NJ) RB- The Panthers really aren't looking for a running back but he's too good to pass up.  He said nice things when offered, which is usually the case, but he is still saying them despite offers since from Ohio State, Penn State, and Florida State.  Legitimate chance. 

34. Donovan Munger, Shaker Heights HS (Shaker Heights, OH) DT- With the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State offering, I wouldn't hold my breath, but since he hasn't eliminated the Panthers yet, I'll be optimistic.  Small chance.

35. Scott Pagano, Moanalua HS (Honolulu, HI) DT- Yeah, a kid from Hawaii is going to play football in Pittsburgh.  No chance.

36. Tra'von Chapman, Roosevelt HS (Kent, OH) QB- With Zaire out of the picture, this would be a must get. No, he's not as good as Zaire even though many Pitt fans try to convince themselves of that, but he's still pretty darn good.  Legitimate chance.

37. Jay Woods, Jackson HS (Jackson, GA) DT- Just recently offered by the Panthers, but his offer list is long and includes too many top programs.  No chance.

38. Dorian Miller, Metuchen HS (Metuchen, NJ) C- Even though he's much shorter at 6'2" than Chryst likes, he could be a great college center.  For some reason the staff took months to let him know that the offer from the previous staff still stands.  Legitimate chance.

39. Paul Harris, Frederick Douglas HS (Upper Marlboro, MD) WR- The Panthers aren't in his current top three.  No chance.

40. Anthony Averett, Woodbury HS (Woodbury, NJ) CB- Nice sized corner from a prime Pitt recruiting territory would be nice.  Unfortunately, it was over before it started.  Committed to Alabama.

41. Scott Orndoff, Seton-LaSalle HS (Pittsburgh, PA) TE- Hey, we got one!!  Most probably wouldn't have him this high, but I think he will be a star.  Committed to Pittsburgh.

42. Tyler Boyd, Clairton Area HS (Clairton, PA) WR- He could be really, really good in college and it would hurt if he was doing it at west Virginia instead of Pitt.  Legitimate chance. 

43. Corey Cooper, Millbrook HS (Durham, NC) WR- South Carolina leads and he'll probably stay in the south but being in the ACC will help the Panthers.  Small chance.

44. Taivon Jacobs, Suitland HS (Forestville, MD) WR/CB- Another recent offer and this one has speed in the 4.3s.  It's that speed that's making him a hot commodity and probably too hot for Pitt. Especially since everybody else wants him as a receiver, his preferred position, and Pitt wants him as a corner.  No chance.

45. Cameron Sutton, Jonesboro HS (Jonesboro, GA) CB- Too many good southern programs have offered for the Panthers to convince him to come up north.  No chance.

46. Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep (Erie, PA) S- The panthers were first to offer but since then the likes of Michigan State, Penn State, and Nebraska have offered and it's not looking good anymore.  Small chance.

47. Tracy Sprinkle, Elyria HS (Elyria, OH) DE- He decided to stay home.  Committed to Ohio State.

48. Kyle Meadows, Lakota West HS (West Chester, OH) OT- For some reason this 6'6" lineman doesn't have a lot of big time offers.  Unfortunately, however, after offering, Pitt has had little contact with him.  Small chance.

49. Kennard Swanson, Lake Gibson HS (Lakeland, FL) DT/FB- At 6'0" and 250 pounds, the explosive Swanson is being looked at as a fullback by the staff.  Unfortunately he is only interested in USC and West Virginia right now.  No chance.

50. Chavas Rawlins, Monessen Area HS (Monessen, PA) QB/WR- He's 6'4" and runs in the 4.4s so he would be a good addition no matter where he plays.  Unfortunately he wants to get away from the area.  No chance.

Summary-  While one has to be impressed that the staff is offering elite players in such places as California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and New Jersey, it doesn't do much good if they don't have topnotch recruiters in those areas.

I got criticized a lot for saying how foolish it was to hire Inoke Breckterfield, but now you can see why.  All of these offers from California, and one from Hawaii, will amount to nothing.  Wouldn't it make more sense to hire somebody with Florida, New Jersey, or Maryland/Washington, DC ties for that position?

