The Pitt Panthers basketball team is having no problem getting accustomed to their first season in the ACC. Coach Jamie Dixon‘s squad is 2-0, has defeated Maryland and NC State handedly and is playing its typical nasty defense holding the Terps to 36 percent shooting and the Wolfpack to only 39 percent shooting.
Now, neither of the Panthers’ first two opponents are world-beaters and the team still has yet to pick up a real-deal quality victory, but one thing Pittsburgh continues to do is win. The Panthers are not getting that much attention this season. However, with Duke and North Carolina both surprisingly losing and Syracuse getting a battle from Miami this past weekend, there is reason to believe in the Panthers.
The Panthers are becoming more and more efficient on offense because of one main element — their passing. Pittsburgh is averaging more than 17 assists per game and have four players averaging at least 8.7 points per game. Senior Lamar Patterson is leading the charge and is the reason the Panthers overcame a 17-2 deficit to the Wolfpack. Patterson never showed panic and scored 22 points as easy as you please. He shot 8-of-16 from the field, nailed two three-pointers, grabbed eight boards and added in a team-high six assists. Generally, Pitt has had players who garnered the same role, but it does seem like Patterson has a killer-instinct to him that many others who preceded him did not. Patterson is efficient (53 percent shooting), careful (2.1 TO) and helpful (4.7 APG). He also snags rebounds and can take over at any given moment.
He is the key to Pitt having a shot at an ACC crown. The only problem is whether or not he will be able to fully take over. Sometimes Pitt players looked like they could have in previous seasons but did not. Patterson needs to realize he has to command the ball when the team has its back against the wall. He is a super-talent and has the skill to be a first-team all-ACC member.
The best part for Patterson in the moments he has to take over is that he does not have to do it by always scoring. Talib Zanna (12.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG) is a quality post player, Durand Johnson is coming off a season-high 17 points against Maryland and Cameron Wright has the ability to hit open shots (10.8 PPG, 48 percent shooting).
The Panthers may not be the talk of the ACC, but with Patterson becoming a go-to star fronting the squad, Pittsburgh could end up at the top of the league.