Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/12/2006 12:38:00 AM
Pitt's New Dimension
Antonio Graves adds guard depth off the bench for Pittsburgh.
NEW YORK -- Examine the standard hoops-geek offensive statistics -- pace and efficiency -- and you get the impression that Pitt's 2005-06 offense is a mirror image of itself from '04-05, when it was sent packing in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Pacific:
Pitt Pace Off Eff. 2004-05 67.0 112.1 2005-06 67.2 112.4
Same speed, same level of efficiency. Even on the point-distribution front, these are again, very similar Panthers (stats taken from kenpom.com, and figures are all percentages).
And yet, sluggish showing (33 percent shooting) aside in Saturday's Big East title game, don't be mistaken: This Pitt offense is much better than last season's. And this Pitt team is far more equipped to get to the Sweet 16. It swapped out Chris Taft's athleticism and Chevy Troutman's bullying for the plodding-yet-brilliantly-effective Aaron Gray in the post, but the real difference is on the perimeter. Coach Jamie Dixon now has a stable of five guards -- often playing three at a time -- to take the ball-distribution heat off of Carl Krauser, who is a born leader but not necessarily the most effective point guard.
Last season's team, which went 20-9 and earned a No. 9 seed in the dance, had just one guard, Ronald Ramon, with a higher assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3) than Krauser's (1.4):
Pitt's Guards, 2004-05 Player Asts. TOs Ratio Carl Krauser 170 122 1.4 Antonio Graves 53 43 1.2 Ronald Ramon 52 23 2.3 Keith Benjamin 9 16 0.6 Total 284 204 1.4
This season, with Dixon rotating through a quicker, more athletic offense -- centered around the Gray Axis under the hoop -- Pitt was immensely better at sharing the ball. Every guard in the '05-06 lineup had an assist-to-turnover ratio (through Friday) equal or better than Krauser's (1.5), and the team ratio went up from 1.4 in '04-05 to 1.7 this season.
Pitt's Guards, 2005-06 Player Asts. TOs Ratio Carl Krauser 141 92 1.5 Ronald Ramon 69 31 2.2 Levance Fields 67 34 2.0 Antonio Graves 43 27 1.6 Keith Benjamin 29 19 1.5 Total 349 203 1.7
Now that is improvement. Pitt should enter the NCAAs as a No. 3 or 4 seed, and it won't be overly vulnerable to an early knockout. "Everybody should know now that you have to watch out for us," guard Antonio Graves said on Friday. "We're a deep team, we play well together and we share the ball, so that's all that counts."
Although I love Krauser and his intensity, I can't wait until next years Pitt team sans-Krauser. Krauser plays too much street ball on the court, trying to do everything himself on one of the teams that is the ultimate definition of that concept. Without his massive amount of turnovers, Pitt will be a much improved team.
By the way, Pitt's non-confrence schedule this year was no cupcake. A decent PSU team, Wisconsin, and a very good and probably underrated S. Carolina team, on their court. We didn't play very many away from the Pete, but most teams don't, and most top 50 teams avoid scheduling us.
Pitt has always been a fun team to watch. You go into every game, no matter what the caliber of the opponent is, thinking you can win. When they are behind at the half, they always manage to catch up and make an exciting game of it. When they are ahead at the half, they often blow the lead and make an exciting game of it. Either way, I wouldn't trade our team for any other. Go Panthers!
Is there a more disrespected team in college basketball. A 5 seed is an absolute joke. Pitt has been to the Big East Championship 5 out of the last 6 years and destroyed Villanova, the number 2 team in the country. I guess we will have to go undefeated to get a 3 seed.
A number 5 is somewhat perplexing. Considering PITT's RPI is a number 7. Nevertheless, regardless of who, when, or where, the Panthers are always ready. This year, they have the gaurds to compete and the toughness to advance. PITT matches up well with the Rock-Chalk Jayhawks. PITT will have an intensity and a toughness that Kansas has yet to see. It will be an exciting matchup. Undervalued as a 5 seed? Probably. Overlooked? Perhaps. Ready for what is ahead for this young, brillant team that no one talks about? YES It would be a great story to meet up with the Bruins in the Elite 8 and greet their old coach and remind him that the PAC-10 is not in the same league as the BIG EAST.
This "five" seed could be laughing about its seed the whole way to Indianapolis.
Pitt is better when Krauser is distributing the ball more with less shooting on his part. When he gets other people involved they are much better. I still think they have the talent and are tougher than any other team in their bracket. The #5 seed in the west is disrespectful and should only make them hungrier.