Any recruiter can tell who the elite players are in those states but it takes a coach who really knows the area to find the hidden gems.  But it's those hidden gems that Pitt needs to get along with an occasional top prospect that only the best recruiters can get.  But the Panthers don't have that.  They simply don't have what it takes to make a dent in faraway fertile recruiting regions.  Why would a top west coast kid or a kid from the deep south want to play at Pitt?  The only way the Panthers could get the occasional kid like that is, once again, if they had a top local recruiter in the area.  Until Chryst adds topnotch recruiters they are wasting their time offering kids that wouldn't come to Pitt in a million years.  And I'm not even insulting Pitt when I say that. I'm just being realistic.  A west coast kid with offers from USC, Oregon, etc. is not going to come east to play at Pitt.  They will come east, but for Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, etc.

That's not to say that Pitt still may not do well.  Getting Robert Foster and Dorian Johnson would be huge, to say the least.  And Tyler Boyd and Tra'von Chapman would be great additions, too.  But right now it looks like Pitt needs to focus more and concentrate on areas where they can do the most damage.  Right now they are not a force in any of their recruiting areas, including western PA.  They can salvage  that by nabbing Foster and Johnson, but if they don't get both then this first Chryst class could very well be a dud.  That's what happens when your only chance for elite players is in your own backyard.  Until Chryst adds top recruiters in places like New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, and the Maryland/Washington, DC area, they are going to be living and dying with a few local superstars.  And as we know, the area doesn't always have those players.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Edition of the Top 20 Prospects in PA for 2013

1.  Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca) WR-  Clearly the best prospect in the state, and maybe the best receiver prospect in the country.  He has the good length at 6'2", runs in the 4.4s, and has great athleticism.  But he also has good hands, knows how to play the position, and is great with the ball in his hands.  If that wasn't enough, he also has great kick and punt return skills.  Put it all together and you have a future superstar.  Pittsburgh may be the favorite, but every major program in the country, including Penn State, Ohio State, USC, Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, and Oregon has offered him.

2.  Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill) TE-  The new breed of tight end who at 6'5" and 225 pounds, has great hands, speed, and running ability.  He needs to add size and improve his blocking, but he is a hard working, high character kid who has a huge future.  Has committed to PENN STATE over many offers, including Pittsburgh, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Stanford, and Wisconsin.

3.  Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon) OT-  A few months ago I said that this 6'6" 280 athlete has the potential to be a big time recruit and now it's happening.  He has great size with a frame to get much bigger, he's tough and aggressive, and he can really move for such a big kid.  Pittsburgh is considered the favorite, but Penn State is coming on strong.  Other offers include Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin.

4.  Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OG/C- Kugler is every bit as talented as Johnson but because he is projected inside and not a left tackle, he drops down a spot.  But make no mistake about it, he still has the potential to be a big time star in college.  At 6'4" and 270 pounds, he needs to add weight as well as strength, but he is mobile and displays great aggressiveness.  His father, Sean, is the offensive line coach for the Steelers so he is also well advanced in his technique.  Committed to MICHIGAN over the likes of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan State, Stanford, and Virginia Tech.

5.  David Williams, Imhotep Institute Charter School (Philadelphia)-  For some reason, the state does not produce the elite running back prospects the way they used to, but Williams is a national recruit with a huge upside.  He's solidly built at 6'0" and 190 pounds, runs legitimately in the 4.4 range, and has great running instincts.  His current top list is Penn State, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Miami, but he also has offers from Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, and West Virginia.

6.  Alex Anzalone, Wyomissing Area HS (Wyomissing) LB-  Every year in the state there is one lesser known kid who comes out of nowhere and blows up.  This year it's this 6'3" 220 pound athlete.  He has to get bigger and stronger but he has a lean frame so that should not be a problem.  He can really run for a linebacker and is a long strider.  He also displays great instincts and just knows how to play football.  Committed to OHIO STATE and had one of the most impressive offer lists in the entire country, which included Pittsburgh, Penn State, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Stanford, and USC.

7.  Tyler Boyd, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) WR-  The Clairton Bears are a huge Single A power and they have put out many high major players over the years, but none are better prospects than this wide receiver.  He is very thin at 170 pounds, at most, but he has good length at 6'1", and he can run in the 4.4s with great athleticism.  He has what it takes to be a great college receiver.  Pittsburgh and West Virginia may be the leaders, but other offers include Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Boston College.

