Pittsburgh Panthers: Defense Could Shake Up ACC

By Gregory Philson
Pittsburgh Panthers Defense
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Panthers‘ defense is always the team’s moneymaker. This season is no different, and ACC opponents could be taken over by it.

Pittsburgh is holding its first seven opponents to only 53 points per game. The argument could be made that this is based on the weak schedule the Panthers have played, but a team can only accumulate stats against the teams they play.

So far, Pitt has been able to consistently stay stingy on defense and has not succumbed to laziness that other teams in similar situations fall prey to. Whether Pittsburgh is playing a lesser opponent at home at “The Zoo” or travelling south on Tobacco Road, coach Jamie Dixon knows his defense will travel.

The defense is consistent because of the leadership led by senior forward Talib Zanna inside and the perimeter defense shown by senior guard Lamar Patterson. Players know where they should be on defense, and when to double and trap. Pittsburgh does not get beat in the break because defenders stay in front the entire time.

Zanna is not an overpowering shot-blocker, but contributes with great placement and quick feet on defense. He uses his height (6-foot-9) to disrupt shots. As a team, Pittsburgh is averaging 7.7 steals and turns teams over 14 times per game. The Panthers also allow only 41 percent shooting from two and 39 percent shooting overall.

Pitt does this by committing only 18 fouls a game. All three of these stats are below league and NCAA averages. The Panthers are also averaging 37.7 rebounds per game compared to a league average of 34.9. These defensive statistics will continue to remain consistent and may even improve before Pitt opens ACC play in January. This amount of time will allow the Panthers to dissect any problems in the film room and will make them even more formidable on the defensive end.

Pittsburgh could be the most devastating defensive team in the ACC this season and with an offense that is rolling along, the Panthers will be a threat at the top of the conference.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/ncaa-basketball/2013/11/29/duke-basketball-blue-devils-need-inside-presence/

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