Wednesday, January 28, 2015

NCAA tournament wins since Jamie Dixon has coached Pitt

North Carolina 29
Florida 26
Kansas 26
UConn 26
Kentucky 24
Duke 23
Louisville 23
Michigan State 23
Wisconsin 17
Memphis 16
Syracuse 15
Arizona 14
Butler 14
Villanova 13
Xavier 13
Pittsburgh 12
Ohio State 12
Texas 12
West Virginia 12
Gonzaga 11
Tennessee 11
Illinois 10
Michigan 10
Marquette 9
Baylor 8
Georgetown 8
Purdue 8
Washington 8
Georgia Tech 7
North Carolina State 7
Oklahoma State 7
Wichita State 7
Indiana 6
Kansas State 6
Oregon 6
Texas A&M 6
Boston College 5
Cincinnati 5
George Mason 5
Iowa State 5
Maryland 5
Oklahoma 5
San Diego State 5
Stanford 5
Vanderbilt 5
Alabama 4
Brigham Young 4
Dayton 4
Missouri 4
Wake Forest 4
Florida State 3
Miami 3
Mississippi State 3
Southern Cal 3
Texas Tech 3
Virginia 3
Washington State 3
California 2
Notre Dame 2
South Florida 2
Temple 2
Utah 2
Arizona State 1
Arkansas 1
Clemson 1
DePaul 1
Minnesota 1
Mississippi 1
Seton Hall 1
Virginia Tech 1
Auburn 0
Georgia 0
Iowa 0
Nebraska 0
Northwestern 0
Oregon State 0
Penn State 0
Providence 0
Rutgers 0
South Carolina 0
St. John's 0

Only 16 schools have had more tournament wins than Pitt while Dixon has been the coach.

There are 351 Division 1 basketball teams. Dixon has won more NCAA tournament games than 95.4% of Division 1 basketball teams.

Dixon has won as many NCAA tournament games as 22 schools from the the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big 10, Pac-12, Big 12, and SEC combined.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ben DiNucci is a Panther

The Panthers have added 6'3" 195 pound quarterback Ben DiNucci today. Dance, of Pine-Richland HS in Gibsonia, PA, originally committed to Penn, but the new staff quickly offer him a scholarship when they took over. DiNucci was the Quad A player of the year int he state of PA this year so his production is obviously well known. He also has the size, arm, smarts, and leadership ability to be a P5 quarterback.  His greatest traits, however, are his accuracy and touch. With three years or so of developing, DiNucci has an excellent chance to be a very good quarterback in his redshirt junior season- maybe even sooner.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

More speed for the Panthers defense

Pat Narduzzi and his defensive staff wants speed, speed, and more speed, and today he added more of it when 6'2" 205 pound linebacker Saleem Brightwell of Paramus Catholic HS in Paramus, NJ committed to the Panthers. Brightwell visited the campus this weekend. Like Anthony McKee, another linebacker that committed a few days ago, Brightwell is fast and athletic, and both could see time immediately as freshman. Another linebacker that visited as the same time as Brightwell this weekend, Adrienne Talan of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, did not commit, but it's believed that the Panthers have a good shot of landing him eventually. The former Oregon State commit is visiting Temple next week. As for Brightwell, his offer list also included Miami, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Duke, Missouri, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Boston College, and Iowa.

Brightwell is the second player who visited this week that committed, the other being 6'3" 250 pound defensive end Allen Edwards of Dean JC in Franklin, MA. The three players that visited, but did not commit yet, are 6'3" 195 pound quarterback Ben DiNucci of Pine-Richland HS in Gibsonia, PA, 6'5" 280 pound offensive lineman Zach Hoyt of Salem (VA) HS, and 6'1" 195 pound wide receiver Gentry Ivery of Mansfield (TX) Legacy HS. There's a good chance that all three could end up committing to the Panthers soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Panthers land a top LB

The new Panthers staff has had three good additions on defense thus far, one for each unit. The latest is 6'2" 195 pound linebacker Anthony McKee of Marion-Franklin HS in Columbus, OH. Obviously McKee is small for a linebacker so he will need to add a lot of weight in college, but he's also very fast with great range. His other offers included Oklahoma, Michigan State, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Panthers add two on defense

The commitments are starting to pour in for the new Panthers staff today. First, Coatesville (PA) HS safety Jay Stocker gave Pat Narduzzi his commitment. The 6'2" 185 pound Stocker needs to add size, but he has excellent range and he can really hit. He is a perfect fit in Narduzzi's defense which values coverage ability and toughness in his safeties. Stocker chose Pitt over, among others, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Duke, Maryland, Virginia, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and Cincinnati.

