The Pittsburgh Panthers open the 2008-2009 season on Friday, against Farleigh Dickinson. After a disappointing end to the 2007-2008 season that ended with a loss in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament against Michigan State, the Panthers look to bounce back with a team that should be able to compete with the best in the country this season.
Pitt returns their top 3 scorers from last season in Sam Young, Levance Fields, and DeJuan Blair. All three players averaged double digits last season. Young and Fields are back for their senior seasons, and both have been solid contributors since they were freshman. Blair burst onto the scene last season as one of the top freshman in the nation, and one of the better centers in the Big East, despite being undersized. The Panthers also return another solid freshman from last season, Gilbert Brown, who will be in the starting lineup this year, and just like Sam Young, is one of the most athletic players in the country.
Aside from the great core the Panthers have returning to the team, Pitt had a very good recruiting class, and should have some freshman join the mix this season, as we usually do. Nasir Robinson, from Chester High School leads the Pitt newcomers this season, and should see significant time at the 2 and 3. Travon Woodall will be the backup at point guard to start the season, and looks to continue to tradition of great points guards in the recent past for Pitt, following Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser, and Fields. Also joining the mix are Ashton Gibbs, and highly touted junior college transfer, Jermaine Dixon… no relation to coach Jamie.
As good as the Panthers look heading into this season, they will need to fill the shoes of the players who are gone. The Panthers will need to find some players who can hit a 3-point shot, as their most consistent 3-point threat from the past four seasons, Ronald Ramon, is no longer on the team. Neither is Keith Benjamin, who could knock down an open shot as well. Both of those players will be missed and will need to be replaced in the lineup by some of the young talent coming in.
The Panthers have some interesting non-conference games this year, playing some very good under the radar teams, but the bulk of the Panthers schedule will come into play this season once the Big East schedule gets under way in January. The Big East will continue to be the best conference in college basketball, and consistently has 6-8 teams ranked in the top 25 in college basketball. It’s never easy playing Georgetown, Louisville, Uconn, Villanova, Syracuse, and Marquette….. back to back to back to back.
This is our best chance to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time in a while, as we currently have all the tools in place to do so. The Panthers start the season ranked #5 in the AP Poll, and #6 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. There are definitely high hopes from all us Panthers fans, and the Oakland Zoo will be going crazy this season.
HAIL TO PITT!!!!!