Saturday, January 3, 2009

Impressions From Pitt-Georgetown

After countless critics questioned just how good the Pitt men's hoops squad really was for the better part of November and December, Jamie Dixon's crew went out and made a very powerful statement earlier today in whooping up on Georgetown 70-54. Leading the way for our Panthers was DeJuan Blair who, after a dreadful M.I.A effort against Rutgers a few days ago, was an absolute beast out on the court. Blair put up a 20 point, 17 rebound effort, and set the tone for the Panthers early and often. The Panthers dominated the Hoyas on the glass, outrebounding them by an incredible 43-17 margin. Pitt had 18 offensive boards to Georgetown's 4, another incredible margin. Some other impressions:

-The much ballyhooed "next great Georgetown center" Greg Monroe has a long LONG way to go to live up to the hype. Yeah the guy can fill the basket, as he put up 15 points, but defensively he is an absolute liability against savvy offensive players like our marvelous DeJuan Blair.

-Let's hope Gil Brown is okay after going down with a shoulder injury late in the game. Brown was a real difference maker for the Panthers today, using his incredible athleticism to really cause some big time matchup problems for the Hoyas. Brown is further cementing himself as a guy who can do it all, as he played the 2, 3, and 4 for extended periods in the game, and was excellent at each spot. At the 2 he can use his size and at the 4 he uses his speed. I think this guy has a very, very bright future ahead of him as a pro someday. For now, he is a spectacular force coming off of the bench.

-Speaking of great bench play, how about the work of Brad Wanamaker the last two games? Who or what lit a fire under his butt? After pouring in a career-high 15 against Rutgers, Wanamaker may not have filled the stat sheet quite as well (5 points, 4 boards, 2 helpers), but he was excellent out there. I've never been a believer of Brad's in the past, and never could understand the appeal of him to Jamie Dixon, but I am a believer in him now and think he will be a big part of this team's success as the 7th man.

-How about Tyrell Biggs doing his best Chevy Troutman impression? Biggs is a perfect mucker-and-grinder type of role guy, and today he showed a strong knack for taking advantage of the space opponents are forced to give him when Blair is lighting it up as he was today. If Blair keeps playing like a force of nature, Biggs will benefit as much as anyone, and let's hope the efficiency (7/10 shooting today) continues.

-Very little was demonstrated by our deep bench guys that reassured me we can survive if either Levance Fields or Blair is in foul trouble or (knocking on wood) injured. Ashton Gibbs is a nerve-wracking point guard who appears very uncomfortable with the position, and Gary McGhee looks mostly like the same player he was a season ago. I hope one of these guys or a guy like Tra Woodall or Nas Robinson can make a Wanamaker-like improvement, but I'm not holding my breath.

-How did I get this far in without mentioning Sam Young and Levance Fields? Fields, despite what some announcers say, looks as close to 100% as ever, and continues to be nothing short of brilliant as a point guard. He is one of the national leaders in assist/turnover ratio, and certainly did nothing to hurt his status with an 8 Assist 0 Turnover performance. He also got Georgetown sharpshooter DeJuan Summers very, very irritated. Hard to say if this had anything to do with it, but Summers was not nearly as effective after getting T'ed up. Not saying it was a great thing to happen (Fields was T'ed up too) but maybe, just maybe Fieldsy got in his head a little bit.

-As for Sam, it was something of a ho-hum day for him. He put in 14 points and snatched 8 rebounds, but this wasn't a vintage Sam I Am game. Don't get me wrong, he played well defensively, and you could tell G'town was definitely keeping an eye on him at all times when the Panthers were on offense, but we've all seen better from Sam. With that said, it was very encouraging to see the Panthers look so crisp and be so successful without Young having to go for 20+ points and be the go-to option. Be quite sure that we will see many teams make shutting down Young their number 1 priority this season, so if the other guys on the roster can learn what they have to do to win when this happens, the Panthers will be all the better for it.

-I'm still having a lot of trouble forming a real opinion on Jermaine Dixon. Defensively, he seems very good, though I did notice at least two lapses on his part, but it wasn't because of a lack of talent, so it can at least be corrected. Offensively, if his shots aren't falling early, he seems to disappear. I'll stand by my statement that I made a couple weeks ago: Jermaine Dixon may be a starter for the whole season, but Gil Brown will be the finisher. And Brown would have been the finisher today had it not been for the injury. I also might add Brad Wanamaker to the role of a finisher over Dixon right now, too. Dixon was a miserable 1/7 on field goals and 0/5 on treys. Jamie Dixon needs to get Jermaine touches from inside the arc. He seems fine from the 15 foot range, yet is inept on 3-pointers. I would take that 3-point option mostly out of his hands and get him to take more close jumpers. If he starts to hit those and gain some confidence and gain a good feel, THEN allow him more rope to attempt the long bombs.

No comments: