Ray Fittipaldo: Welcome to the Pitt basketball chat. Let's get going.
Kevin: What do you think of Cam Wright thus far?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think Cam has been very solid all-around. Jamie Dixon said he puts him in games first and foremost for his defense, but I think he looks much more comfortable and confident on the offensive end as well. He has been through a lot in the past two years. His dad was diagnosed with cancer when he was a freshman after moving with Cam to Pittsburgh. His dad died on the day of the season opener vs. Mount St. Mary's in November. I think he'll be even better in another month or two considering his personal circumstances. He appears to be a nice piece for Dixon.
Clyde: What do you think are the chances of Adams returning next year, now that he has showed that his offense needs work?
Ray Fittipaldo: First off, people need to know Adams has not said anything to Dixon about a desire to turn pro after this season. From the moment he signed he had intentions of being here for a while. I don't think that has changed. However, the NBA talk will heat up more in February and March as the draft draws closer. If he is a projected lottery pick, Dixon will have to sit down with him and explain his options. I am sure he will go through the predraft process and be evaluated. It's the smart thing to do. But as you said, he appears to be a project when it comes to offense right now. I'm not sure if he wouldn't be better served to come back and hope he can be a top 5 pick instead of a just a lottery pick. We'll see what happens.
chicago_pitt_fan: i don't understand why pitt needs to guarantee 8 non conference home games/year. all the other top flight programs are out there playing each other. look at other big east teams. why is pitt's non-conference schedule so locked in already?
Ray Fittipaldo: The way Jamie Dixon explained it to me it has everything to do with balancing the athletic department budget. I did not get the idea he was opposed to playing WVU or any other non-conference team in a home-and-away series, but he said the NCAA would have to change the rules and allow for more than 31 games in a regular season for that to happen. I know other teams are playing better games, but Pitt appears to be in a position financially that the basketball program has to play a certain number of home games. At least that's what Dixon told me. I have no reason not to believe what he said.
Kevin: What do you see as Pitt's ideal offensive lineup?
Ray Fittipaldo: I liked the Robinson, Woodall, Patterson, Moore and Zanna lineup that won the Detroit game. I think that's probably the best offensive group. The Panthers are much better defensively when Adams is in there. I think they can be a good offensive team with Adams when he can convert some of his offensive rebounds into points. Right now, that's not happening.
Damon: Watching Pitt over the past couple years I always felt that Nasir Robinson had been a hindrance to playing a more efficient offensive game and a more imposing defensive game. Do you consider him graduating to be an addition by subtraction like I would?
Ray Fittipaldo: I actually think they miss Robinson when it has come to attacking zones. He was tremendous in the high post in either creating an open look for himself or finding the open guy. Until the Duquesne game, the Panthers had been struggling against the zone. I think they made some strides vs. the Dukes. Where Robinson hurt Pitt was his lack of height. At 6-5, he was not a great rebounder. I kind of liked what Nasir brought to the team. I knew he had limitations, but he brought some good things to the table, too.
chicago_pitt_fan: i believe you and i believe jamie dixon, but getting back to the budgetary restraints on scheduling, shouldn't that be solved with the move to the acc then? i would just like to see pitt play some other major conf opponents in nov/dec. it's always 2-3 max.
Ray Fittipaldo: And it will stay 2-3 max unless the athletic department changes course. Pitt will be in the ACC-Big Ten invitational from now on, so they'll have one marquee home game every other year. And they'' get a few more in events like the Legends Classic (next year), Maui Invitational (2014) and Coaches Vs. Cancer (2015).
Nick: Can Tray Woodall become the go-to-guy that Pitt has lacked down the stretch, especially come tournament time?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think he is developing into a so-called "go-to" shooter, but Woodall has never been a player that can consistently create shots for himself. He tends to get into trouble when he tries to penetrate. He gets his shot blocked or turns the ball over. I think he is well-suited to play off the ball and known down some outside shots. He is shooting almost 40 percent from 3-point range. That's a pretty good clip.
Matt in Ann Arbor: What's a bigger surprise, James Robinson's success or Lamar Patterson's early struggles?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'd have to say Robinson. Jamie Dixon has said on numerous occasions that he is better than what the coaches thought he would be, at least early in his career. He just doesn't make many mistakes.His assist to turnover ratio is off he charts. He is just a calm and steady influence for the team. Patterson has actually scored in double figures in five consecutive games. He's played very well after a slow start. He'll be among the top three scorers on the team in short order.