8.  Mike McClinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia)-  If size is what you want on your offensive line look no further than the 6'9" 280 pound McGlinchey.  He obviously is too thin now but it's also obvious that he has a lot of frame to add much more.  The fact that he has the great height to go with excellent footwork means he could really turn into a quality lineman in the future.  Committed to NOTRE DAME over offers that included Pittsburgh, Penn State, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

9.  Scott Orndoff, Seton-LaSalle HS (Pittsburgh) TE-  The former Wisconsin commit has superb 6'6" 250 pound size to go with very good speed and athleticism.  He can also really run with the ball in his hands.  He plays spread out for the most part so he will need to learn to block, but with his size that should not be a problem.  Committed to PITTSBURGH over the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia, and West Virginia.

10.  Chavas Rawlins, Monessen Area HS (Monessen) QB/WR-  Started off as a sleeper at the small Mon-Valley school, but when you're 6'4" and 190 pounds, and you run in the 4.4s, college coaches will find you.  He's very raw as a quarterback, but it's worth trying him there first.  If he doesn't work out, he could always make a great receiver.  As a bonus, his brother Justice, a linebacker, is one of the best junior prospects in the country and the brothers have expressed an interest in playing together. Last week Pittsburgh was the first to offer the younger Rawlins, though he may actually be an even better prospect as a baseball player.  As of now, West Virginia may be the favorite with North Carolina, South Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Northwestern, Purdue, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech some of the other schools who have offered.

11.  Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep School (Erie)  S/RB-  Most are recruiting at him as a safety, but he can also project as a running back.  The ability to project at multiple positions always helps when it comes to getting an offering, especially when, as in the case with Williams, you are a fast and athletic 6'2" 205 pounds.  Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Rutgers, and West Virginia.

12.  Zayd Issah, Central Dauphin HS (Harrisburg) LB-  Very good player who had a great junior year as he lead his team to the state championship in Quad A.  He plays a little stiff so he may be forced to play inside, but he has faster straight line speed than he looks and he has the frame to get stronger and bigger than his current 6'3" and 205 pounds.  Penn State has offered and it's hard to image that he won't end up there, but other offers have come from Pittsburgh, Virginia, Rutgers, Iowa, Maryland, Boston College, and Arizona State.

13.  Damion Terry, Cathedral Prep School (Erie) QB-  The top quarterback prospect in the state, he has great 6'4" 210 pound size and very good athleticism.  More of a quarterback than can run instead of a running quarterback, but his mobility is definitely well above average.  Very good arm strength and effortlessly throws a great long ball.  One of the biggest steals in the state and he committed to MICHIGAN STATE over offers from Boston College, Duke, and Illinois.

14.  Brian Lemelle, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR-  The day of the 5'11" receiver is over for the most part since most colleges go for size at the position, but there's sometimes a place for players like Lemelle who has good speed, athleticism, and hands.  He can also return kicks and punts.  He isn't great in any aspect but he's a good all around player who should help any team.  Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, Iowa, Virginia, Cincinnati, Purdue, and Rutgers.

15.  DeShawn Coleman, Hickory HS (Hermitage) RB-  Small, but electrifying athlete at 6'0" and 170 pounds.  Runs in the 4.4s and has great athleticism.  Dominated as a junior against inferior competition and grades may be an issue, but if he shows the same kind of scary skill set in college that he has in high school he could be a really good player.  Committed to WEST VIRGINIA over Purdue.

16.  Justin Moody, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DT-  He was very overrated by the national recruiting services early on, but he does have the potential to be good if it all comes together for him.  At 6'3" and 270 pounds, he already has good size to go along with a quick burst and natural strength.  Rutgers and Temple have offered.  

17.  Andrew Nelson, Hershey HS (Hershey) OT-  This is a player that I have been very impressed with for months.  He obviously needs to get a lot bigger and he's not very strong right now, but if you want your linemen to be athletic you can't do much better than this guy.  Nelson can flat out fly and would often beat the gunners down the field on punt returns even though he was the long snapper.  If he can retain his speed after getting bigger and stronger then he can be excellent.  Committed to PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, Maryland, Northwestern, Temple, and Missouri.  

18.  Curtis Cothran, Council Rock North HS (Newtown) DE-  Under valued end that already stands at 6'5" and 235 pounds.  Good athleticism and range, while displaying a lot of aggressiveness.  Once he gains more weight and strength, he could be excellent.  Chose PENN STATE over Temple, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Maryland.  

19.  Hodari Christian, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport)  LB/S-  A bit of a tweener at 6'0" and 210 pounds, but he displays good speed, athleticism, and instincts.  Could be a very good college player if he's put in the right position.  West Virginia and Pittsburgh lead, while Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, and Rutgers have also offered.  

