Early in the season, Talib Zanna looked like a lock for Big East Most Improved Player. After the Georgetown blowout, the feeling was that Pitt needed to feed him more. That 9 shots a game was not enough for a player starting to look so dominate — even in the prior two losses, he was strong inside.
Now. Not so much. After 17-26 shooting in the first three Big East games, he is 12-43 in the past five games. It’s been overlooked to some degree because Pitt had won four straight before Monday night’s disappointment.
The biggest problem — at least from my perspective — appears to be that Zanna has stopped going forward on his shots. Instead he is focused on trying to make the short jumpers or take shots that have him fading from the basket. Yes, he has shown that they are part of his offensive moves, but he is relying too much on them. And they aren’t going. Not only does he make it harder on himself to score. He is taking himself away from the basket and any opportunity to follow for a chance at an offensive rebound.
The lack of scoring is compounded by his precipitous drop in free throw shooting since the start of Big East play. Nine games in the Big East and Zanna is shooting a touch over 50%: 17-32. In the non-con he was hitting 75%: 45-60.
The problems with the four spot are compounded with J.J. Moore. As he continues to tantalize and infuriate. The good news is he is taking fewer 3s than last year. Last year, half his shots were 3s (112 out of 223). This year it is down significantly 57 out 150 (38%) shot attempts are 3s.
The bad news is he is also shooting worse from outside. He is down to 28% on 3s (16-57). This is extra annoying on two fronts. The first is because he is more effective attacking the basket. His shooting percentage on shots inside the arc is up to 51.6% (48-93). Plus he is arguably Pitt’s best free throw shooter — when he gets to the line. He is over 85% on the year (47-55). Yet in four Big East games, he never even took a free throw. Between his ability to finish at the basket and his free throw shooting, he could average double-digit scoring.
Couple the lack of production at the four with Steven Adams and Dante Taylor at the five. Well, it means that Pitt has to rely even heavier on the backcourt for offensive production. Which might help to explain a 5-4 Big East record and everyone from the pundits to the fans unsure of what Pitt will look like from game to game.