Back in October, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said one of the keys to the season would be the development of reserve guards Trey Zeigler and Cameron Wright. Dixon starts senior Tray Woodall and freshman James Robinson in the backcourt, and he always believed he needed productive players behind them because Robinson is not a prolific offensive player at this point in his career.
Wright and Zeigler have had their moments this season, but neither is providing much from an offensive standpoint. That is the main reason Dixon has been tinkering with a lineup change for the NCAA tournament.
In the Big East quarterfinal loss to Syracuse, Dixon played Durand Johnson at shooting guard for a few possessions.
It was not for extended minutes, but Dixon indicated Sunday night that it remains an option in the NCAA tournament.
Pitt plays Wichita State Thursday at 1:40 p.m.
“It’s something we think can be good for us,” Dixon said. “I think Durand has improved. That’s the biggest factor for that. He’s improved defensively, blocking out. Those are the things that will decide [playing time]. I think he’s headed in the right direction. That’s why we’re using it more in practice and in games.”
The lineup change gives Dixon another scoring threat who can stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting ability. Zeigler has not attempted a 3-pointer all season and Wright is not an outside shooting threat either.
“I like it,” small forward Patterson said. “Coach has been trying it more in practice. Durand is a scoring threat. He can get hot at any moment. I can pass to him. You can’t slack off any of us.”
But Patterson said he knows Dixon’s lineup is based on defense, not offense, which is why he remains unsure if the lineup will be used more in the NCAA tournament. He hasn’t been told that directly. Just call it intuition after being around Dixon for four years.
“I can tell,” Patterson said. “I’ve been here so long. I know him better than anyone. I know him like his wife probably. You can just tell.”
It will be interesting to see if Dixon uses Johnson against Wichita State, a low-scoring defensive-minded team in the same mold as the Panthers.
Johnson is shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and has showed an ability to drive to the basket as well in recent games. He had five points in 13 minutes against Syracuse, six points in 11 minutes in the regular-season finale at DePaul and nine points in 16 minutes in the home finale versus Villanova.
Zeigler and Wright have been going in the opposite direction.
After reaching double figures twice in a four-game span early in the Big East schedule against Villanova and DePaul, Zeigler has gone dry. He has not scored more than two points in any of the past nine games. He was scoreless in 12 minutes in the Big East quarterfinal loss to Syracuse.
Wright has been only slightly more productive. He scored seven points in the regular-season finale at DePaul, but his scoring has decreased as the season has progressed as well.
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