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ACC Team Previews: Pittsburgh

Pitt has been to the NCAA tournament for 11 of the past 12 years. If Jamie Dixon can get them there again, it will be quite the achievement for a team that lost 5 of it's top producers from last year. There is quite a bit of young talent here, but they are going to have to get up to speed, especially defensively if Pitt is going to be successful this year.

Sophomore PG James Robinson is Pitt's new team leader.
Sophomore PG James Robinson is Pitt's new team leader.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Season Record: 24-9 (12-6 Big East)
Preseason ACC Media Poll: 6th

Projected starters:
James Robinson, G, Sophomore
Cameron Wright, G, Junior
Lamar Patterson, G, Senior
Talib Zanna, F, Senior
Michael Young, F, Freshman

Key Reserves:
Durand Johnson, F, Sophomore
Detrick Mostella, G, Freshman
Josh Newkirk, G, Freshman
Jamel Artis, F, Freshman
Joseph Uchebo, C, Freshman

Pitt was one of the deepest teams in the nation last year, with nobody averaging more than 28 minutes per game, and 10 players averaging at least 12 minutes. The production was also spread out, with nobody averaging even 12 points or 7 rebounds. Pitt was one of the slowest teams in the nation, even slower than the Hoos. Jamie Dixon's squads have often been among the slower teams. They play tough D, they rebound very well and they score relatively efficiently.

Even a team with so much depth may struggle to replace all of the departed players, which included PG Tray Woodall, who led the team in scoring, assists and 3 point shooting. They also lose include their freshman phenom 7-footer Steven Adams. Adams left early for the NBA and was drafted 12th overall. The other losses include Trey Zeigler (transferred to TCU), J.J. Moore (transferred to Rutgers) and Dante Taylor (graduation). That group combined to score over 30 points per game, and grab nearly 20 rebounds per game.

Robinson will take Woodall's place at the point. He's a big, strong PG prospect, who isn't necessarily the quickest guy in the world, but he's a smart player who plays quicker than his physical ability because he sees the floor so well. He shot just 36% from the field last year, and just 31% from downtown. That pales in comparison to what Woodall provided, so the lost scoring is going to have to come from somewhere else. Newkirk will likely spell Robinson at the point. He's much quicker than Robinson, but isn't much of a perimeter threat at this point.

The problems on the glass shouldn't be as big a deal. Incoming freshman Michael Young is a beast on the boards. He has a strong back-to-the-basket game as well, so he could certainly match the production that Adams provided last year (7 points, 6 rebounds). Adams was one of the top shot-blockers in the nation, so his loss there will be a blow. The other starter up front is Zanna, who is also a beast on the boards, particularly offensive. He and Young should have no problem dominating the glass as Pitt has been used to.

A wildcard up front is Uchebo, a real big man who is a junior college transfer. He's coming off microfracture surgery, so his status is completely up in the air.

In the backcourt with Robinson will be Wright and Patterson. Patterson was the 2nd leading scorer last year, and also provides some help on the boards as well as with playmaking and ball handling. He shot 33% from downtown last year, and he'll likely be asked to shoot even more this year. Wright played limited minutes, but was a very efficient scorer when he was on the floor. He'll be asked to step up his game quite a bit. Mostella is a slasher who may be able to provide a scoring punch off the bench. He hasn't been cleared yet to play, after pulling out of his commitment to Oklahoma State. Even if he is cleared, he'll need to get with Dixon's program defensively if he's going to get consistent minutes.

Pitt's profile is similar to Virginia's, in that they win low scoring games, by limited possessions and making it difficult to the opposition to score. However, they are much different offensively. Pitt is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation (#4 last year), and that is how they get a large percentage of their points. They shoot a very low number of 3-pointers. The Hoos don't shoot a ton of 3s, but certainly more than Pitt. But the Hoos essentially completely bypass offensive rebounds in favor of getting back on D.

This is one of the youngest teams Dixon has had to play with in some time. Dixon has led his team to the NCAA tournament in every season save for 2012. This team will have to get up to speed quickly for that trend to continue. They'll likely be around a .500 ACC team, and on the NCAA bubble.