Not long after Stocker's commitment, Narduzzi followed up by adding Shawn Curtis of Ronald Reagan Doral HS in Miami, FL. The 6'3" 250 pound Curtis will most likely play defensive end. His other offers include Wisconsin, Duke, Mississippi State, Illinois, and UCF.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Who the new Pitt staff is looking out

This is obviously a very fluid list, but here is who the new Pitt staff is showing interest in for this class and beyond so far.

Quarterback: With Alex Hornibrook de-committed, the Panthers are in pursuit of at least one quarterback. I suspect that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will go all out for a big time quarterback  in '16, but for now he's trying to add depth with somebody that also has a chance to develop into a possible starter down the road. The Quad A state player of the year Ben DiNucci is the player that many have wondered about for months. He's 6'3" so he's big enough, he has amazing accuracy and touch, and he's been unbelievably productive against some of the best talent in high school. Offensive coordinate Jim Chaney worked him out yesterday and then offered him. Even though he is committed to Penn he will visit the Panthers soon. Other than DiNucci, no other quarterbacks have been made public yet but it's safe to say that Chaney is looking at others.

Running Back: The unit is pretty loaded right now so it's not surprising that the staff hasn't been looking at anybody- at least that we know of. In the '16 class, I suspect the staff will try for a big timer. Those kinds of running backs want to start right away and Pitt could sell them on taking over for James Conner, who presumably will go to the NFL after next year. Of course Chris James and Darrin Hall are still on the roster but they won't be returning starters so a new running back can be convinced that he can start right away.

As for '16, one of the first players that Narduzzi followed on Twitter was Woodland Hills star Miles Sanders, but Sanders seems to be obsessed with Penn State, who he committed to many months ago. But the Nittany Lions are loading up on elite running backs, so you never know if he may want to look around. His high school teammate, Jo-El Shaw, was offered by the previous staff, and I'm guessing that he will be offered by the new staff, too. He's already built like an NFL player and could be a very good addition. Aliquippa's Kaezon Pugh is a big time talent and I personally always thought that he would end up at Pitt. With the new staff I am even more confident of it. He could also project as a linebacker  so it will be interesting to see which way he goes.

Wide Receiver: Adonis Jennings recently transferred and outside of Tyler Boyd, who will probably go the the NFL after next season, there are a lot of question marks. The Panthers recently offered 6'3" 215 pound Tavin Richardson of South Carolina, and are interested in 6'1" 175 pound Dallas native Kedarian Jones. Neither are speed demons but Richardson has great size and Jones catches everything in sight, many of them in an acrobatic fashion. Today the Panthers offered Florida Atlantic commit Jawuan Harris, who at 5'10" and 185 pounds is a slot receiver.

In 2016 the staff will need to add a big time wide receivers class, and that may include Clairton big receiver Aaron Matthews. I'd be very surprised of the Panthers don't eventually land him. CJ Riley of Florida is another 6'4" receiver that the Panthers will target.

Tight End: As long as Nate Bowers stays with his Pitt commitment the unit will be good for the foreseeable future, but expect the staff to try to add another big timer in '16 even if Bowers sticks. If he doesn't stick then it will obviously be much more important. Look for Woodland Hills TE Stephen Puhl to be a big target in '16.

Offensive Line: This is a pretty loaded unit for the staff at the moment, so much so that the new staff turned their back on former recruit Rob Dowdy, who has major offers. New offensive line coach John Peterson started following local prospect Tyler Hudanick, even though he recently committed to Central Florida. Hudanick is a mauler who I've also liked so we will see if Pitt tries a late steal with him.

In 2016, local Brandon Ford should be a target and in 2017 Josh Lugg of North Allegheny and Robert Hainsey of Gateway will be huge targets. Narduzzi already follows Lugg and Hainsey on twitter.

Defensive Line: Showing that the new staff gets it, this is one of the more suspect units on the team and they are hitting it hard in recruiting. Philadelphia defensive end Shareef Miller is the big prize this year and the Panthers have to battle Penn State, Arizona State, and Florida to get him. He visited under the previous staff, and he loved Pitt, but he tends to love everywhere he goes so it's hard to tell exactly where Pitt stands. He also said great things about the new staff and has met new defensive line coach Tom Sims, who he really likes, and today he is scheduled to meet Narduzzi.

