Matt: Do you think Dixon should play Tray more at PG? He seems to be having success while I see James struggling to go by guys and create.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think James needs to work through his issues while playing 25 minutes a game. He is one of Pitt's two best guards along with Woodall and he needs to play minutes that represent that. Penetrating is not a big part of game now, but he is such a stabilizing force on offense and a good defender that he warrants the time on the court. Woodall should get the most minutes of the guards because he is the top scorer and the offense needs his presence on the floor. He played very well at Georgetown and has to keep playing at a high level in order for this team to be successful.
Evan: I'm happy Pitt won of course, but what happened in a matter of 3 days from losing at Rutgers to blowing out G-town?
Ray Fittipaldo: As I wrote about in today's P-G, Pitt went straight from Rutgers to Georgetown and spent 72 hours in D.C. before the game. The Panthers practiced at the Washington Wizards practice facility and got a lot of work accomplished. Coaches love extended road trips such as that one because he has the full attention of his players with minimal distractions. Dixon mentioned this Tuesday night after the game and he believes it helped the players understand what his staff had been trying to teach.
Guest: Robinson looked like he had adjusted well to the college game, but the last few games he has looked lost and uncertain. Is this just freshmen nerves in BE games?
Ray Fittipaldo: I wouldn't say he has looked lost. I don't think he is playing to the level he or the coaches desire, but I don't think he has played bad in any way. Look at the stats from the Cincinnati game. He had one turnover against a team that pressures the entire game. Dixon has a real steady player in Robinson. He has played well beyond their expectations. He'll get better and he needs to get better, but he's already a very good college player.
Guest: If Tray moved to point who would play SG?
Ray Fittipaldo: I don't think that is going to happen unless Robinson is injured, but Cameron Wright would be the next guy in line. He earned the start at Rutgers and Dixon likes his defensive intensity. Dixon also has Trey Zeigler and Durand Johnson at his disposal. Zeigler played a little better at Georgetown, but he has struggled all season with turnovers and inefficient play. I like what I saw out of Johnson again at Georgetown. He can help this team in spurts. But to answer your question, Wright would be the guy if that happened.
Scott: Can you talk of the improvement of Cam Wright? Really coming into his own with a good jump shot and bring great defense off the bench.
Ray Fittipaldo: Wright is this team's best defender. That's why he is earning so many minutes. I also like him in transition. He attacks opposing defenders and creates plays for himself and others. That's important because I still have my doubts about this team's half-court offense. I would say Cam's weakness right now is playing in the half court on offense. His shooting has improved, but it's still not his strong point. But I agree with you. He has been a very steady player for the Panthers, one of the nice surprises for Dixon and his staff thus far.
Dante Taylor: Hey Ray, did you see my dunks against G-Town? I almost went Superman on them, but settled for some chest pounds instead. Watch for a few more putback slams on Saturday. Hail to Pitt!
Ray Fittipaldo: Taylor gave the team some nice energy off the bench vs. Georgetown. He is finishing around the hoop, which is a nice sign for the Panthers. He plays hard, too. I like the infusion of emotion that enters when Taylor and J.J. Moore come off the bench. When they make some plays you can see how uplifting it is to the team. Pitt's bench has been a strength for most of the season.
Bill: Updated conference record prediction for Pitt? I started the season thinking 12-6. I'm not sure where this team is at yet. Is 10-8 safe? I think either gets us into the NCAA Tournament.
Ray Fittipaldo: I think 10-8 would get the Panthers in provided there is one more signature win. I think Georgetown will be that at the end of the season. I think Pitt is a bad matchup for Georgetown and that was not indicative of the type of team the Hoyas are. I thought this was a 12- or 11-win Big East team at the beginning, but I'm having second thoughts as well. Even if the Panthers go 9-9 they'd still have a chance to jump off the bubble at the Big East tournament if they win a couple of games there. I think the next couple of weeks are important. They have to pile up some wins because they don't play another ranked opponent until Louisville at the end of the month. They have to take advantage of the schedule and win these games they are expected to win.
Scott: So if and when this PITT team puts it all together and remains consistent what is the ceiling for this team? Also what will Trey Zeiglers role for this team down the stretch? 8 minutes a game the last few games for a guy that could of started at SG before the emergence of James Robinson
Ray Fittiapldo: I think 6-8 minutes is a good role for Zeigler. I'm not sure Dixon would have used him at all if the other players weren't in foul trouble. As for the ceiling for this team, I think that depends on the development of James Robinson and Steve Adams, particularly Adams. If Adams can take some strides on offense and become someone who can average 10 or 12 points a game the Panthers can be a very dangerous team. But right now, the way they are playing, I think it's a team that win one or maybe two NCAA games if they get that far.
Matt: We play the 345 slowest pace in the country, I know Dixon has done this slow pace forever, but I also don't think he's ever had a team this "talented". Against Cincy our offense in the half court looked abismal. Do you think we would benefit from an increased pace? Not a huge push, but I think some speed up would help us!
Ray Fittipaldo: Dixon would like for his players to push in transition when opportunities arise because I think he realizes this team has some shortcomings in the half court. Just look at his postgame quotes from Tuesday night. He applauded his team for getting the ball inside because he came out and said the team had to take fewer outside shots. Perimeter shooting is a weakness of this team. The less they play in the half court the better. But those opportunities in transition have to productive. This team is not talented enough or good enough on the defensive end to overcome many double-digit turnover games.
Sean Miller Fan: With the poor OOC schedule, do you think 10-8 is a lock for the NCAA Tournament? What about 9-9?
