Myth: Jamie Dixon can't recruit
Fact: Dixon found a top 10 prospect from New Zealand in Steven Adams, hired ace recruiter Pat Skerry to bring in top 15 prospect Khem Birch, and has top 15 guard Mustapha Heron coming in 2016. If he lands Cheick Diallo for the 2015 class, and right now most predictions are he will, then Dixon will have eventually landed four top 15 prospects in six years. He also landed top 25 prospects Dante Taylor and Chris Taft, top 50 prospects DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, plus top 100 prospects James Robinson, Tyrell Biggs, Levance Fields, Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, Nasir Robinson, Talib Zanna, and Mike Young. He also has two top 75 caliber players coming in with Maverick Rowan in '16 and Damon Wilson in '15.
Then there are players not in the top 100 that were great additions. Jamel Artis and Josh Newkirk are current steals, and players like Durand Johnson, Cameron Wright, Lamar Patterson, Ashton Gibbs, Travon Woodall, Gary McGhee, Ronald Ramon, and Aaron Gray were lower ranked prospects that contributed greatly to a lot of wins.
Dixon held off the likes of Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Maryland for Taft after Ben Howland left for UCLA. He also won battles for Young (Georgetown), Blair (Florida and then powers Kansas State with Bob Huggins, Tennessee with Bruce Pearl, Indiana, and Florida, Taylor (UConn and Maryland), Birch (Arizona, UConn, Florida, Ohio State), Johnson (Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Maryland), Robinson (Georgetown, Virginia, Marquette, Notre Dame), Young (UConn, Florida, Memphis), and Newkirk (Arizona, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Missouri, NC State, Tennessee).
Myth: Jamie Dixon can't get players because his system won't let the players thrive offensively.
Fact: Not only do a lot of the great programs (Michigan State, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Ohio State, San Diego State, and wherever Ben Howland coaches as just a few examples) play the exact same style, but some of the best coaches ever (Bobby Knight, Rick Majors) used the same style. It's not the style. When he's had good offensive players they did well in this system, just like they do in the aforementioned schools.
Myth: Jamie Dixon concentrates too much on defense because having great defense doesn't even matter.
Fact: Top five teams in scoring defense in the regular season this year includes Virginia, Florida, San Diego State, and Arizona. All are in the Sweet 16. Three of the four are No. 1 seeds.
Myth: Pitt's offense was awful this year.
Fact: The Panthers played nine games against the top nine scoring defenses this year (Virginia twice, Syracuse twice, Clemson twice, Cincinnati, Florida, and Miami). Clemson gave up 57.9 ppg in scoring defense this season. Duke averaged 60.5 ppg in two against them but Pitt averaged 79.5 ppg. Does this mean Pitt's offense is better than Duke's offense? No, but it also shows that they were much better than people gave them credit for. They scored over 80 or more against Wake Forest twice, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame, Clemson, and North Carolina. Seven times Pitt scored 80 or more times in the ACC. By comparison, Syracuse, with two first rounders, did it once.
Myth: Jamie Dixon has had a lot of bad losses in the NCAA tournament.
Fact: Year by year, Dixon lost to No. 2 Oklahoma when Pitt was a No. 3, lost to No. 8 Pacific when Pitt was a No. 9, lost to No. 13 Bradley when Pitt was No. 5, lost to No. 2 UCLA when Pitt was No. 3, lost to No. 5 Michigan State when Pitt was No. 4, lost to No. 3 Villanova when Pitt was No. 1, lost to No. 6 Xavier when Pitt was No. 3, lost to No. 8 Butler when Pitt was No. 1, lost to No. 9 Wichita State when Pitt was No. 8, and lost to No. 1 Florida when Pitt was No. 9.
Six times Pitt lost to a team seeded higher then them, but that included a 5/4, 3/1, 6/3, and 9/8. The fifth was Butler, but when a team goes to back to back championship games I think it's obvious that they were better than Pitt, and just about every other team in those years. Butler beat Pitt by one point in a game that Pitt practically gave away, then Butler went on to beat 4 seed Wisconsin and 2 seed Florida. With the same team the year before Butler beat 1 seed Syracuse and 2 seed Kansas State. Anybody that thinks, in retrospect, that losing to Butler is a bad loss is just ignorant of the facts. That leaves Bradley as the lone bad loss.
