Pittsburgh Panthers Opting for Balance to Move Up Big East Conference
The Pittsburgh Panthers won again, toppling the Cincinnati Bearcats 62-52 and becoming the first team in the Big East Conference to reach 20 overall wins. The Panthers, now with seven other Big East teams, sit so close to the top of the conference that anything less than a 3 seed seems unlikely.
The odd things about Pitt is that they lack that superstar player their conference brethren have. Almost all of the seven other teams that sit only a game and a half back from first place have a dominating player. However, the Panthers don’t have one that screams NBA prospect or a legit go-to-guy. Instead they tend to earn their victories through balance and real teamwork(What a novel idea).
The Panthers, who rely heavily on a 10-man rotation, also don’t have a player who averages more than 11 points per game. Rather than having one dominate offensive weapon, head coach Jamie Dixon either relies on the hot hand or continues to run his offense until the open look is available. This is contrary to other teams who use a lot of isolation basketball or hope that their best player, while over-dribbling, can make some miraculous basket.
That 10-man rotation Dixon uses has all 10 players averaging over 4 points per game and all but two shooting over .40 percent from the floor. Efficient as they are deep, the Panthers need not worry about one particular player having an off night.
While other Big East contenders continue to rely on one or two guys, Pitt will continue to play a form of baskets made by committee hoops, making them one of the hardest teams to stop all year-long. However, regardless of their regular season and Big East Conference Tournament success, this team will only be judged on how far they go in March.
It has been said, to make a run in March you need a go-to-guy, but something about this Panthers team tells me they are okay just having a go-to-philosophy of playing smart, together, and with a pride in being selfless.
Although none of that will matter much if they get bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone