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Jan
09
2016

Pittsburgh Panthers Men’s Basketball Flew Under The Radar This Year – No More

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Good evening, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fans.  How you all had a great holiday season – and your New Year started off right.

It always makes sense to to start your New Year off with some great ACC hoops action.  We will cover ACC hoops all year long at All Sports Discussion.

I have, however, been on vacation for like three weeks – and it sort of flew under the radar to me that the Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked #24 in the nation with a record of 14-1 overall (and 3-0 in the ACC after today’s road win over Notre Dame).

Why has Jamie Dixon’s Pittsburgh improved so much?  I asked our friend, Zach (@CzarOfPgh) what was up  as my first thought was that the Panthers defense was light’s out.  Here’s what Zach said:

 

Zach is right (let’s also drop a few other nuggets):

So, it’s not only efficient offense, Pittsburgh isn’t throwing itself under the bus with mistakes, either.

Pittsburgh hasn’t played a murder’s row schedule (Zach is right) – we would have learned more about the Panthers had they played their game with Gonzaga (which was cancelled):

 

However, Pittsburgh has some nice wins vs. St. Joseph’s and Davidson – and going into today’s game with Notre Dame, Pittsburgh was 2-0 in the ACC with home wins vs. Syracuse and Georgia Tech – and – today, the Panthers defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on the road (it is not easy to defeat a Mike Brey coached team – and getting this victory on the road is even more difficult).

Zach is right that Pittsburgh is doing some of this without the best talent in the ACC.

 

For example:

  • In 2015, the Panthers had the 13th ranked recruiting class (via @247Sports.  The Panthers brought in Damon Wilson, four-star 6’5″ shooting guard, and a 7″ 320lb, three-star center;
  • In 2014, the Panthers also had the 13th ranked recruiting class (also via @247Sports).  The Panthers brought in Cameron Johnson, a 6’6″ shooting guard, and Ryan Luther, a 6’9″ power forward – both are three star players;
  • In 2013, the Panthers had the 7th ranked recruiting class in the ACC.  The Panthers hauled in Michael Young, a four-star power forward, and Jamel Artis (who is playing some of the best basketball in the ACC now), a three-star small forward;
  • In 2012, the Panthers had the #4 recruiting class as listed in the ACC Composite List (yes, I know Pittsburgh wasn’t in the ACC then – but they are listed by the ACC in 247 Sports).  The Panthers have a four-star recruit in guard James Robinson and a three-star guard in Chris Jones (these are experienced guards that are still on the roster).

Jamie’s starters this year from this bunch of players in 1-4 above are Jamel Artis, Michael Young, and James Robinson (Chris Jones, who comes off the bench, has a lot of experience) – who are Sterling Smith and Rafael Maia?

What we see in Pittsburgh is a blue-collar, hard working team – with some definite experience in spots – that is being coached really well by Jamie Dixon.  We will find out more about Pittsburgh when they play Louisville, Virginia, Miami, the North Carolina ACC schools, etc.

If Pittsburgh makes the NCAA tournament, Dixon deserves a lot of credit as he turned around a team that wasn’t very efficient on offense last year (and that’s putting it mildly) and it is not beating itself.

We can say, though, that Pittsburgh is a pleasant surprise – and we didn’t expect the Panthers to start out 3-0 in the ACC.

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