The Pittsburgh Panthers slightly overachieved in their 2012-13 season, leaving the door wide open for what could be a very impressive first year in a new conference.
The Panthers entered their final season in the Big East with many unclear what to expect from the team this year. It’s safe to say Pittsburgh was expected to compete for a tournament bid but nobody expected them to finish with the second best conference record at 12-6.
Now as the Panthers get set to leave one conference and head to the ACC next season, they do so setting themselves up with the potential for a great 2013-14 year.
Pittsburgh used 10 players all season, with all 10 playing a key role as their lowest scorer, Cameron Wright, still managed to produce 4.2 points per game. Out of those 10 players, the Panthers will lose seniors Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor.
Woodall finished as the team’s leading scorer and playmaker and Taylor was a significant rebounder off the bench. Both players will be missed, however, their losses are hardly devastating given the improvements this season’s experience will provide the returning players.
Freshman James Robinson played in the backcourt with Woodall, learning how to be the team’s point guard in the future. Robinson had a quality first year of college basketball, finishing with averages of 6.1 points, 3.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds and one steal per contest. Moving into next season he’ll be expected to be the team’s main-playmaker and has proven it’s a position he’s more than capable of handling.
Freshman Steven Adams entered the season as a possible lottery pick this June before a so-so year determined he’ll likely stay in college, although crazier things have happened. Adams has the body of a pro at seven-feet and over 250lbs, however, his total lack of any offensive game is what he desperately needs to improve on before attempting to go pro. He’s a tremendous rebounder and shot blocker but if his feet aren’t in the paint he’s likely not scoring, and he also shot below 50 percent from the foul line. Polishing up his offensive skills before making the jump to the pro-level could turn Adams into a top five pick next year whereas this season he’d likely only be a late first rounder at best.
Pittsburgh has a trio of juniors set to return as Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore will be looking to build off their strong seasons. The trio finished as the second, third and fourth leading scorers on the team as all three had unique roles with the Panthers. Patterson was able to do a little bit of everything, as he averaged 10 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals. Zanna was a force in the paint as he averaged 9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and shot 49.8 percent from the field. Moore was instant offense for Pittsburgh, as whenever the starting-five unit was struggling, he was the first one in off the bench and he usually swung momentum back in the Panthers’ favor with his scoring ability.
With those three returning as seniors, along with others such as Trey Zeigler, Pittsburgh is going to have an experienced roster that has proven they can compete against tough competition.
With Robinson leading the way at the point, a one-two punch of Adams and Zanna down-low, along with quality perimeter play from Patterson, Moore, Zeigler and Wright, the Panthers will be a force in the ACC next season.