17 May 2011
Just like yesterday's post on the non-status of Pitt-PSU, speculation knows no off-season. Today it's basketball and now that we know who's leaving for the NBA and who's coming back, the absurdly early top-25s are a bit less absurd.
As the Pitt faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief that Ashton Gibbs was returning for his senior season, the national media was moving Pitt up their rankings. The return of Pitt's point leader and runner-up in minutes played (largely due to missing 3 games midseason) is reason for celebration, but I think it's hard to quantify just how huge his return is for Pitt. Some numbers:
- Pitt is returning 3898 minutes from last year's squad. Over 1/4th of that is from Gibbs alone (1016). Again, a number that would be even higher if not for his brief knee injury in Feburary.
- Pitt is returning 1466 of their points from last season. 35.6% (522) of those are attributable to Mr. Gibbs. That stat becomes even more impressive if taking in to account Gibbs' 47.6% shooting percentage, which includes his 49% from beyond the arc.
So really, what does it mean? It means that on a top 5 basketball team, Gibbs played the most minutes per game played, scored the most points overall and did it in an incredibly efficient manner. Summary: Ashton Gibbs is good at basketball.
So obviously, his return is very good news for a Pitt team that lost a lot, but should still contend in the always loaded Big East.
But it's just not Gibbs. When the above statistics are compared with the team going into 2009-10 after the loss of Blair/Fields/Young Biggs, the 2011-12 Pitt team is much more experienced and productive. The 2011-12 Panthers will be returning 541 more points and 844 more minutes than the 2009-10. That 2009-10 team, of course, finished second in the Big East and earned a three seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With their surprising experience despite losing much their "core" starters, Pitt should once again be contenders - certainly not favorites by any stretch, but contenders in a very good conference. And that seems to be the thought of the national writers as they compile their Top-25 lists.
Starting from highest to lowest because, well, higher rankings are just more fun.
Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated has Pitt at 7, good enough for third in the Big East behind Syracuse and Louisville with Cincinnati (!) breathing down the Panthers' necks. As Luke points out, "They'll have another old, good team -- just not as good as the one they had last season," which sounds pretty fair. Although I'm not sure if I'd have them at 7 if I didn't think they had the potential to be as good, if not better, than last year's squad.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Pitt as the last two-seed in his NCAA bracket, which translates to a projected finish of about 8th overall. They would be the Big East's third #2 seed, joining Syracuse and Louisville.
Over at Fox and CBS Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish both have Pitt at 12th behind the Cuse, Cards and Huskies. Both list Jaylen Bond as joining the team, but something tells me that he wasn't really the reason for the top-15 ranking anyways.
Andy Katz has Pitt at 17 (fourth in the Big East) and focuses on what Pitt has coming back instead of what they lost:
Ashton Gibbs came to his senses and decided to return to school, giving the Panthers a core group of returnees, with Nasir Robinson, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna and Travon Woodall. That's more than enough for the Panthers to be a major factor in the Big East and beyond. Adding a McDonald's All-American center in Khem Birch just adds to the depth in the post.
He also has them the lowest of anyone, so take that for what it's worth.
As for college basketball as a whole, ESPN has a very good round-table with their writers about next season. Nothing Pitt-centric, but a good read. Pat Forde has the Big East as one of his 10 things he can't wait to see and has Pitt as a team with Final Four aspirations. He then just parenthetically crushed the Panthers, but I have a feeling Pitt will be getting a lot after last season.
Not really much analysis, but then again, it is May.
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