Pitt starts its season against the Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (no, really, that is their name). In case you are wondering, playing those other Mountaineers, still unlikely in the near future.
There has been no movement for Pitt to play West Virginia in the near future in either football or men’s basketball. Scheduling in the Big 12 and the ACC could prevent the two schools from renewing their rivalry. Pitt has a pecking order in football of keeping Penn State first. And in men’s basketball the Panthers must keep a game with Duquesne. West Virginia’s nine-game schedule in the Big 12 and Pitt’s preference for Penn State first make it more difficult. The best-case scenario for this rivalry to continue would be for the two schools to come up with a similar solution to Florida and Florida State. The two Sunshine State rivals play a basketball game on the same weekend they play a football game. Creating a one-weekend event would make the most sense — if the two sides could agree to a format and possible site rotation.
As I’ve stated several times, given WVU’s looming travel bills. Pitt becomes a very important team to get on the schedule. Not sure when, but the two will play again in basketball before it happens in football.
As for Mount St. Mary’s, they have a new head coach. So, cue the change in culture angle.
In less than eight months as head coach, Jamion Christian has completely changed the culture around the men’s basketball program at Mount St. Mary’s.
There is an upbeat vibe around the program that had been missing in recent seasons. It’s a great reflection of Christian’s high-energy and positive personality.
The players are smiling often and generally seem excited about Christian’s push-the-pace style on both ends of the floor. Though, for the first time in a long time at the Mount, there is more talk about scoring points than playing disciplined, hard-nosed defense.
Mt. St. Mary’s finished 8-21 last year — going 2-9 in their non-con. They haven’t won a season opener since 2008. They haven’t won a road season opener since 1998 (for shame, LaSalle). It’s going to take a little more than a change of culture. Expect them to give Pitt a bit of a hard time at first. Simply because with a new coach, it isn’t quite as easy for Coach Dixon to plan for what they will do.
Jeff Goodman at CBS Sports has Pitt as his pick to bounce back.
Jamie Dixon’s Pittsburgh Panthers — Dixon had led Pitt to eight NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons at the helm prior to last season. Then Tray Woodall went down and he had no backup point guard. Now Dixon has a healthy Woodall and also a terrific young freshman point guard James Robinson.
The Panthers were 216-60 prior to last season in the Dixon Regime, finishing first or second in the Big East five times in his eight seasons. Pitt doesn’t just have point guard depth; it also has one of the most relentless, coachable and talented big men in the country. Steven Adams is a 7-foot New Zealander that should be a major factor, especially on the glass.
Expect Pittsburgh to be back after a down season. Not just in the middle of the pack, either. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers are battling for the league title again.
Similar sentiments are echoed over at The Sporting News.
All in all, it’s deep and talented team in a proven system. Most publications have them picked in the middle of the pack in the Big East. The feeling here is that the Panthers will battle for a spot at the top of the conference, make the NCAA Tournament and be a dangerous team come March.
And, hey, Jay Bilas picks Pitt as the 23d best team — first cracking of a top-25 (Insider subs).
The Panthers should get back to guarding people with physicality and purpose this season. With a healthy Tray Woodall and the addition of 7-foot New Zealander Steven Adams, Jamie Dixon will have more weapons and more of that old Pitt attitude. Last season’s team persevered, but was always looking to avoid getting punched. This season’s Pitt team will hit first.
More on J.J. Moore playing more at power forward to make sure he gets more minutes. A good point was made in it regarding the issue of rebounding, though.
Moore, arguably the team’s best athlete, made at least one 3-pointer in each of the final 13 games last season, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc during that span. But he averaged only 2.9 rebounds per game, and managed only two rebounds in 78 minutes in the three-game CBI finals against Washington State.
If Moore plays power forward, Pitt will need strong rebounding from its centers — senior Dante Taylor and five-star freshman Steven Adams. After having surgery in April for a broken fifth metatarsal on his right foot, Moore devoted time to upper-body work.
They have the extra motivation of last season. Something that hopefully adds a larger chip on their shoulder.
We took a lot of pride in that,” junior forward Lamar Patterson said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. We have to give credit to the guys before us — Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser, Levance Fields, Sam Young and all those guys. They put so much work into building this program to make it what it is. For us to have a season like that, we feel like we let a lot of people down. It’s behind us now. We’re going to grow from it and get back to where this program was.”
Patterson believes this team is capable of doing that. The Panthers have a solid returning cast, and Dixon added a couple of talented freshmen who will begin the season as starters — point guard James Robinson and center Steven Adams.
“I feel like we’re more together this year,” Patterson said. “We have a low-post presence and we have that experience. We have that taste in our mouths with us being considered a loser. Having that stick with you, you never want to go back to that feeling.”
Finally a piece listing three things Pitt needs to bring to this season.
Gametime is 6pm. It is online at ESPN3.com. Hope your internet provider offers it.
There will be a separate open thread for the Pitt-UConn football game at 8pm.