5 Reasons The Pittsburgh Panthers Are Not Fool’s Gold
5 Reasons The Pittsburgh Panthers Are Not Fool's Gold
Critics can scoff at this record because of a schedule that has lacked any major competition and does not feature a ranked team until Jan. 18. The Panthers also do not have a player who casual fans will ever recognize. While that is a standard for most Pitt teams, it does hurt the team when not one Panther is a cover boy.
Regardless, coach Jamie Dixon's squad has taken care of business by not letting a weaker schedule lull them to sleep. Dixon-led teams are usually known for defense. Pitt's defense is strong again this season, but the offense also looks to be just as devastating. The Panthers are not just beating their opponents -- they are barely giving other teams a chance to stick around.
Penn State gave Pitt its closest game, but a late run Panthers' run put the game away. Pitt has a talented roster and many different ways to attack on offense and defense. There is a good chance anyone who plays could be the difference in a game-changing sequence. Senior guard Lamar Patterson is one of the best players in the country with the ball in his hands. Talib Zanna is a major presence in the post where he can score on hook shots and defend players with great footwork and smarts.
Pittsburgh may not be a team people are talking about now, but come March, the Panthers will be a group no other team will want to play.
5. Offensive Depth
Pitt has many different players that can contribute on the offensive end with more than just scoring. Five players average more than eight points per game and five players that play more than 10 minutes per game shoot better than 50 percent from the field. The team is also shooting the three-pointer at around 35 percent. These numbers suggest the Panthers are not an easy team to pick apart on defense. Teams may focus on one player, but four or five others can step up and take up the scoring.
4. Talib Zanna
Senior forward Talib Zanna is finally living up to the potential many thought he had coming to Pittsburgh. Zanna is averaging about 13 points per game and eight rebounds. He is shooting 64 percent from the field and has scored in double figures in seven games this season. He also has a 14 and 15 rebound game under his belt. His defense may not get the recognition it deserves because he does not post the numbers, but he moves his feet and keeps in front of his man most of the time. He disrupts shots without fouling as well.
3. Lamar Patterson
Senior guard Lamar Patterson is the best player for Pittsburgh and one of the better all-around players in the country. His talents show up with his numbers (16.4 PPG, 5 APG, 4.7 RPG, 51 FG percentage, 42 3P percentage), but he is also a great team leader with his under-control play and strong defense. He keeps his emotions in-check no matter the circumstance and is one of the first players back on the defensive break. He fits the mold of the kind of guard coach Jamie Dixon loves to have.
2. The Unknown
One of Pittsburgh's biggest advantages is it's the team's first year in the ACC. Only two other teams have consistently faced the Panthers, and with a new-look offense and a defense that has always been strong even Syracuse and Notre Dame could be in store for something different. Pitt is much more physical than a typical ACC school, and this kind of push-them-around mentality could disrupt conference rivals and help spring an upset. Also, Pitt's home court at the Petersen Events Center is one of the best advantages in the nation.
1. Undefeated Means Something
People will argue that Pittsburgh has not had a difficult schedule and being undefeated really may not mean anything right now. But Pitt has not been threatened much this season and unlike many other talented teams has not fallen prey to boredom and dropped a game. The Panthers have come ready for every game and being 10-0 is still incredibly impressive. The Panthers have a shot to be 17-0 before playing Syracuse on Jan. 18.
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