Purdue commit Eddy Wilson was recruited to the Boilermakers by new Pitt WR coach Kevin Sherman so a switch to the Panthers may be in the cards. At 6'4" and 265 pounds, the tackle is very quick and aggressive. So is Florida native Brian Bembry, who new defensive coordinator Josh Conklin was recruiting at FIU. He has not committed to anybody and will visit Pittsburgh soon.

The staff will also check out big Aliquippa defensive tackle Arrington Gipson, who at 6'3" and 300 pounds certainly has the size. Florida native Shawn Curtis has good size at 6'3" and 250 pounds, and he recently visited the Panthers. He was recruited previously by both the past Pitt staff and Conklin and Hardy at FIU. He is being recruited as an end.

In 2016, the Panthers will be all over two elite national recruits in 6'4" 240 pound Khalid Kareem, and 6'1" 250 pound Malik Barrow. Kareem is from Michigan and he recently visited Pittsburgh. The Pitt staff wants him very much. The same goes with the Florida native, Barrow. Expect the staff to go all out on both.

Inside the state, 6'4" 250 pound Philadelphia end Karamo Dioubate will be a national recruit and while the new staff hasn't been connected to him yet, consider it a sure thing that they will go after him hard.

At tackle, 6'3" 280 pound Ohio native Jake Saunders already holds a new offer from the Pitt staff and his aggressiveness falls in line with what Narduzzi is clearly looking for.

Linebacker: This is another unit that needs an influx of top talent, and luckily for the Panthers I see new LB coach Rob Harley as a potential ace recruiter. The unit can get better in a real hurry if they can land 6'2" 200 pound Ohio native Anthony McKee, and 6'2" 205 pound New Jersey native Salem Brightwell. Both will be hard gets because the competition is tough, and both may beed a year to get bigger and stronger, but both also have a lot of potential because they can fly. Another offer just today went out to 6'2" 205 pound Florida linebacker Adrienne Talan who originally committed to Oregon State, but opened up his recruitment again after Mike Riley went to Nebraska.

In 2016, expect Harley to try for the best linebackers he can get. Kentucky commit Roland Walder is somebody that Pitt may try to flip. Ohio linebacker Griffin Grady is only 6'2" and 200 pounds but he's a tough football player. The previous staff offered him but the new staff appears to be interested, too.

Defensive Backs: The new staff is adding to this unit a lot since the new defense will require a special kind of cornerback. One of the better ones the new staff has gotten involved with is 6'1" 185 pound Florida cornerback Kenyatta Anderson. He has the size, speed, and tenacity to fit in very well in Narduzzi's defense. Another Florida corner, Trenard Davis, also has good athleticism and 6'0" 190 pound size.

At safety, PA stars Jay Stocker and Johnny Petrishen have been involved with Pitt all year, and the new staff has continued to put the full court press on both. If the Panthers can land both, that would be huge for the position. Syracuse commit Marquise Blair is somebody that the staff appears to be trying to flip.

Two locals, cornerback Damar Hamlin, and safety Khaleke Hudson, will be major Panther targets in 2016, and of course in 2017 there is cornerback Lamont Wade and safety Paris Ford. With Conklin coaching safeties, former longtime NFL cornerback Renaldo Hill coaching the corners, and Narduzzi a defensive backs master, this unit has the potential to be amazing if they simply keep the locals at home.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pitt coaching staff (Updated 1-20)

I will update this as more names come out.

Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks- Pat Narduzzi pulled off a coup by stealing the offensive mind behind the Arkansas Razorbacks. The 53-year old Missouri native was first an offensive coordinator at Purdue under Joe Tiller from 1997-2005. He and Tiller developed one of the first widely used spread offenses at a major college program. After a three years with the St. Luis Rams he became the offensive coordinator for the University of Tennessee. He was hired by Lane Kiffin but stayed on under Derek Dooley after Kiffin left for USC. There he helped Tyler Bray break school records. It was here that Chaney incorporated an offense that was more of a Pro Style, but also was very explosive. After four years at Tennessee, Chaney moved on to Arkansas where he was for the last two years. There it was believed that his style clashed with head coach Bret Bielema who wanted his offense more run heavy. Chaney wanted to blend a high powered passing attack with an excellent running game. Chaney is also an excellent recruiter, especially of quarterbacks.

