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October 24, 2012

Exhibition Basketball Soon

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 1:58 pm

Geez, the first exhibition basketball season for Pitt is on Friday. The season is almost upon us. A ton of links to start clearing out.

You know, after back-to-back trips to Birmingham for football and winning the CBI last year, the only-half-joking point was that those events should serve as an example and motivator to the teams for what not to let happen to the season (“If Pitt wins, the trophy can go right into storage. Only to be brought out as a reminder to the players at the start of next season — this is not the goal.”). Apparently, Coach Jamie Dixon did want to use the CBI experience as such a motivator:

The Panthers had only a CBI Tournament title to show for last season. A photo of the nearly empty Petersen Events Center at the first-round game against Wofford was hung in the locker room last March with a message to the players, reading, in effect: “This is what happens when you miss the NCAA Tournament.”

I just hope this means the CBI trophy is locked in some old storage closet.

Rebounding from a disappointing season for Pitt is one of the themes.

“It was embarrassing,” said junior forward Lamar Patterson.

And now it’s over.

Pitt isn’t focused on this season being one of redemption as much as transition. The Panthers are leaving the Big East for the ACC next summer and Woodall plans to leave the conference the same way he came in, with a league title.

“That’s what our goal always is,” Woodall said. “I think we’ve got the depth this year where we think we can do it.”

It’s only October, sure, but even Dixon is surprisingly optimistic. Following a season in which nothing seemed to go right and he had to scrape some nights to find 10 healthy bodies to practice, he’s eagerly accepted the job of trying to figure out how to get 15 guys on the floor.

“We’ve got good size,” Dixon said. “And we’re going to have the versatility to play a couple different ways defensively and do some things that we have in the past. We’ve got to be the best defensive team in the conference. That’s what we’ve done when we’ve won conference championships.”

While not making the top-25 of any preseason mags, there are expectations that Pitt won’t be a surprise to be in the top-25 this season.

3. Three big-time Big East clubs — Pitt, Villanova and St. John’s — all struggled mightily last season, none winning more than six conference games. Which is most likely to rebound quickly and which could take some time to regain traction?

It’s obvious Pitt is best positioned for a rebound. With big man Steven Adams, point guard James Robinson and transfer wing Trey Zeigler added, with sulky shooter Ashton Gibbs subtracted, the Panthers were close to inclusion in Sporting News’ preseason top 25.

This should be a better defensive team with Adams’ shot-blocking ability discouraging incursions to the hoop, with Robinson pushing Tray Woodall for playing time at the point. It should score better with Zeigler around to give the team the sort of versatile wing it lacked in falling to 5-13 in the Big East last year.

And this one echoes the theme of getting back to lots of winning — not to mention health and depth.

…inexperience and the health of point guard Tray Woodall resulted in a season that didn’t pan out as many expected.

But with Woodall back, the youngsters thrust into key roles last season a year older and some talented newcomers, Pittsburgh is looking to end their stay in the Big East on a high note.

“That’s what our goal always is,” Woodall, who is 100%, said at the team’s media day in regards to winning the Big East.

“I think we’ve got the depth this year where we think we can do it.”

Depth, something the Panthers sorely lacked last season, is something they have despite of the graduation of Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson.

Obviously Woodall is the key, as he missed 11 of the Panthers’ 39 games with a groin strain and an abdominal tear and was a shell of himself when on the floor.

He’ll have a new partner in the back court in Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler, who averaged 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season.

While Zeigler isn’t the three-point shooter that Gibbs was his ability to create off the dribble gives Pitt a dimension at the two they lacked last season, and that was most obvious when Woodall wasn’t on the floor.

Cameron Wright and John Johnson, both of whom were called upon to contribute as freshmen (Wright a redshirt) last season, will factor into the rotation as well.

Plus James Robinson to share point guard duties will make a difference in terms of the offense not getting bogged down when Woodall gets rest in the game.

Woodall is a big factor for Pitt to have a good season. As eager as so many are to have James Robinson playing point guard, Woodall was off to a great start before getting hurt. He’s one of the picks for players needed to have a bounceback year. CBSSports.com also includes Woodall in the top-50 point guards (#36).

Despite missing a bunch of games. Having to take daily pain-killing injections just to play. Playing through a not one, but two sports hernias.

Now that he’s recovered from off-season surgery, Woodall’s ready to go. By the way, watch the video and Woodall even makes a point to talk up James Robinson.

Even though, I have kept positing that Lamar Patterson was evolving into something of a Brad Wanamaker player last year, now that Patterson is going to be playing primarily at forward positions that description doesn’t really fit. Now, the guy everyone is comparing to Wanamaker is Trey Zeigler.

