The Pittsburgh Panthers know what to expect from senior guard Lamar Patterson and senior forward Talib Zanna, but if coach Jamie Dixon‘s team has any shot of making a surprising run in the 2014 NCAA tournament, someone else will need to pick up his game.
Many of considered sophomore guard James Robinson a major disappointment this season for Pittsburgh after not improving much from his freshman year. Robinson increased his scoring by only two points per game while getting more playing time in a much more important role. Robinson also did not shot well during the season and averaged just 3.9 assists per game in an offense that promotes passing.
Robinson does have the talent to stand out which was evident when he scored 19 points against North Carolina in the ACC tournament. However, he could not validate that performance the next day against Virginia and scored just seven points. That has been a season-long problem for Robinson and if the Panthers are to beat Colorado and possibly pull off some upsets in the tournament, he will need to be more consistent.
Only once the entire season did Robinson have back-to-back games of at least 10 points. He also had four games where he scored no more than two points. This kind of inconsistency is a major problem for a player who seems to be able to get by many players off the dribble and anticipate passes on defense well enough to start fast breaks.
Robinson does not need to be the leading scorer for Pittsburgh by any means, but he needs to be a player that puts up points, assists and steals in bunches. He has the speed and quickness to be a streaky player that can turn a deficit into a five-point lead in the blink of an eye.
If Pittsburgh makes a run in the tournament, it would not be surprising to see Robinson have crooked numbers filling up the box score.
The Pittsburgh Panthers have found the perfect time to be playing their best basketball of the season after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels and giving the Virginia Cavaliers all they could handle in the ACC tournament.
Senior forward Talib Zanna has blossomed into a star during the last stretch of games and will be the crucial player for the Panthers. Zanna completely dominated the glass against the Tar Heels when he grabbed 21 rebounds and score 19 points in the victory. Zanna followed that up with 15 points and nine rebounds. While the Panthers lost the game to the Cavaliers, they did put up quite the challenge and had a shot to pull off the upset.
The Panthers are the no. 9 seed in the South region in the NCAA tournament and while the seeding seems fit for what Pittsburgh did this season, playing the no. 8 seed Colorado seems like a mismatch. Colorado lost its best player during the season when Spencer Dinwiddie went down with an ACL injury in January. Colorado managed to only go 9-8 since he was sidelined and are backing into the tournament having been blown out by the Arizona Wildcats.
Colorado finished tied for third in the Pac-12. Colorado does not have a signature win since Dinwiddie went down and the offense has struggled. On the season, Colorado averaged 70.9 points per game and only scored more than 80 points three times since Jan. 18. Pittsburgh prides itself on defense and should be able to lock down the already subpar Colorado offense.
Colorado also does not have an answer for Pittsburgh senior guard Lamar Patterson. Patterson played through an injured hand during the season, but has looked better lately and scored 15 points against the tough Virginia defense.
There is no such thing as a sure bet in the NCAA tournament, but Pittsburgh does seem to have a strong advantage over Colorado.
The Colorado Buffaloes were one of the dark horses for the National Championship early in the season, but an injury to Spencer Dinwiddie halted their dominating stretch of wins. Still managing to secure a No. 8 seed in the South region of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the Buffaloes will face the also inconsistent No. 9 seed Pittsburgh Panthers on March 20th in a game that features two of college basketball’s biggest wild cards.
Pittsburgh finished fifth in the ACC, but nearly beat the Virginia Cavaliers to advance to the ACC Tournament finals. When Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna are on, they are a potential Elite Eight team; when they’re off, Pitt wouldn’t make it out of the first round of the NIT. The Panthers have a tournament streak in them, but they have to get off to a confident start.
What to Watch For
Josh Scott is playing extremely well for Colorado; he leads the team in points per game and rebounds since Dinwiddie’s injury. However, the Buffaloes will not win unless someone else steps up. Pittsburgh is an all-around talented team that likes to share the ball; Colorado must disrupt that. Patterson and Zanna will be the least of the Buffaloes’ worries if Pitt gets into a groove early on.
Colorado just isn’t the National Title threat that they were earlier in the season after Dinwiddie’s injury. The Buffaloes are a good team, but don’t look cohesive anymore. On the other hand, Pittsburgh looks like they could be catching on at the right moment. Expect big things from the Panthers in the tournament.
Pittsburgh 70, Colorado 60
Region: No. 9 in the South
How They Qualified: At-Large Berth
As good as the Panthers were in their non-conference schedule, they could not manage a single win over the top four teams in the ACC. They came very close, but close doesn’t put quality wins on the resume. Still, playing teams like North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse and Virginia will benefit them in the tourney.
Pittsburgh did beat the Tar Heels in the ACC tournament, though.
What You Need to Know:
Leading Scorer: Lamar Patterson (17.7 ppg)
Leading Rebounder: Talib Zanna (8.8 rpg)
Leading Passer: Lamar Patterson (4.4 apg)
Bad Losses: None
Good Wins: North Carolina
Pittsburgh didn’t have the most impressive resume in college hoops, but it also didn’t have any bad losses. That will earn a team a bid almost every time when it plays in a conference like the ACC.
Lamar Patterson. He is the key to the Panthers’ success in the NCAA tournament. Patterson is without a doubt the best player on the team.
Pittsburgh may not have the best wins, but it was challenged many times and that could help out a lot in the dance. Being tournament tested during the regular season is key. However, it will be interesting to see if this team can get hot in the NCAA tourney.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are dancing!