2014 Pitt Panthers Predictions and NCAA Basketball Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 10/28/2014
In Jamie Dixon's 11 years as head coach at Pittsburgh, the Panthers have averaged 26 wins. Last year, Pittsburgh made the move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and they finished 11-7 in ACC play. The Panthers earned a No. 8 seed in the Big Dance last year. They won in blowout fashion 77-48 over Colorado in the second-round game, but they were beaten 61-45 by Florida in their attempt to reach the Sweet 16. Getting the eight or nine seed can be really tough, since it means you are going to play the No. 1 seed in the Round of 32. The Panthers finished the season with 26 wins, so they were right on their average with Dixon as coach.
Pittsburgh is one of those teams that I think is underappreciated by the public. This is a program that has made the NCAA Tournament in 12 of the last 13 years. Only seven schools in the nation have accomplished that feat. Pittsburgh is always a physical team who dominates nearly every opponent on the boards. They fight for every loose ball and defend well. They play a blue-collar style that matches their hometown. Coach Dixon got a good look at his team for this year in a trip to the Bahamas in August. The team coasted to big wins in all four of their matchups there. Dixon hopes the trip will give the team an extra sense of camaraderie this season.
2014 Pittsburgh Key Losses and Additions
Pittsburgh suffered two big losses after last year. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna are both gone from last year's team. Patterson led the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game, and he was a second-round NBA Draft pick. Zanna averaged 13 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Those two were considered the leaders of the team both from a numbers standpoint as well as a vocal leadership standpoint.
Durand Johnson isn't a total newcomer to the program, but he tore his ACL last year and missed the second half of the season. When Johnson went down, the Panthers were 15-1. His versatility and scoring ability is much needed, and getting him back this year will be a big boost. Of the first-time players for Pittsburgh, Sheldon Jeter is the most likely to make an impact right away. He averaged 5.5 point and 3.4 boards in his freshman season at Vanderbilt before transferring and sitting out last season. Jeter is 6-foot-7, but he's also a good outside shooter, and that will get him playing time immediately. Cameron Johnson averaged more than 27 minutes per game in high school, and he might get some time off the bench this season.
2014 Pittsburgh Backcourt
There's plenty of depth in the backcourt for the Panthers heading into this season. James Robinson and Josh Newkirk are both very capable of starting at the point guard spot. Robinson is more of the steady leader who makes great decisions, while Newkirk is the more explosive player. The two of them complement each other well. Newkirk is only a sophomore, and I think his minutes will increase as the season moves along because of his high upside. Cameron Wright is Pittsburgh's leading returning scorer (10.5 per game last year), and he is a guy that Coach Dixon expects to be a leader this year. Expect Wright to get a bunch of minutes this year because of his ability to score and defend. Durand Johnson and Chris Jones are both capable of playing either the shooting guard or small forward spot for this team.
2014 Pittsburgh Frontcourt
Derrick Randall saw limited playing time for the Panthers last year, but he should start at center for them this season. Randall is a 6-foot-9 senior from Brooklyn with a big body, but Coach Dixon has asked him to become a better defender and rebounder for this year. Michael Young is probably the most talented member of the Pitt frontcourt. Young averaged 6.0 points and 4.1 boards per game last season. He played through an injury most of last year, but he is healthy now. Young is the tough type of power forward that Dixon loves. Jamel Artis is an athletic wing who lost a significant amount of weight to get even quicker in the offseason. The problem with this group is there aren't many guys who can score consistently.
2014 Pittsburgh Panthers Futures Odds
The Panthers are considered a relatively long shot to win it all this year. Pittsburgh is listed at 75/1 to win the NCAA Championship,according to odds from Bovada. Odds from BetOnline list Pittsburgh at +10,000 to win the title this season.
2014 Pittsburgh Panthers Predictions and NCAA Basketball Picks
Pittsburgh doesn't have enough talent or depth to win it all this year, but the Panthers are an intriguing team to me. Pittsburgh isn't even a part of the initial Coaches Poll Top 25, so they may fly under the radar a bit. For a team that is averaging 26 wins per game in the last 11 years, I don't think the Panthers haven't gotten the credit they deserve. Expect this team to scratch and claw its way to the NCAA Tournament again this year. I think they'll also be a good team to back early in the season because of their offseason team trip to the Bahamas. The Panthers will be tested early on as they take part in the Maui Invitational in late November.
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