Thursday, May 03, 2007


May 3, 2007

Head Coach: Jamie Dixon
2006-2007 Record: 29-8 (12-4 in Big East), Big East Tournament Runner-up, NCAA Sweet 16

Returning Players:
Ronald Ramon, Senior (Guard)
Keith Benjamin, Senior (Guard)
Mike Cook, Senior (Guard/Forward)
Sam Young, Junior (Forward)
Levance Fields, Junior (Point Guard)
Tyrell Biggs, Junior (Forward/Center)
Gilbert Brown, Freshman (Guard/Forward)
Austin Wallace, Freshman (Center/Forward)

Incoming Players:
DeJuan Blair (Power Forward)
Brad Wanamaker (Guard)
Darnell Dodson (Forward/Guard)
Gary McGhee (Center)
Cassin Diggs, JUCO (Center)

Graduated Players:
Aaron Gray
Antonio Graves
Levon Kendall

Open Items/Issues:
Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon is currently interviewing candidates to fill Mike Rice's position on the Panther coaching staff. Rice left the program after a short stay to accept the head coaching position at nearby Robert Morris College. A couple of the known candidates are Danny Hurley, a former Seton Hall point guard and Rutgers assistant coach now heading the powerful St. Benedict's Prep program, former College of Charleston coach Tommy Herrion, Providence assistant Steve Demeo and South Carolina assistant Ken Potosnak, a native of the Pittsburgh area.

Otherwise, it has been a quiet offseason for the Panthers with a full roster heading into next season. Senior-to-be Keith Benjamin landed in some trouble after being arrested for his involvment in what police called a 'domestic dispute' with his girlfriend. Charges were never filed and the 20-yr old Benjamin remains with the team.

The Panthers have reached four straight NCAA Tournaments under Jamie Dixon and advanced to the Sweet 16 two times in his four seasons. They have also reached three of the last Big East Tournament Champsionships in Dixon's tenure, however, they seem to just be short of getting over the hump nationally to be perceived as an elite program. With a Big East best six straight NCAA appearances, in which they have been to four Sweet 16's and appearing in six of the last seven Big East Tournament title games, they are one lucky bounce here or there from busting through the door.

To expect that breakthrough in 2007-2008 might be a little tough as Pitt losses 40% of their scoring and nearly 50% of their rebounding through graduation (only Syracuse suffers heavier losses via graduation). However, if we have learned anything from this Pitt program the last six or seven years it is they are resilient. They might not have the size returning, but they will be more athletic and will add their best recruiting class in Howland/Dixon era. Next year's freshmen include DeJuan Blair, a top 20 recruit according to The USA Today and Rob Harrington, Darnell Dodson, a 1st-team all-Met player from Washington DC, and Brad Wanamaker, the Player of the Year from Philadelphia. Also joining the freshman class is Gilbert Brown, another ahtletic wing at 6'6 who was a top 70 player accoring to USA Today in 2006.

Newcomers aside, Pitt has also been the most effective program the last several years in improving from within. When one player graduates and moves on, they usually replace them with someone waiting in the wings, rather than the quick fix of a freshman. With Levance Fields returning as the point guard and an expected breakout season from Sam Young, look for Pitt to continue that trend and Young could be their next 'Most Improved Player' award winner.

The Panthers will fall off a bit next year, but just like previous seasons, do not expect them to go too far. This should definitely be an NCAA team, although being a top four Big East team will be tough, they do look poised to have possibly their best basketball just ahead of them, too.


Read more!