Kind of teased this out during the week as I have been focused on tempo and pace. This past year, Pitt played at its slowest adjusted tempo since Jamie Dixon became the head coach.
Time to look at the numbers, history, memes and possibly a way too simple answer.
So let’s take a look at Pitt’s adjusted Tempo in the last 11 years (since that is as far as KenPom.com goes).
Year —– Pitt’s AdjT ——— Rank ——- Highest AdjT ———– Lowest AdjT
2002-03 66.8 ———– 259/324 —— 78.7 – App. St. ———- 55.2 – Air Force
2003-04 61.6 ———— 313/326 —— 75.8 – Campbell ——— 53.7 – Air Force
2004-05 65.1 ———— 250/330 —— 76.0 – Ga. Southern —— 54.2 – Princeton
2005-06 65.5 ———— 230/334 —— 76.3 – Campbell ———- 54.3 – Princeton
2006-07 63.4 ———— 292/336 —— 90.9 – VMI* ————- 52.9 – Princeton
2007-08 65.4 ———— 222/341 —— 80.1 – Texas St. ———- 56.4 – Samford
2008-09 66.0 ———— 186/344 —— 80.6 – VMI ————- 57.4 – Denver
2009-10 62.6 ————– 321/347 —— 84.1 – VMI ————- 57.7 – Samford
2010-11 63.1 ————– 313/345 —— 77.6 – Alcorn St. ———- 57.9 – Denver
2011-12 63.1 ————- 297/345 ——- 76.0 – Seattle ———– 58.0 – Wisconsin
2012-13 60.7 ————- 337/347 ——- 72.8 – Neb-Omaha ——- 57.9 – Western Illinois
* VMI was a real aberration. The #2 AdjT team in 2005-06 was Northwestern St. at 75.6. So, yeah.
To give a small amount of context I provided where Pitt’s tempo ranked in D-1 basketball each year along with the highest and lowest tempo (and the team) each year so you have an idea of the range that is covered in adjusted tempo.
Some things from the numbers. College basketball in general has slowed down over the last few years, which has also cut scoring. As noted a couple weeks ago, college basketball is at least attempting to get officials to give offense more of a chance.
A great example is the Adjusted Tempo of Pitt back in Ben Howland’s final year — 2002-03 — of 66.8. That year, that was in the lower-tier of tempo at 259th out of 324 teams. About the 80th percentile. This past year, an adjT of 66.8 would be 126th out of 347 teams.
It is somewhat interesting that the variance in adjusted tempo is shrinking. The floor has risen a bit, while the top tempo has shrunk. So now the variance for the last three years has been less than 20 between the top and bottom of the list. Yet, overall tempo has been getting slower as more teams have found value in efficiency on offense and defense over trying to run teams out of a gym on speed.
Just look at the general KenPom.com ratings. Of the top-30 teams listed, 8 had an adjusted tempo of ranked 99 or less. There were only 4 teams ranked 100-199 Meanwhile 14 teams were in the 200-299 rankings, with 4 more teams at 300 or more. (The numbers skew even harder to slower tempo if you limit it to just the top-20 teams on the list.) The top-30 KenPom teams also includes all the Sweet 16 teams except FGCU and LaSalle (and the top-20 has 13 of them).
Back to Pitt. You will notice that the tempo drops from one year to the next four times. 2003-04, 2006-07, 2009-10 and 2012-13.
Now consider this:
Year ———– Key Players
2002-03 (Final Howland season.): Knight, Page, Zavackas, J. Brown, Lett
2003-04 (First Dixon sesason.): Krauser, Page, J. Brown, Troutman, Taft
2004-05: Krauser, Troutman, Taft
2005-06: Krauser, Gray, Kendall, Ramon,
2006-07: Fields, Gray, Kendall, Ramon,
2007-08: Fields, Blair, Young, Ramon
2008-09: Fields, Blair, Young, Dixon
2009-10: Wanamaker, G. Brown, Gibbs, Robinson, McGhee
2010-11: Wanamaker, Gibbs, N. Robinson, Brown, McGhee
2011-12: Gibbs, N. Robinson, Woodall, Patterson, Birch*
2012-13: Woodall, Patterson, J. Robinson, Adams
In every year that the tempo dipped, Pitt had a new point guard. As much as it was Howland to Dixon in 2003, it was also Knight to Krauser. In 2006 it went from Krauser to Fields. 2009 saw it go from Fields to Wanamaker (and committee). In 2011, well it was a mess after Woodall got hurt. In a way it is shocking that adjusted tempo remained the same from the previous year.
As for this past year, James Robinson assumed the reins of starting point guard as a true freshman — which was also a first under Dixon. Mix in another raw freshman at center with the highly cautious Patterson, and that’s a brew that produces a slower tempo.
You have a new point guard, and no matter how much a team practices there’s still a learning curve in the games. There’s still a whole issue of learning to mesh. And yes, a coach that may worry so much about a new point guard running things that he might be trying to run things from the sidelines a too much.
Was Jamie Dixon too tight in the controls this past year? I think that is a fair debate. Not insofar as he needs to change his whole approach/philosophy and let the team just run. Those who advocate for that seem to be more about just not liking the style Dixon runs generally. Dreaming of a whole different system (or coach).
The history shows that after a year with a new point guard, tempo picks up nicely. The make-up of the team for next year is also likely facilitate a faster tempo. The rule changes — assuming they are enforced — will also encourage a faster tempo with more attacking the basket.
Pitt is never going to be a squad that runs at a frenetic pace, but they can and will be noticeably swifter next season. Not because Jamie Dixon has changed, but because his squad has a more experience at the point guard and the team itself will have more speed.