PG- James Robinson, So.- The freshman was every bit as good as I thought he would be in his first season and he will only get better. His shooting is not great, and will probably never be great, but it should improve next season. And with Woodall no longer in the backcourt, I suspect that Robinson will look for his shot a little more. But scoring will never be his forte. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, he uses his strong body, good quickness, and natural instincts to be an excellent defender. On offense, he is smart already and with more experience he should be even a better quarterback as a sophomore. Bottom line, scoring wasn't always the forte of Mark Jackson when he was at St. John's either. I'm not saying that Robinson will be as good as one of the best point guards in history, but anybody who has his defensive and quarterback skills at the degree he has already, should be a star sooner rather than later. Expect him to be nationally recognized next season as one of the best point guards in the country.
SG- Cameron Wright, Jr.- Looked totally lost many times as a redshirt freshman, but this season he made major strides. In fact, he's already reached the level that many suspected he wouldn't reach until he was a senior. I don't seem him ever being a big time player, and he's certainly not the perimeter player that the program has desperately needed year after year, but he's a long 6'4", plays very good defense, has excellent athleticism, and is improving as a scorer. He's played slightly less that Trey Zeigler this season, but Zeigler is terrible with his outside shot and from the free throw line. With Robinson not a major offensive threat, pairing him with Robinson for long periods of time could be the kiss of death. For that reason, Wright may be the best of a less than scintillating lot.
C- Steven Adams, So.- I have no doubts at all that Adams would be a first round pick if he decides to leave for the NBA draft after this season, but I also doubt that he is going to leave. And I think by the way the Panthers are recruiting, they clearly expect him to be back, too. That's great news for the program because I think the 7'0" New Zealand native is going to make huge strides next season. He does have some weaknesses that he clearly needs to work on. I doubt that his 42% free throw shooting will improve enough to be a strength, but the rest of his weaknesses should strengthen a lot in his second season. A man of his size simply needs to rebound better than 6.2 rpg, but I think that is mostly mental for Adams. He is a very strong young man who usually doesn't play strong. He continually gets pushed around by smaller players and gets stripped way too often. But when Adams decides to get aggressive, he flashes the greatness he has inside. But he is not aggressive very often, and I believe that mainly has to do with being new not only to American basketball, but also America itself. More time getting accumulated to the country, and high level basketball, should do wonders for his game. Like Robinson, I expect him to become a player who will get a lot of buzz in his sophomore year.
PF- Talib Zanna, Sr.- Along with Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore, he is the team leader in fan disappointment. He tantalizes with NBA talent at times, but then disappears at other times. Zanna has had rebounding games of 19, 12, 10, and 10 this season, and also had 9 rebounds three more times. Yet he still, at 6'9" and 230 pounds, is averaging only 6.1 rbg. That means he disappears a lot, too, and as a senior that's going to have to stop. Especially since Taylor will not be there to give him experienced support down low. At the beginning of this season it looked like Zanna has broken through to another level. It didn't happen, and now I have serious doubts that it will happen next year either, but as long as he's more consistent as a senior he will be a major help.
SF- Lamar Patterson, Sr.- The second of the third disappointments, and I say that relatively since all three are obviously solid players. It's just that Patterson is another player in the program that is not consistent with his aggressiveness and that prevents him from reaching a higher level. Not an above the rim athlete, but he's a muscular 6'5" and 220 pounds, he can sometimes light it up from the outside, and he is an excellent passer. Like Zanna, it's becoming apparent that he probably won't be a star, but if he simply plays with consistent aggressiveness, which for him usually displays itself by passing up on open shots, he could be an even better all around role player.
F- J.J. Moore, Sr.- Now a senior, Moore is probably the most underachieving player on the team, but a lot of that is because he is also one of the most naturally talented players on the roster. An extremely athletic 6'6' and 220 pounds, Moore can flat out shoot at times, but needs to be more consistent as evidenced by his 34% three point shooting this season. He is also shooting an excellent 81.5% from the line. His numbers have improved every season, but not by a lot, and he's down to his last year to reach the lofty level that was once expected of him.
G- Trey Zeigler, Sr.- Once a star at Central Michigan, but upon his arrival at Pitt, he quickly realized that high level basketball is a different story. He has no outside shot at all, he's a terrible free throw shooter, and he's only average defensively and as a ball handler. That's a lot of weaknesses. But he sometimes drives very well and he can score when he is slashing. If he's starting, the Panthers may be in trouble next season, but if he's used in the right way, he could at least not be a detriment to the team. In the last seven games of this season, he never scored more than 2 points so that's not a good sign.
F- Durand Johnson, So.- A 6'6" sharpshooter whose sometimes excellent three point shooting is really all he can contribute. He is highly athletic so if he adds slashing to his game, his offensive game could be much better. But he must improve the rest of his game or he will have a career of being just a designated shooter.
G- Chris Jones, Fr.- Was redshirted this season, but his potential is intriguing. He can legitimately play the two at 6'6" which already is a major plus. He has great length and good athleticism, and he has potential with his shooting, defense, and ball handling even though he has yet to play a game. Obviously he's a real wildcard for this season and beyond.
F- Mike Young, Fr.- An incoming 6'8" freshman who will see time. He can bang in the paint, but he has expanded his game recently to be a legitimate three point threat, which obviously is a major plus for a power forward. I don't expect him to make a major impact, but he will likely show flashes throughout the season as he learns what it takes to play big time basketball.
G- Josh Newkirk, Fr.- A 6'2" combo guard who could see see more time at the two later in his career because of Robinson, but may have to backup Robinson some at the point as a freshman. That's obviously not ideal to have such youth at the point in the ACC. But he's a crazy athlete who can dunk on anybody, and has beep beep speed, while also improving his shot a lot over the past year. Will see time and should help a little.
Summary: With four starters returning, one would have to be excited about next year. Woodall and Taylor will be losses, but neither are indispensable. There are weaknesses. Transfers have done a number on the program and there are question marks at shooting guard and backup point guard. Two more players are possibly being added in this class, but it's unlikely that either will be a player who could make a huge difference next season.
There are two things that have to happen for Pitt to be a power next season. One, Zanna, Patterson, and Moore have to come up big in their senior season and stop being inconsistent. I doubt that any will be a breakout star next season but by showing senior leadership in effort and consistency, the team will be much better.
The second major thing that has to happen is that Adams and Robinson have to make major strides as sophomores. The good news is that it would be more surprising if they didn't make that jump. But neither will probably score a lot next season. And with nobody else likely to be a big scorer, the Panthers are going to have to win next year like they do this year, with rebounding and defense. If Adams and Robinson make that jump, then the defense and rebounding will be even better next year because both have great potential on defense and Adams could be a 10 rpg player if he realizes that he has that ability. And if you have a strong center and point guard, you are going to win a lot of games. What may prevent the team from being one of the best in the nation, however, could once again be the lack of a consistently explosive scorer. Past Panther teams could overcome that to a certain extent because they were so consistent in defense and rebounding, and had an efficient offense. This bunch, however, has not yet shown that they can play at that same level. Consistent seniors and Adams and Robinson turning into stars is the best, possible scenario for the Panthers next season.