Andre Powell, Running Backs/Special Teams- As of now, all we know is that he has been hired as the special teams coach, but he's also been a successful running back coach for many years, almost all of them in the ACC. He's coming from Maryland, but before that he did stints at Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia so he's been in the ACC every year since 1997, except for last season with Maryland. As a running back coach he's coached CJ Spiller, Thomas Jones, and Tiki Barber, so that's pretty impressive. As a special teams coach he led Maryland to a No. 6 special teams ranking nationally this past year. He also recruited Maryland's top return man, as well as star cornerback, Will Likely, who came from recruiting hotbed Belle Glade, FL. To get Likely Powell had to beat out Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, LSU, USC, and Oregon to name just a few. In the last nine years he has landed six 4-star recruits. Besides Likely, that also includes former Clemson star WR DeAndre Hopkins. As a player at Indiana he was the fullback for legendary running back Anthony Thompson. He's 48-years old.

John Peterson, Offensive Line- Came from Akron where he was the offensive line coach and assistant head coach under Terry Bowden. Petersen is in his mid-40s and graduated from Ohio State. It's there where he was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for Jim Tressel from 2004-2011. That, plus the fact that he's an Ohio native should help the Panthers land some quality Ohio kids from time to time. Prior to his one season at Akron, Peterson spent two years coaching the offensive line at UAB.

Kevin Sherman, Wide Receivers- The 46-year old Virginia native comes from Purdue where he coached the last two years. Prior to that, he was at Virginia Tech for seven years. The combination of experience and Virginia recruiting ties appears to make it a good fit.

Tim Salem, Tight Ends- Another longtime veteran, the Minnesota native is most known for being the quarterbacks coach at Ohio State under John Cooper, as well as the offensive coordinator at Central Florida. Most recently he spent two years at Illinois where he coached the running backs and special teams. While he's coached quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers in his career, he's also coached tight ends during his last three years at Central Florida. He's not known as being a productive recruiter, but when somebody with this pedigree is your tight end coach, then you have a really good staff.

Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Safeties- The 35-year old Wyoming native is considered one of the best young minds in college football. He actually sought Narduzzi out when he became the defensive coordinator at Florida International because he wanted to emulate Narduzzi's style. Now he has the chance to learn from the master. Last season at Florida International he led the Golden Panthers to a No. 35 total defense ranking after being No. 94 the previous year. His aggressive style also helped FIU to be No. 4 in the country in takeaways. Many big time programs wanted him this year but when you have one of, if not the best, defensive mind in college football as the head coach, the top guys want to learn from him. A big time coup for Pitt.

Tom Sims, Defensive Line- The former Panthers defensive tackle returns home after spending the last four years at Youngstown State as the defensive line coach as well as the assistant head coach. before that he coached at Kansas, Illinois, and Minnesota. He's very gregarious and charismatic, which should help him on the recruiting trail. He also played seven years in the NFL, which also helps.

Rob Harley, Linebackers- The former Ohio State safety has only been a major college assistant for one year, and that was this past season at Florida International. Prior to that he was a graduate assistant for two years under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. He's pretty young, around 32 or so, but like Conklin he's already considered one of the better young assistants in the country. Also, like Conklin, you'd expect that he picked up some south Florida recruiting connections in his short stay.

Renaldo Hill, Cornerbacks- The 36-year old Detroit native played cornerback at Michigan State before Narduzzi was there, but after being taken in the 7th round of the NFL draft he played 10 years in the league, and started most of the games he played (114 of 141). He has only been a coach for two years, both at Wyoming, but his youth, Michigan connections, and vast pro experience makes him an ideal choice.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thoughts for 2015

This past weekend was horrible for Pittsburgh sports fans, but the truth is, things are looking up at Pitt. Anybody that follows me knows that I am not a homer. I have criticized Jamie Dixon for his recruiting and have said that he needs to break through to the Final Four before he's considered a great coach. And I've trashed the Pitt football program for many years because they've underachieved.

I consider myself a realist, so these following comments are how I see things realistically. I am not writing them to be positive. When I see other Pitt writers continually act like cheerleaders it makes me a little nauseous. No, these thoughts are positive because that's how I feel about Pitt football and (with a more weary eye) Pitt basketball.

Pitt Football

1.  Mark Nordenberg was a great guy who did wonders for the university as a whole. Unfortunately, he was blinded by his allegiance to former athletic director Steve Pederson for some strange reason. His sweetheart deal to Pederson has been discussed so let's move on to the fact that new chancellor Patrick Gallagher seems to know what he's doing.

Gallagher fired Pederson almost immediately, eating his large contract to boot. It showed awareness, smarts, and aggressiveness. At least with a small sample size he seems like exactly the kind of leader that Pitt athletics has needed for decades.

