Preseason Polls and Preseason Games

The preseason AP and ESPN/USA Today Polls have both been released for the 2008-2009 season, and Pitt’s ranked well in both of them, coming in at 5th and 6th places, respectively. This places them right up amongst the best teams in the nation, and Pitt should contend for a top-5 spot nationally all season, though it will be tough for anybody to dethrone Roy Williams and his unanimous #1 UNC Tar Heels. The Big East tied a record with 7 teams ranked in the top 25: alongside Pitt, there is UConn (#2 AP, #2 Coaches), Louisville (3/3), Notre Dame (9/9), Marquette (16/17), Georgetown (22/18), and Villanova (23/25). Also recieving votes in both polls were WVU and Syracuse, making for 9 teams that could be in the poll by the end of the non-conference portion of the schedule. Siena, who Pitt will play in December, received quite a few votes in both polls, as well as Washington State, who Pitt could play in the final of the Legends Classic.

Polls aside, the Panthers play their first preseason game this Sunday against Seton Hill at 4pm, and seeing the scrimmage has given me a few things to look for at the exhibition. This leads me to a new feature of the Zoo blog, which I will call “Merlin’s Musings” until someone presents me with a better title. This will be usually five things that I am looking for from the Panthers in every game, that every fan will be able to watch for along with me and hopefully we can discuss the Musings post-game and see how the Panthers did.

1) Travon Woodall and Ashton Gibbs seeing time at the point guard position. Both freshman did a good job leading their teams in the scrimmage, and I’m curious to see how much time Jamie gives the pair at the 1-guard, though I would imagine Travon will get the majority of the minutes and the start against Fairleigh-Dickinson.

2) Jermaine Dixon’s ability to create his own shot. One of the leading scorers at the scrimmage, watch for Dixon’s shooting ability from long distance as well as his strength and ability to take it to the hoop. At the scrimmage, he had a few ill-advised takes, and we’ll see if he starts to smooth out his game against an opponent that isn’t his teammates.

3) Gary McGhee’s improved overall game. A lot of people at the scrimmage were very impressed with Gary’s progress since his freshman year. He’s lost the “deer-in-headlights” look from his freshman year and is a lot more sure of himself on the court. Obviously a great rebounder, Gary still needs some work around the basket, but his overall game is definitely improved.

4) Sam Young playing small forward and Gil Brown at shooting guard. The major position changes for the Panthers will be the shifiting of Young and Brown to the 3 and 2 spots, and watching them adjust will be a huge part of the Panthers’ success this year. If both of them continue to work on their shot, and Gil’s ankle isn’t too much of a problem, this should be a successful experiment.

5) DeJuan Blair’s improved range around the hoop. At the scrimmage, Blair showed great touch from 8-10 feet away from the basket, making a few short jumpers with ease that he might not have even attempted last year. If he can continue to expand his game away from the basket, he’ll become even more of a force then he was last year, which was confined to being around the hoop.

Also, after the game, there will be an Oakland Zoo event for the students in the Zoo to get a chance to meet the players and Jamie Dixon as well as get autographs and photos. Stay after the game for a great time, and hope to see a lot of people at the Pete on Sunday to welcome our new members of the Panthers to playing in front of the best crowd in the Big East.

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