20.  Shakir Soto, G.A.R. Memorial HS (Wilkes-Barre) DE-  Highly productive player with a lot of character and maturity, to go with a good 6'3" and 235 pound frame.  Needs to get bigger but has good athleticism and plays aggressively.  Committed to PITTSBURGH over Virginia, Maryland, Boston College, and Temple.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Can Pitt basketball be a legitimate national championship contender in 2014?

Yes, we've been down this road before when projecting the future of Pitt basketball.  It's easy to always look at the best case scenario of every player and think that if every player reached their maximum potential, then the Panthers can be a top 5 team.  And if they are a top 5 team then they can be a legitimate national championship contender.  But for the first time since Charles Smith's senior year, there is a real chance that the pieces may finally fall in line enough that the program can have the season that puts Pitt in even more rarefied air.

The 1987-88 team led had two bonafide stars with Smith and Jerome Lane, as well as Sean Miller and Jason Matthews.  All four were in my top 20 Pitt players of the Big East era that I posted a few weeks ago, and Smith and Lane were in my top 50 Big East players of all-time that I wrote for the NBE Basketball Report a few years ago.  That team obviously failed despite those four excellent players but there's no doubt that the talent was there to go all the way.  

The only other legitimate Final Four contender in the last 25 years was the 2008-09 season when the Panthers came within a Scottie Reynolds last second shot of reaching the Final Four.  That team had two  big time stars in DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, and a good, solid point guard in Levance Fields.  However, as is often the case in programs that are a step below the North Carolinas and Dukes of the world, there was not enough behind those players and Pitt was one player short.  

But just to show you how fast things can change in college basketball, one year after Pitt's worst season in over a decade, things are suddenly looking very good.  In fact, if things fall the right way, the Panthers can legitimately be national championship contenders. And, unlike the past, the questions that need to be answered are all within reach.

First of all, let's look who will be here and where they will be in their college career.  Lamar Patterson will be a senior and could be one of the better all around players in the ACC, if not the country.  I'm not saying he will be a superstar but as a sophomore this season he averaged 9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 3.6 apg, while shooting 41.0% from three and 77.1% from the line.  He should only get better and he's already pretty good.  

Fellow senior J.J. Moore had many fans wondering if he was going to be a flop for much of this season, and for good reason.  Moore's forte was supposed to be his outside shot but he was shooting horribly for much of the season.  However, in his final 13 games, the sophomore hit double figures 9 times and averaged 10.5 ppg while shooting 41.7% from three and 77.5% from the line.  Like Patterson, he should only get better in two years.

A third senior will be Talib Zanna, who is making slow progress but should also be even better in his fourth year.  In the six games of the CBI, he averaged 10.2 ppg and 7.0 rpg while shooting an incredible 73.7% from the field.  Whether this means Zanna has arrived or if it was the weak competition of the CBI remains to be seen, but former Pitt assistant Tom Herrion, who recruited Zanna to Pitt, still tells me that he thinks Zanna has a ton of untapped potential.   

At guard there will be more experience.  Transfer Trey Zeigler will probably have to sit out a year so he will be ready to go in two years.  At 6'5", he has the size and athleticism that Pitt hasn't had at the position in many, many years.  He's not a three point shooter and his free throw shooting is abysmal, but he can drive and score, he is an excellent rebounder, and he can play defense.  His talent level is high and if Dixon can get him to live up to his potential, he will be an elite college player.  

His running mate at guard will be elite recruit James Robinson who will be in his second year in the program.  If he's not starting at the end of his freshman season he will still be playing a lot and learning the ropes.  However you want to look at it, Robinson should be ready to run the point full-time as a sophomore.  A smart, heady true point guard with a strong body, excellent passing skills, and solid defense, he should have no trouble running the point the way Dixon wants it run.  In fact, with talented offensive players like Patterson, Moore, and Zeigler, at the very least, his assist numbers as a sophomore should be very high.

So at the very least the Panthers should start five talented players, including three seniors and a fourth year junior.  That alone will make the Panthers a very good team, and quite possibly a top 10 team.  But there's one player that I haven't mentioned yet that is both the biggest question, and potentially the biggest answer.  And that's New Zealand center Steven Adams.

