By Ed Morgans @writered21 on June 24, 2014
For most observers, Pittsburgh's 2013-14 season was like many of the others the Panthers have had under head coach Jamie Dixon. Pitt started fast, winning its first 10 games and 16 of its first 18. The Panthers were 20-4 before a three-game losing streak in the ACC led to a 6-6 finish and a loss to Florida in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Here are five early predictions on the 2014-15 Pitt Panthers.
As you will see in these predictions, there is going to be nothing easy about the 2014-15 season for Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. Despite his masterful consistency to win at least 20 games every year, the Panthers will lose multiple key players, face a tougher conference schedule, and will have to rely on several players to succeed in expanded roles next season to have any hope of contending in the conference and/or nationally.
Pittsburgh basketball and offense aren't phrases that are often found in the same sentence, unless someone is talking about the lack of it. Now, without standouts Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, much of the offensive role falls to senior guard Cameron Wright, who must take the responsibility of being the go-to guy for Pitt. He averaged 10.5 PPG last season playing about 30 MPG. He must bump that up to 15 PPG for Pitt to be successful.
Despite having nearly identical size to Zanna, who blossomed into a scoring and rebounding monster as a senior last season, Randall hasn't shown the goods in three years' worth of limited minutes at Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior from Brooklyn has yet to manage even three points or rebounds per game in his career. Asking him to suddenly blossom in his final season to make up for Zanna's absence is unrealistic.
Far from just being Pitt's leading scorer at 17.1 PPG last season, Lamar Patterson was the do-everything glue guy that any team must have to be successful. If there were key rebounds to be grabbed or assists to be made, Patterson did that, too. He led the Panthers with 4.3 assists per game and was second in RPG (4.9). He was also one of Pitt's best shooters. Pitt doesn't have an all-around player yet who can fill those roles.
All these changes for Pitt come amid another change in the ACC lineup, with powerhouse Louisville replacing Maryland. The Cardinals and Panthers play twice in the conference season, and Pitt must play Syracuse twice as well. Pitt gets North Carolina at home, but must visit Duke, NC State and league champions Virginia. All that, plus a game at Indiana in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The 2014-15 season is not going to be an easy one for Pitt.
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