RESULTS| STATS| HISTORY | MESSAGE BOARD | PITTSBURGH INSIDER
RECORD: 28 - 5 REGION: Midwest SEED: 2|
COACH: Ben Howland CONFERENCE: ACC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
Ben Howland has one of the strongest and most
physical teams in the country. It's also loaded with veterans. Brandin
Knight is one of the premier point guards in the country, but struggles shooting the ball consistently from the perimeter. Knight
simply makes plays -- he is a winner. Julius Page and Jaron Brown are
excellent defensive guards. Page is also great athlete who can really get
up off of his feet. Ontario Lett is wide with great feet, while Chevon
Troutman is Pitt's best interior defender and rebounder. Troutman is
efficient and an outstanding finisher around the basket. Pittsburgh is
methodical, runs its sets to completion and very competitive. With the
exception of free throw shooting, this team has very few weaknesses.
|Player to Watch|
Say what you will about his less-than-stellar numbers, this senior defines leadership -- not to mention toughness.
|Points Per Game
|Rebounds Per Game
|Assists Per Game
|Steals Per Game
|Blocks Per Game
|Turnovers Per Game
|Field Goal %
|Free Throw %
|3-Pointers Per Game
How They Got Here
The Panthers beat all comers at home, going 16-0 to give themselves a tremendous base on which to build an NCAA Tournament resume. Along with the home domination, though, Pittsburgh didn't do a whole lot -- sorry, Panthers fans.
Pittsburgh's top non-conference opponent was Georgia, and the Bulldogs won that game in Athens. The Panthers' best (and only) non-conference road wins? Penn State and Rhode Island. The Panthers lost each of their most strenuous road games in league play, dropping contests at Syracuse, Seton Hall and Notre Dame, but winning on the road against Rutgers, West Virginia and Georgetown. While any road win is a good win these days, it must be noted that the Panthers haven't beaten one likely NCAA Tournament on the road all season.
Then again, the tournament itself won't be played on the road, will it? And on neutral courts, when it comes down to those 94 feet of hardwood, the Panthers ought to like their chances. They have had six players average in double figures this season, ranging from 10 to 12 points per game, and they entered the Big East tournament with a chance of leading the league in field-goal percentage on offense (50 percent) and defense (38 percent).
The Panthers righted themselves after something of a mid-season stumble, when they dropped three of five games -- losing those aforementioned road games to conference opponents -- by closing out the season with six straight victories to share the division title with Syracuse at 13-3.
What We Like
The Panthers have a great blend of inside and outside scoring, with Brandin Knight and Julius Page capable of scoring from the perimeter, and Chevon Troutman and Ontario Lett almost automatic in the post.
Troutman shoots 72 percent from the floor and Lett 63 percent, lessening the pressure on Knight to make all the plays. Pittsburgh also pounds foes on the boards, winning that battle by almost eight rebounds per game.
Throw in an offense that produces more assists than turnovers, and a defense that does the offense, and you've got a deep, experienced team that wins with fundamentals. Sounds like a legitimate NCAA title contender to us.
What We Don't Like
Although his shooting has improved in recent weeks, Knight still is around a 35-percent shooter overall, and a 27-percent shooter on three-pointers. He also misses half his free throws, a terrible statistic for a point guard who will need to have the ball in his hands of close games.
Don't be surprised if an NCAA Tournament foe springs a Hack-a-Shaq strategy on the Panthers and makes Knight win it from the line. Not that the rest of the team shoots all that well, either. Troutman, Lett and Jaron Brown shoot in the 63-percent range.