When Levance went out with his foot injury, a lot of people feared that Sam Young would regress a bit in a slowed-down offense, but he has proven that this is really his breakout year, especially with 28-point, 8-rebound performance against the Pirates on Saturday afternoon. He displayed some great ability to make his own shot in a half-court set, pulling up on jumpers in the lane and passing the ball to the open man when necessary. It was great to see Sam have such a high scoring game without too many fast-break points, though I would like to see him concentrate a little more on his free throw shooting, especially late in the game.
Not too surprisingly, Dejuan Blair has really stepped up his game in conference play, averaging 14.7 ppg and 12.7 rpg while picking up 5 steals and 6 blocks in his last three games. He’s really been great for Pitt all year, but it’s even better to see him respond so well against conference opponents, and his maturity and energy on the court continues to be a huge positive sign for this Panthers team. It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up against Hoya All-American Roy Hibbert, a sure first-round pick in next years’ NBA draft, who he gives up 5 inches to. Blair is said to have the wingspan of a 7’2″ player, so now we can see how he’ll match up against the best big man in the conference.
Ronny Ramon and Keith Benjamin have both really stepped it up in the last few games as well, with Keith averaging 16.8 points in over 34 minutes per game while shooting 11-19 (57.9%) from beyond the arc and helping run the offense in the four games since Levance’s injury. Even after a cold start against Seton Hall, he really picked it up in the second half, and that kind of maturity is also going to be a huge asset in the conference. Ronny’s had a solid few games as well, compiling a 2.8-1 assist-to-turnover ratio while also shooting over 50% from 3.
The dark horse has really been Tyrell Biggs. Watching the game against Seton Hall, I feel like he’s about to become this team’s Mike Cook- our player who doesn’t fill out the stat sheet, but makes smart passes and hustles on both ends of the court. He hasn’t had the great games that Cook had, but I feel like he’s really hitting the potential that was seen coming out of high school in 2005. He’s stopped taking unnecessary 3s, and instead has focused more on crashing the boards and providing another big body down low.
The Panthers do have a lot to improve on, and I worry that tomorrow night’s game is going to expose quite a few of those- namely backdoor cuts, defending against screens, and guards that can drive to the hoop. Dejuan did a good job of staying out of foul trouble for most of the Seton Hall game, but against a quality opponent that’s not always going to happen. For those of you who don’t know, Georgetown runs a version of the Princeton offense, a slow-moving offense that emphasizes ball movement and waiting for the open man, as well as passing to backdoor cuts for open layups. Watch for the Panthers to double team up top and then be exposed down low for easy baskets. Pitt is definitely a team that can make adjustments at halftime, I just hope that we’re not down by too much at the 20-minute mark. However, as shown by the Villanova game, this is a team that can still compete with a top-20 team, even on the road, so I expect the Panthers to put up a good fight against the Hoyas on Monday night.