Dixon and Woodall said Zeigler reminds them of Brad Wanamaker, a former teammate of Woodall’s who helped the Panthers win the Big East Conference championship two years ago.

“He’s a really good passer and playmaker, similar to Brad in a lot of ways, his ability to get in the lane,” Dixon said. “He’s an experienced guy, and we needed to get older. Adding a guy who played a lot of minutes in college basketball was key. That’s good for him and everyone involved. He’s a good passer and an unselfish player. That’s something that will spread on a team that has always passed the ball well.”

Woodall also gave his stamp of approval.

“He’s unselfish,” Woodall said. “He’ll fit in well right away. The difference between him and [Gibbs] was Ash was a spot-up shooter. He’s more of a driver and he’s a creator. It’s always good to have someone who can create and get others open and be just as unselfish as anyone else. That will help us.”

Can’t wait for the season. More stories later.





Can’t wait for basketball… nice preview Chas..
and Pitt Basketball is something I’m very optimistic about…
Final 4 is not out of the question.

Comment by Joe D 10.24.12 @ 2:04 pm

with no nhl season, i’ll gladly welcome even exhibition games at this point

Comment by usd121 10.24.12 @ 2:44 pm

Let’s win all of our home games and make The Pete realy exciting again. And either win the Big East or be in the top 4. Then on to the NCAA tournament.

Comment by Rayhpgh 10.24.12 @ 2:55 pm

Yeah, Gibbs could never make plays off of the dribble..

Should be fun to watch these guys..with Adams, Ziggler and Robinson, this will look like a new team.

..best part, we still have D.Taylor :)

(sarcasm a must)

Comment by HLandPitt 10.24.12 @ 3:47 pm

omg, look at that still shot of Tray.

awesome.

Comment by HLandPitt 10.24.12 @ 3:48 pm

I’m a big a hoops fan that there is, but other than Chris Gaston of Fordham, what’s there to see until New Years eve.

Comment by alcofan 10.24.12 @ 3:54 pm

McCollum, Lehigh

Comment by steve1 10.24.12 @ 4:28 pm

Cameron Wright doesn’t do much for me. Maybe I am watching the wrong games. Hope sleepy doesn’t play much either.

Comment by Wayne 10.24.12 @ 7:59 pm

bring it on this will be a great year BB
is our time here we go here we go soon baby soon.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.24.12 @ 8:07 pm

While it’s easy to blame last season’s struggles on the Woodall injury, one only has to look at Pitt’s struggles in the Non-Con, BEFORE Woody got hurt that that was not the only problem. They stunk defensively the whole season and perimeter defense with Woody & Gibbs was horrendous. So that is one of the reasons I’d like to see Robinson get as much PT as possible in the weak NON-Con part of the schedule. He has to better defensively than Woody. And Zeigler has to better than Gibbs, that should be a given. And Robinson needs as much PT as possible to be ready for the BIgEast and in the event Woody re-injures himself.

If one remembers they lost and never challenged Long Beach State in the 2nd half at The Pete, and they looked really bad against some lightweights like Rider, LaSalle and others early on that certainly raised Red Flags all around, at least it did to me. And was a portend of things to come.

The Defense should be much better with a true Center now, with the Steve Kiwi Adams and that’s got to help with stopping penetration, which was a huge problem last year as well. Let’s hope Adams gets lots of minutes in the Non-Con, as Coach should know by now, Taylor & Zanna can’t play center.

Comment by Emel 10.24.12 @ 8:36 pm

Unlike last season, I expect this team to improve.
Gibbs was so self absorbed, instead of picking up other parts of his game, he sulked. It happens.
Last year was a perfect storm of adversity–Birch–tray–Gibbs–naz..
But I still think this team needs to learn how to win:how to finish. The soft schedule is no accident. But I think it is a mistake to not truly challenge this team before the UC game.
I hope I’m wrong.

Comment by SFPitt 10.24.12 @ 10:03 pm

Based on what we know we have at Center (not much) and the potential, and how he’s played since arriving in Pittsburgh. Adams will be the starting Center in Game 1 right ???

Comment by Emel 10.24.12 @ 10:52 pm

I think the criticisms on this board directed at Gibbs are misplaced. Gibbs should have only been asked to fill the same role on this team as Ronald Ramon filled…the pure shooter. He was out of position due to injury and the failure of the coaching staff to recruit guards that could drive to the basket. Basically, the guy did the best he could do in a situation that did not play to his strengths. You should be far more upset with the coaching staff than you should be with the player that tried to cover their mistakes.

Comment by HbgFrank 10.25.12 @ 11:26 am

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