If there is one thing that a Jamie Dixon coached team is known for, it is toughness.
Last season, their first in the ACC, was no exception.
Led by gritty and talented wing Lamar Patterson, and powerful post man Talib Zanna, the Panthers started the year 18-2, would finish with 23 wins, and despite a few bumps in the road would eventually make it all the way to the Sweet 16.
Zanna and Patterson have graduated, and will be hard to replace.
However, the trio of Cameron Wright, Michael Young, and James Robinson are battle tested and skilled enough to make up for the losses.
The back court should be the strength of the team with the heady Robinson (outstanding assist to turnover guy 2.83 to 1 ratio) and the defensive minded but offensively improving Wright, teaming up. Add to the mix Josh Newkirk, who can play a little at both spots, and you have a very nice foundation. Freshman Cameron Johnson could also see minutes. Young is an athletic, stetch PF who will get more touches in the post minus Zanna. He can also step out and hit jumpers. At SF, the Panthers have some nice players as well in Durand Johnson and Sheldon Jeter. Jamel Artis should also get some minutes. But who will replace Zanna at C? Derrick Randal is a 6'9 player who saw action as a reserve last year. Joseph Uchebo and JUCO transfer Tyrone Haughton will also battle down low for minutes. Overall though, this team will likely only go as far as its' three stars takes it. Fortunately for Pitt, Young, Robinson, and Wright are all excellent players.
G Cameron Wright - 6'5 205 Sr.
G James Robinson - 6'3 198 Jr.
F Michael Young - 6'9 235 So.
G Josh Newkirk - 6'1 185 So.
What to Expect in 2014-15:
Another tough, gritty team. I think they end up missing Patterson too much to exactly duplicate the success of last season, unless Wright really emerges as a star. They won't drop off a ton, but the ACC is a tough place to try and replace experienced and productive players, even when you have a good roster. 7th place in the conference feels about right.
How they match-up with the 'Canes:
UM's strength will be its' back court as well, so their game on 3/4 should be pretty interesting. Young might too much for Miami to handle as a stretch 4, but at the same time Miami's wealth of scorers might be capable of outgunning a top heavy Pitt squad.
Stay tuned for more ACC Team previews as we count down to Tip Off