Matt in Ann Arbor: If not Woodall, who will be Pitt's go to guy, come Tourney time, down one with .10 left?
Ray Fittipaldo: I'm not saying Woodall won't be that guy. He could be. It could be Lamar Patterson. It could be James Robinson by that time, although that would be asking a lot because he is such an unselfish player. I think my point is that Pitt might lack that player who can create his own shot when things break down. Dixon runs such an efficient offense that it might not matter. In other words, running good offense might lead to a good shot without someone creating it on their own.
Ryan: Any insight into the two recruits for next year, Mike Young and/or Josh Newkirk?
Ray Fittipaldo: Josh Newkirk is from North Carolina and someone Duke and UNC did not offer. Dixon thinks they got lucky because he thinks Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams might have missed the boat on him. He is another point guard, so I am not sure how he'll fit in with James Robinson. Perhaps he'll redshirt and be the guy for two years. Or perhaps he'll be like Robinson and force his way into the lineup and play alongside Robinson. Dixon has proven over the years that he likes versatile players.
As for Young, he's a power forward with some nice upside. He is more face-up than post-up right now. He has good size and can rebound well. Should be a nice fit in the offense.
chicago_pitt_fan: any prediction on where pitt will finish in its final big east year?
Ray Fittipaldo: I said before the season top 5 or 6 in the league. I hesitate a little with that prediction now because I saw the Oakland and Detroit games. If the Panthers play that way against most Big East teams they won't be able to mount comebacks and win games on a consistent basis. I also realize it's early in the season and Jamie Dixon is still working out the kinks with his rotation. I still think this is an NCAA tournament and could be really dangerous if the light goes on for Steven Adams. Not so much if it stays off or flickering.
Matt in Ann Arbor: Pitt's season is a success this year if they ______?
Ray Fittipaldo: win one NCAA tournament game. Considering this will likely be a fifth or sixth place team in the Big East that would mean a No. 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA tournament I am guessing. So win a game against a lower seed and see what happens in the second game vs. a higher seed.
Kevin: If you had to have one on this team...Tray Woodall at the 2 or Gibbs?
Ray Fittipaldo: That's a good question. I'd have to go with Gibbs because he was really good when he had a point guard to find him. He was miscast as a point guard. I think that threw off his game all season last year even though he went back to shooting guard when Woodall returned. It's a close call, but Gibbs based on his play his first three seasons in the program.
Kevin: And a lot of comparisons get made between Moore and Gilbert Brown any thoughts?
Ray Fittipaldo: I can see where they come from. Both great athletes and both versatile. Both a little inconsistent, too. Moore will have his games when he'll score 20 and then the next game will be barely noticeable. I think that comes from not getting consistent starter's minutes. I look for Moore to get better and better as the season wears on and I do think he'll get more minutes in conference play. Right now, Dixon is playing everyone. I think the rotation might shrink in a few weeks.
Dante: I remember watching Durand Johnson's high school mixtape a couple years ago and was super impressed. He has been solid so far this year. What do you see his ceiling being this year, and in his career at Pitt?
Ray Fittipaldo: He'll have to be much more consistent if he wants a role in Big East play. He has a tendency to take some bad shots and some untimely turnovers. He does have some nice offensive upside, though. I like his ceiling more next year and the year after. I actually think his role might decrease once Big East play begins because he is still young and a bit inconsistent.
John: Outside of Adams, any NBA prospects on this team?
Ray Fittipaldo: Not really. Maybe JJ Moore, but how much of a chance does he have when Gilbert Brown barely got a look in the NBA. Maybe James Robinson, but he's not the typical athletic, speedy point guard NBA teams seek. He is more in the mold of Levance Fields, who also never got a sniff from the NBA. He was just a great college player. Nothing wrong if that's what Robinson turns out to be, too.
Keith Halcovich: Ray, I am in town from California for the Steelers game on Sunday and want to see about going to the game on Saturday against North Florida. What is the best way to get tickets?
Ray Fittipaldo: Try to the Pitt ticket office. They have a telephone number on their web site: pittsburghpanthers.com. If not there, stubhub and other outlets have tix available for these non-conference games.
John: Does Malcolm Gilbert have a chance of getting looked at, simply for the fact that he's 7 feet?
Ray Fittipaldo: Perhaps. To be quite honest, it's hard to evaluate him based on the little time he received last year. 7-footers always have upside, though.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for taking part in the chat this week. We'll do it again next week. Enjoy the weekend.
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