Pretty much everybody I've talked to expects Adams to leave for the NBA after one season.  Not because he's said that, but because 7-foot centers with good skills simply don't last long in college.  They are simply too coveted by the NBA.  I'm not saying that Adams will be ready for the NBA.  Most players, especially big guys, aren't ready for the NBA, but that doesn't stop them from going.  If a player has tantalizing potential, like Adams does, staying in college only has the potential to hurt his draft stock.  NBA general managers get seduced by potential and will take a chance on it.  If Adams is not great as a freshman it won't hurt him.  GMs understand that college freshmen aren't expected to be great. But a 7-footer who shows little as a sophomore will see his stock drop because now suddenly there are questions.  That's why almost all big men who can come out early do come out early.  

Of course there are exceptions.  Sometimes a player does stay when he can leave.  Adams may find college basketball too fun to leave.  Pitt should be good again next year and Adams may find the season incredibly fun.  And he has already shown an almost childlike appreciation of the Oakland Zoo.  He also seems overwhelmed by the attention high level high school basketball gets in this country, so going from little New Zealand to the NBA so quickly may be too much for him to take.  Maybe he decides that he loves playing in college, loves playing at Pitt, and wants to make it all last a little longer before he can no longer deny his destiny that many adults will no doubt try to hurry him in to.  

If Adams stays it's very possible he can be dominant in his sophomore year.  While it's somewhat true that the college game is a guards game it's mostly because few teams have a quality big man.  If Adams stays for his sophomore year he could give Pitt an immediate, and thorough, mismatch in the paint against every other team in the country.  

To be blunt, if Adams stays for a second year, Pitt has the potential to go all the way.  An experienced core?  Check.  Rebounding?  In droves.  Patterson, Adams, and Zanna are excellent rebounders and Zeigler and Robinson rebound much better than average for their respective positions.  The defense should be good with Adams, Zeigler, and Robinson all good defenders.  And I haven't even mentioned Malcolm Gilbert, who will be in his third season by then and is an excellent shot blocker.  Ball handling will also be better as this is Robinson's forte.  Three point shooting, even with Robinson and Zeigler, could be good with Moore and Patterson, along with three I haven't mentioned yet, John Johnson, who shot an impressive 38.4% from three, and the 6'6" duo of Durand Johnson and Chris Jones, both of whom are projected to be good three point shooters.  

Of course there are at least two players I haven't mentioned yet because they haven't committed to the Panthers yet.  Travon Woodall and Dante Taylor will be gone after next season and a 4/5 and a point guard is exactly what Pitt will need to be even better.  Much has been made about 6'7" Philadelphia power forward Savon Goodman, and if he does eventually commit to Pitt, then he will be a sophomore during the 2013-14 season, and he could also be an excellent player by this time.  A highly athletic and aggressive rebounder like Goodman would make Pitt vicious in the paint.  An athletic point guard to support Robinson is also something that Dixon is already looking for.  

Bottom line, the key is Adams.  Without him, the Panthers are a very good team that should win a lot of games.  But it would probably not be enough to reach the level of the elite programs.  What programs like Pitt needs is for everything to fall in place.  A transfer from a MAC player who just happens to be the elite shooting guard they've always needed.  A wunderkind from New Zealand of all places that Dixon almost literally stumbled upon while catching up with an old friend and teammate on the other side of the world.  Those are the kinds of serendipitous occurrences that Pitt needs to get to a higher level.  And maybe, just maybe, the cards will finally fall the right way for Dixon and Pitt.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Panthers land Zeigler

Jamie Dixon finally gets his big time shooting guard as Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler has decided to transfer to the Panthers.  The 6'5" Zeigler, once one of the top 30 prospects in the nation, will have two years of eligibility remaining.  He has petitioned the NCAA to play immediately since his father, Ernie, the Central Michigan when he committed, recently got fired.  Duke also offered Zeigler so it's quite a coup for the Panthers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Isaiah Epps to transfer

In one of the biggest non-shockers in history, guard Isaiah Epps will not continue his playing career at Pitt and will instead transfer to a school closer to home.  This currently leaves Pitt with one more scholarship to give.  Epps, a native of Plainfield, NJ, redshirted his first season, then averaged 5.4 minutes a game this season as a redshirt freshman.

One possible replacement could be Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler, formerly a top 30 prospect who chose to play for Central Michigan because his father, former Pitt assistant Ernie Ziegler, was the head coach.  Zeigler got fired a few weeks ago and now his son is looking to transfer.  The 6'5" SG/SF has shot poorly in his first two seasons but he is also a player of elite skills.  In fact, he has already visited Duke.