Panther Postgame Prospectus

I understand the frustration around the city today, after all the Panthers just certainly missed a chance at a #1 seed and are now destined for the 2 line with Texas, Purdue, BYU and San Diego State while Notre Dame and Duke take what would have been Pitt’s if only they had won yesterday. While this is incredibly frustrating, and the three straight opening round exits in the BET tournament don’t help, I still can’t believe how quickly that many otherwise bright and intelligent people have jumped ship on the fourth or fifth best basketball team in the entire country. Not only have fans and certain columnists alike rushed the condemn the season, they have also gotten into the business of myth building based on the result of one basketball game which is never a terribly good idea.

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Myth #1 – Pitt doesn’t have enough talent, they simply outwork teams during the regular season but can’t do the same in March.

For this to be true, of course, the 2009 team with its 2 NBA starters and 2 likely NBA reserves would had to have never happened. But even ignoring that fact you need simply look at yesterday’s game where the Panthers scored 1.28 points per possession, a massive number. Offensive efficiency against good defense is typically the hallmark for evaluating “talent” and the Panthers could score almost at will against a UConn team that was apparently matching their effort according to this myth. A pretty good performance from such a talentless bunch. Nor was offense the problem in the 2009 or 2010 exits as the 2010 team posted a respectable 106.2 Ortg against Xavier and the 2009 posted a 115.2 Ortg against Villanova.

Myth #2 – The Panthers have a turnover problem.

The Panthers turned the ball over on 19% of their possessions yesterday. Their season average? 18.3%. Where that ranks in the country? 79th. So no, turnovers are not really a problem on the offensive end unless you consider being above average having a problem. Now if someone wants to talk about how Pitt doesn’t force turnovers on the defensive end then you may have my ear.

Myth #3 – Dante Taylor is a bust.

Given that Taylor was the best rebounder in the game from either team and the only Panther to grab 20% of the defensive rebounds (Gary grabbed 6.7%) while also grabbing 37% of the offensive rebounds and posting a +/- of -2, the same rating as Brad, I would think that he played okay for a sophomore reserve. Probably better than okay.

But we’re not only about debunking myths here so I will give you one statement making the rounds that is 100% true.

Truth – Talib Zanna’s broken hand helped to cost us this basketball game.

It is a weighty burden to put on a young kid but the evidence is incontrovertible, if Zanna had been able to play we almost certainly would have won the game. Nasir Robinson was simply destroyed yesterday in the second half and the only two players who could spell him, Lamar Patterson and JJ Richardson, combined to play 15 minutes and grab ZERO rebounds. To say that Pitt’s second best defensive rebounder on the season may have been able to help is probably an understatement.

Key Indicators

Ortg: 127.6 Drtg: 131.0 eFG%: 63.3% FTR: 28.6 A/TO: 1.09 OR%: 37.5%

Again, offensively the Panthers played quite well. They didn’t get to the line very often, and some of that was on the officials not calling UConn for hand checking, and the offensive rebounding was only fair but the extremely efficient shooting across the board, particularly by Ashton Gibbs, more than made up for it. Unfortunately for the Panthers this game was lost on the other end of the court…and on the other end things were simply pathetic.

DePaul - 1.18 PPP
Wake Forest - 1.15 PPP
Fordham - 1.14 PPP
Indiana - 1.14 PPP
Northwestern - 1.14 PPP

Those were the five worst major conference defenses during conference play and it is not a surprise that they combined to average a 2.6-14.6 conference record. But even those five teams, the worst of the worst, only allowed teams to average 1.15 points per possession against them.

UConn scored 1.31 points per possession yesterday.

The Huskies came away with at least one point on 67.2% of their possessions and grabbed 51.5% of the offensive rebounds available; in the second half alone that offensive rebounding number ballooned to a completely absurd 65.0%. All of those numbers are, by far, the worst performance by the Panthers this season and they all speak to a complete and disturbing lack of effort and execution, particularly in the second half. Rewatching the game I can count on one hand the number of Panther boxouts by everyone save for Dante Taylor and Gary McGhee. Nasir and Gil were particularly egregious culprits on that front and honestly the less said about JJR and Lamar in this game on the glass in general, the better.

It is difficult to say precisely what this means going forward into the tournament but it is worth pointing out that Pitt is now a mere 2-3 on the season when allowing an opponent to grab at least 40% of the available offensive rebounds. Bad news indeed if we draw a team such as Old Dominion, Kansas State, Florida or even UConn again somewhere along the way as each of those teams routinely top the 40% mark.