2.  With Pederson gone, the university will now have a new athletic director. Even though we don't know who it is yet, with Gallagher leading the way I am optimistic that it will be an improvement over the divisive Pederson.

3.  From sources I have heard that the budget has increased to "a very competitive level". That does not mean that Pitt is on par with the football factories, but I'm told that it's enough to compete with pretty much everybody outside of the top 10-15 programs. Even better I'm told that boosters are very encouraged by what's happening and are not against going higher should the program take off. Which is usually the case. The football factories get a lot of money from boosters because they win a lot, which makes people happy, and then they want to pay money to keep that feeling going.

4.  There's a new sheriff in town and his name is Pat Narduzzi. Of course the suicidally depressed faction of Pitt fandom will say they've seen this before, but to be blunt, those people are clueless. No, this guy hasn't been a head coach yet, and there's also some trepidation because of that, but if there's anybody that was born to be a head coach it's this guy.

Narduzzi's dad was a college head coach, he's been the right hand man for one of the best head coaches in the country for the past eleven years, and he's practically had head coaching duties for half  of the Michigan State team for many years. Some coordinators work under the head coach. Narduzzi was left on his own. The result was that he was probably the best defensive coordinator in the country.

Narduzzi does not appear to be Paul Hackett, Foge Fazio, or Paul Chryst, three men who became head coaches basically because they were excellent coordinators and it was the next logical step. Narduzzi is excellent in the X's and Os, but he also has the gravitas that the great head coaches do. Players not only want to play for him, but they will do anything to please him. They love him, they respect him, and they believe in him.

I keep hearing about the "losing culture" for Pitt football, and that's ridiculous. First of all, in the last fifteen years the program has had only five losing seasons so there's hardly a losing culture. Yes, there's been embarrassing events that the program has undergone in the past, but they've still won more than they've lost.

It's the fans and the media that talk about ridiculous things like a Pitt curse, but take it from somebody that's interviewed high school prospects for twelve years, these kids don't think like that. They are much more resilient, and much more positive, than cynical and bitter adults. They think that wherever they are they are going to win big. And for Pitt, I can guarantee you that as soon as they talked to Narduzzi, they though they were going to win big at Pitt. They don't harp on lost leads or fleeing coaches. Unlike the rest of us they have short memories. I even talked to recruits that were considering Penn State literally a month after the rape scandal and they didn't even think about it. If they didn't think about something like that, then Pitt's problems are minuscule by comparison.

5.  There's every reason to believe that Narduzzi will have an excellent staff to support him. He wouldn't take the job until he had the budget to compete at a high level, and he went on record saying that he has that. The money is there and Narduzzi is very highly respected in the coaching community. People are lining up to work with him. This is obviously very different than Paul Chryst's staff. One of his biggest weaknesses was his terrible staff hirings.

6.  Narduzzi, an excellent staff, and the area, means the recruiting should be the best it's been in a long time. Dave Wannstedt had recruiting classes in the 25-30 range. I see no reason why Narduzzi doesn't at least do that well, and quite possibly better. It's actually easier to recruit to Pitt than Michigan State because of the geography. His reputation alone should enable him to recruit his share of elite defensive recruits.

7.  Pitt's youth is beneficial in many ways. In just a general sense, Pitt had the youngest team in the country this year and common sense should tell you that most of the players will get better every year. In a more narrow sense, the defensive players won't have to unlearn a lot. Narduzzi and his staff can form them the way he wants, and if he can't do it, then nobody can.

8.  The defense could get good in a hurry. I know I will lose many people here because the bowl game is still in their mind but the Pitt defense is usually at least pretty solid, if not good. They weren't good this year but they weren't as awful as many think either. I would call them average for the most part but that's a step or two up from terrible at least.

While the transitional period with a new coach sometimes makes a unit go backwards, I think it would be pretty shocking if that happened with Narduzzi on defense. And make no mistake about it, there is some talent on that side of the ball.

Narduzzi likes his cornerbacks to be athletic and press at the line of scrimmage. Jordan Whitehead seems like an ideal fit, and Titus Howard, Avonte Maddox, Phillipie Motley, and early entrant Malik Henderson looks like players that Narduzzi can really make something out of. And safeties Reggie Mitchell, Terrish Webb, and Patrick Amara have the coverage skills at safety that Narduzzi requires also. And we have to assume that Jay Stocker and/or Johnny Petrishen could sign and be in that safety mix, too.