Dixon did beat 4 seed Xavier when Pitt was a 1 seed, and 6 seed Wisconsin (in Wisconsin) when Pitt was a 3 seed, but a 2-4 record in games with a close seed is something that Dixon can be rightly criticized for.
Myth: Jamie Dixon won't let his offensive players shoot.
Fact: Lamar Patterson took the fourth most shots in the ACC this season. Ashton Gibbs took the third most shots in the Big East. Sam Young took the third most shots as a junior and the fourth most shots as a senior in the Big East. You get the point. When there's somebody on the team that can shoot, they will be allowed to shoot a lot. People complain that Mike Young is not allowed to shoot. No kidding. He's a freshman and the fifth option on the court this season. Of course he's not allowed to shoot a lot. If, and when, he starts hitting a lot of shots he will be allowed to shoot more.
Myth: Jamie Dixon recruits a lot of kids that don't pan out.
Fact: Do you know these names? Quentin Thomas, Wes Miller, Mike Copeland, Bobby Frasor, Justin Watts, Jackson Simmons, Stilman White and Luke Davis? Well, they were all scholarship players for North Carolina since Dixon has been Pitt's head coach. Every school has them.
Myth: Pitt's best days are behind them.
Fact: Pitt was a No. 1 seed and No. 1 team in the country for awhile just four years. After a CBI championship season, the Panthers are 50-19 overall, and 23-13 in the Big East and ACC over the last two seasons. They finished fourth in the Big East last season and fifth in the ACC this season. And this was with Dixon scrambling with the roster. With a very good young class of Newkirk, Artis, and Young, Sheldon Jeter about to join that class, and some highly rated prospects on the way, the future has never been brighter. Newkirk, Artis, Young, and Jeter will win a lot of games over the next three years, especially with players like Wilson, Heron, and Rowan, at least, joining them.
Myth: Jamie Dixon is not an excellent coach.
Fact: This one is just stupid. He was a No. 1 seed with Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs, Gilbert Brown, Nasir Robinson, and Gary McGhee being the starters. Case closed.
So what is Dixon's problems? The truth is, Dixon is probably a second from being in the Final Four, and a lot of the criticism of him would have gone away. He does seem to have a lot of bad luck. Last second losses to Villanova and Butler in the tournament, and having the misfortune of playing Butler and Wichita State, two mid-major programs that suddenly got excellent just as Pitt had to play them.
Some of it is also Dixon, obviously. While overall he is considered one of the best coaches in the country, and rightfully so, he needs to do a better job of landing all of the pieces at the same time. His best team was when he had two excellent players at the same time in Blair and Young, and a third who wasn't at their level but had a lot of heart in Levance Fields. But after that there was not much else. The shooting guard was Jermaine Dixon, who was just okay, and shot just 29.4% from three, not even close to the ideal number for a starting two guard on a Final Four team. The power forward was Tyrell Biggs who averaged just 6.4 ppg and 4.3 rpg. In other words, Pitt was one player short. Just having good players at those positions would have helped Pitt get even further They didn't have to be all-stars. The top reserves were then sophomores Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown, and freshman Ashton Gibbs, none of whom were ready to make a major contribution.
I get criticized sometimes for projecting a Pitt team where everything goes right, but the truth is, that is how you go to a Final Four or win a National Championship. It does happen for some teams and while some of it is luck, you can sometimes make your own luck too. Dixon could not have prevented Adams from leaving early or Johnson tearing his ACL, and if those things don't happen then Pitt would probably be at least a Sweet 16 team. But at the same time he has to sometimes take a chance on a DeAndre Kane or land a current transfer like Nolan Cressler.
A senior class with Newkirk, Artis, Young, Jeter, and Cressler, to go with young elite players like Wilson, Diallo, Heron, and Rowan? Maybe that will happen, maybe it won't. Some of it will be out of Dixon's control, but he also has to do his best to make sure it happens, because sooner or later the perfect mix of players will be there for Dixon, and when it does he has to make sure that he capitalizes on that moment.