Some Quick Notes from Media Day
Believe it or not today – yes Sept. 26 --- was the first day of basketball practice.
Well, not quite – the official first day of practice is tomorrow (Friday) – but today was the first day of the season given that it was media day and all that stuff for both the men and women’s basketball teams.
I am not even sure where to begin seeing as we are so far removed from the season but here we go with some notes from today and some general observations…..
** I think this team will be very athletic – a buzz word that means nothing I know but let me try to say it like this: If you look at how this team is going to be constructed, the center (Talib Zanna) and forwards (Lamar Patterson and likely either Jamel Artis or Mike Young) will likely be quicker and faster baseline to baseline than their counterparts or at least than Pitt teams have been in recent history.
That means a couple of things but most importantly, it means this team could be much better in transition and while it isn’t going to all of the sudden become a run-n-gun team, it could be a little bit higher scoring than in the past.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a Jamie Dixon team which means it is built on the foundation of rebounding and defense as that is what he favors and it has worked well for him but I think there could be more opportunities to get out and run the floor than we’ve seen in the past.
** Patterson said he is settling in at the 3 and Dixon said Zanna will be the starting 5 and James Robinson will start at the point guard spot so that leaves the 2 and the 4 (or shooting guard and power forward if you prefer) spots up for grab. It seems like either Artis or Young will win the 4 spot and the 2-spot could be by committee with guys like Durand Johnson, Cameron Wright, Chris Jones all in the mix.
It is clear this is going to be a deep team – Dixon said he can play 11 guys and feel comfortable with it and he believes that all six of his guards have earned minutes so competition to get on the floor and get minutes will be pretty interesting to watch.
** Dixon seems really excited about Josh Newkirk, the freshman point guard, who he said he thinks might be the quickest player he’s had at Pitt. He said that doesn’t mean “best player” but Dixon said he loves Newkirk’s ability to create and score but his playing time will be dictated by how quickly he picks up the defense. Don’t be surprised to see some times when Newkirk is at the 1 and Robinson is at the 2, and that may ultimately end up being Pitt’s best backcourt combo this year.
** Dixon really likes Young and Artis and said – and this is somewhat surprising because he doesn’t usually heap this much praise on freshmen – they are two of the most skilled big men he’s had. He said they both can shoot and dribble better than big men Pitt has had recently and that should help stretch the defenses out and make the offense even more efficient than it has been.
** Everybody is healthy and ready to go, though a couple of guys will ease into things slowly because they are coming off injuries. He said all 11 will be ready for the season. Detrick Mostella is not enrolled and is still working through clearinghouse issues.
** Suzie McConnell-Serio has a long road to haul and a lot of work to do as that women’s program was in shambles when she arrived six months ago. It is still in shambles and I anticipate this is a rebuilding job of at least two years, maybe three, but a couple of things are in her favor….
A – She is a great coach, a great Xs and Os coach and a great motivator. She will squeeze every ounce of potential out of this team and that may lead to a few more wins.
B -- She has the best point guard, or one of the best point guards in the ACC, in Brianna Kiesel and if anyone can build a team around a point guard it is Suzie. Kiesel will excel in Suzie’s system and that will help the team’s outlook as that is the most important position on the floor.
C – Suzie is an uptempo coach who loves pressure defense. The rules have changed in women’s basketball, there is now a ten-second clock to get the ball across midcourt. That is significant because now there is an actual added incentive to press – you can force a ten-second violation and get a turnover that way whereas before teams could dribble in the backcourt for 25 seconds if they need to. This should help pressing teams and the Panthers will certainly press.
D – The bottom half of the ACC will provide some dreck that the Panthers may be able to take advantage of and get a win or two this year.
Again, it is going to be a long year for the Panthers as Suzie must recruit and rebuild the talent base but the team, because of their style of play which is up and down, will be fun to watch and will play with great spirit and energy.
OK, I’ll have much more to add on Saturday when I actually observe some of these guys moving around on the court at the March Morning Midnight Whatever-the-heck-it-is Madness event.