On the defensive line, one of the weakest parts of the entire team was the pass rush, or lack thereof. But imagine the potential of Rori Blair and Luke Maclean with Narduzzi's coaching. Would anybody be surprised if Blair had 10 sacks next year? He had 5 as a true freshman as a reserve. Both starting tackles are back, and Justin Moody, Jeremiah Taleni, and Connor Dintino are intriguing young talents behind them.

At linebacker, both Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez are gone, but that's probably a good thing. Not that they weren't solid players, but now Narduzzi can concentrate on the faster, younger players in the unit. Kevin Givens, if he sticks at linebacker, has the potential to be a future star. Bam Bradley and Nicolas Grigsby move very well so Narduzzi has something to work with, and youngsters Jamal Davis, James Folston, and Quintin Wirginis should excel under Narduzzi.

8.  The offense is already very good and, barring injury, should be good again next year. There's always a worry that the players on offense will have a hard transition to a new staff. But superstars James Conner and Tyler Boyd are two players whose talents seem pretty foolproof.  Chad Voytik should only get better, the offensive line, despite losing TJ Clemmings and Matt Rotheram, looks like it's going to be a strength for the foreseeable future, and all of the tight ends are back. Maybe they'll even get thrown to now, too. Throw in the fact that Chris James has star quality, and Adonis Jennings and incoming freshman Quadree Henderson should really help to complement Boyd.

Pitt Basketball

1. I find it very disheartening that so many people are ready to throw Jamie Dixon under the bus so quickly even though he's known around the country as one of the best basketball coaches in the country. Does he have to do better in the NCAA tournament? Yes. Does he need to land more elite prospects? Yes. But he's also been extremely productive in his career.

I've constantly been hearing that the program is done under Dixon. Let's get this straight. If you end up in the top 10 for a few years, and then don't, that doesn't mean that your program is done. It means it's hard to be in the top 10 every year.

Let's not forget that just four years ago Pitt was ranked No. 1 in the country and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. In the two years prior to this season, they finished fourth in the Big East and fifth in the ACC. Not only is that not disastrous, it's something that all but a small percentage of teams of teams would kill for.

This year's team is weak for three reasons- they are young, they don't have a legit center, and Durand Johnson was suspended. The latter may be the biggest hindrance to a good season, and that was not Dixon's fault. The other two was his fault, because he did not manage the roster correctly, but that happens to a lot of teams. In the last decade Syracuse, beginning just two years after they won the national championship, lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament twice in a row, then went to the NIT twice in a row. The point being, sometimes through fault of your own, and sometimes through no fault of your own, your roster gets out of whack. It doesn't mean you are going to be out of whack in the future. The good thing about basketball is that your roster can good very quickly.

2.  This current team is young. Very young. I think a lot of people forget about that. The top nine teams on the team are Cameron Wright, James Robinson, Michael Young, Jamel Artis, Josh Newkirk, Chris Jones, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Cam Johnson. Only Wright is a senior, and only Robinson is a junior. That means seven of the top nine players are sophomores or freshmen.

3.  The young players are improving. Last year Young averaged 6.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg. This year he's averaging 13.6 ppg and 8.0 rpg.  That's pretty good for a sophomore that's forced to play as an undersized talent. Artis averaged 4.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg last year. This year he's averaging 9.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg. Last year Jones averaged 2.4 ppg and this year he's averaging 8.9 ppg.  That's three sophomores that made big strides this year. It doesn't take much of an imagination to think that over the next two years they will continue to improve.

4. Help is on the way. Not only is Durand Johnson expected back, which alone is huge, but Cam Johnson and Luther should be much bigger factors. Incoming freshman Damon Wilson should help at point guard and giant junior college center Rozelle Nix merely has to be competent to  make the team significantly better. A player of his size will prevent teams from continually driving into the lane and will also let Young move to power forward. And I expect to see at least one more player in this class.

5.  Recruiting has lacked the elite player for the past few classes, but that doesn't mean things will continue that way. Admittedly they better or Dixon will find it more difficult to get back into that top 10 range, but as of now he has top 25 prospect Mustapha Heron on the way in the 2016 class. He's also had top 5 center Cheick Diallo visit three times and top 25 big man Alonzo Spellman visit twice. Both have Pitt on their final list. These are some of the big names but the Panthers are involved in many more quality players. We'll see if Dixon, Brandin Knight, and Marlon Williamson can land any of them and if Heron sticks with his commitment. If they can then the Panthers will combine them with their soon to be veterans and the roster will get better very quickly.