We’ve got ourselves a nooner.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Obviously it’s ESPN3.com or ESPN Full Court’s package. But there are plenty of other outlet options for this one. Root Sports Pittsburgh, Sports Time Ohio, YES, NESN, CSN Fox Sports South and others.
It’s been a decade since Pitt faced the Hokies in basketball, but it seems like nothing has changed. In the Big East they were a bottom feeder with rare spurts of slightly below average performances. In the ACC, more of the same.
Because of the basketball only morons of Big East history, VT only played basketball in the Big East for four years. They finished last in the conference/division three times. This year in the ACC, VT is dead last with only one conference win (Miami). But on the plus side, they did beat the Hoopies.
Their head coach was hired on the cheap and out of desperation. The new VT AD is all but being forced to declare the guy a dead coach walking for the few VT fans that actually notice they have a basketball team and not pining for Seth Greenberg.
Let me try to put this in perspective how bad VT is. It isn’t simply that the mere act of playing VT will hurt Pitt in computer rankings. VT is ranked lower than Rutgers in KenPom.com. They are the lowest ranked team in the RPI among major conferences (and I’m even including the AAC, Big East and A-10). DePaul. DEPAUL is considered better than the Hokies.
To put it mildly, losing to VT would be a disaster for any team.
The Hokies have a local product on their squad in Devin Wilson. Most major conference teams that pursued Wilson did so on the football side as a wide receiver. Wilson really wanted to play basketball, though, and VT was one of the only major conference programs to offer on that side. As a freshman, the guard is playing over 30 minutes a game, which as much as anything speaks to how shallow the depth is at VT.
Speaking of shallow depth: Pitt at the center position.
“You talk about losing guys and anybody is going to be concerned,” Dixon said. “No team is deep enough to lose its second- and fourth-leading scorers. There’s only so many things you can withstand.”
Not only is Zanna Pitt’s No. 2 scorer (12.8) and leading rebounder (7.6), but the Panthers also are still trying to replace Johnson’s 8.8 points a game.
Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall, a 6-9 junior, has averaged three minutes the past two games. Joseph Uchebo, a 6-10 sophomore junior-college transfer, replaced Zanna against Virginia but was yanked within a minute after a defensive breakdown.
Instead, Dixon is relying upon his four freshmen to provide depth while learning on the go. Mike Young starts at power forward but is the best post defender so he moves to the center when Zanna is out. Jamel Artis is getting more minutes at power forward, and Josh Newkirk and Chris Jones are seeing time in the backcourt.
“We’ve got four freshmen that have to get better in the eight-man rotation,” Dixon said. “They’ve got to improve. To me, that’s encouraging because I know they will.”
The center position has been one of constant flux since Gary McGhee graduated. Khem Birch and Malcolm Gilbert transferred out in consecutive years. Steven Adams was a one-and-done.
Uchebo is not confident in his rebuilt knee yet. Randall simply is overmatched. There are rarely enough centers for any team to build something like depth at the position. It’s the one spot where teams are always taking flyers or trying to develop a guy.
Hopefully Pitt will put VT away quickly and keep Zanna on the bench so he can stay off his ankle as much as possible.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Pitt in this game is looking past it. Syracuse comes to the Pete on Wednesday night. I think I would be more concerned about looking ahead if this was a Saturday-Monday turnaround. With the extra days, there’s no reason for Pitt not to focus on crushing the Hokies