Ray Fittipaldo: As I said earlier it depends on who they beat. I think Georgetown will be a good win even though the Hoyas are 0-2 at the moment. Pitt has Syracuse and Notre Dame at home and Louisville and Cincinnati on the road. I think if they are able to get two of those and get to 10 wins they'll be fine because that would be three quality wins. The lack of a quality non-conference win will hurt if they pile up 10 wins against unranked teams the rest of the way.
Cold As Zeise: With the benefit of Hindsight, do you think it would have been best if Zeigler had to sit out the year and redshirt?
Ray Fittipaldo: Looking back on it now, yes. I never saw him play at Central Michigan, but he's really struggled against this level of competition.
Scott: Looks like Steven Adams is bulking up a little bit, looked bigger in the Georgetown game. What are the chances he stays more than 2 years at PITT? Love his potential but still very raw. Lottery Pick whenever he goes or more work to do?
Ray Fittipaldo: Adams is a physical specimen and has taken well to Tim Beltz's strength and conditioning program. I haven't looked in a few weeks, but the last mock drafts I saw he had slipped into the 20s. That's not the lottery. If he is guaranteed a lottery spot he'll have to consider his options, but if not he should come back and work on his game. He has a very long way to go in terms of his offensive development.
Scott: Could Durand Johnson develop into a JJ Moore, Sam Young type player by the end of his career? Looks like he has the 3 point shot down if he could develop some more athleticism and drive ability lie they did
Ray Fittipaldo: Johnson has a lot of offensive upside. I think he still has a ways to go defensively and with his decision-making. He made one pass in the Georgetown game that was a head-scratcher. I believe he was trying to break the press and he threw it into the third row. I'm not sure if he can become the next Sam Young, but he has the potential to be a good player down the road.
Ryan: Ray, would Jamie ever go with a lineup of Paterson at the 2 & Moore at the 3 to get Moore more minutes?
Ray Fittipaldo: I think that weakens the team defensively, which is why it hasn't been done a lot. Patterson is not a great defender at small forward, so he likely would likely encounter some problems defending quicker guards. It might be a better offensive lineup, but Jamie's emphasis this season has been on defense and rightfully so after what happened last season.
Charlie Smith: Jamie Dixon seems to be relying more on the 2-3 zone. Do you think that will continue in Big East play?
Ray Fittipaldo: We've seen it here and there, but I wouldn't say the Panthers have been relying on it. It's been a change of pace when the man-to-man has not been working. Jamie does not like to use it a lot because the Panthers do not rebound well out of it at all.
Robbie: Any chance of seeing Dante and Adams on the court at the same time the rest of the season?
Ray Fittipaldo: No.
Scott: Is Lamar Patterson having a down year? I know Tray Woodall and Talib Zanna have been playing great and team is 10 deep, but would have thought he would be leading scorer at the beginning of the season. Down year or just a product of a deep team and being a team player
Ray Fittipaldo: I wouldn't say a down year. Maybe an inconsistent year. He started very slow. He came on strong and now he's playing OK.
Scott: What would a starting lineup look like next year with losses of Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor and possibly Steven Adams? Recruit Mike Young good enough to start? Like the fact of getting back Robinson and Zanna as well as JJ Moore, good pieces to build around even with guys graduating, loss of transfers and maybe Adams too. Good nucleus coming back especially if Adams comes back which sounds like a strong possibility.
Ray Fittipaldo: James Robinson, Cameron Wright, Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and Adams. If Adams goes pro then Zanna might have to play center and Moore moves into the power forward spot. I'd like to think Pitt won't have to rely on Mike Young starting, but we'll see.
Matt: We're 345 in pace according to KenPom. I know Dixon has typically played this way but I don't think he's ever had a team this talented with guys that could benefit from some transition ball. I think we could benefit and get some easy buckets by pushing it a bit more, what do you think?
Robbie: With Malcolm Gilbert leaving, has Pitt been eying any centers (possibly transfers) to come in and get minutes off the bench next year and possibly start in two years?
Ray Fittipaldo: Two scholarships are open so I am sure centers are being targeted. However, at this time of the year there are not a lot of good ones out there. Maybe Jamie could pull off some magic again and find an Ontario Lett, but that doesn't happen very often.
Scott: Do you ever see Jamie Dixon leaving PITT for another program or the NBA? Seems like a very loyal guy with family ties to Pittsburgh, but now going to the ACC next season can he make PITT a national championship winner with guys like Adams possibly being one and done? Don't see it happening but have we see the best of PITT back in 08-09 with guys like Fields, Young, and Blair getting to the Elite 8?
Ray Fittipaldo: I never say never, but Dixon has a nice gig at Pitt and I think Pitt will have him for as long as he would like to coach as long as the program is consistently making the NCAA tournament. You mention the move to the ACC, but I think the Big East has been a much stronger league from top to bottom in recent years than the ACC. Yes, Duke and North Carolina are tough and NC State is on the upswing, but the Clemsons and Wake Forests of the world aren't much better than the Seton Halls and Providences.
Nester: Any chance he gives Zeigler a start to see if that may get him going? Not saying he's deserves it by what he's shown so far but maybe it will help him get more comfortable, the guy did play well at a D! school last year.
Ray Fittipaldo: I doubt it very much. His minutes have been decreasing based on performance. I hardly think giving him more minutes would go over very well with other players outperforming him.
Scott: Does Jamie Dixon win a national championship in the next 5 years or at least get to the final four? He's been close, but now leaving for the ACC and key players leaving for the NBA. Need to go on a UCONN type run of getting hot at the right time over being the best team to win it all?
Ray Fittipaldo: Good question. Probably depends on Adams' development and how long he stays to be quite honest with you. If he develops and they build a team around him they'll have a shot to make a deep run. Would be tough to do that in the next five years if he's not around.
Ray Fittipaldo: Thanks for participating int he chat this week. Stay tuned for a time change next Thursday as I will be traveling back from Villanova.
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