End Of Season Review

Somewhere amongst the calls for Donatas Zavackas to get his head out of the daisies, most fans forgot that regardless of the Panthers' earlier-than-expected exit from the NCAA tournament, this past season was the most successful in the history of the program.<br><br> I repeat. The most successful in the HISTORY of the program.

No Panther team has ever accomplished as much as this year's squad.

To further make my point, this is also the most successful two-year period in the history of the program. The Panthers went 57 - 11 the past two seasons and, until their loss on Thursday night, that was the best two-year record in Division 1.

Better than Kentucky, Duke, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Only once had the Panthers enjoyed so much regular season success in a two-year span and that was from 1986 - 1988. That hallmarked the final two seasons of the Panthers' legendary big man Charles Smith. But even Smith couldn't get his teams (#3 seed in 86 - 87, #2 seed in 87 - 88) beyond the second round.

And while Smith's Panthers lost to inferior teams in both of those tournaments (#6 seed Oklahoma, #7 seed Vanderbilt), the same cannot honestly be said of Brandin Knight's squads.

Granted the Panthers lost to an inferior team in Kent State last year, but no one at this point can begin to argue that Marquette cannot play on even par with any team in the country on any given night.

Regardless, the legacy this squad leaves is one of first-time achievement. All other squads will follow in the footsteps of this year's Big East tournament champions and no matter their record, they will have to take the bar one notch higher by advancing further in the NCAA tournament to eclipse what was achieved this year.

The Panthers boasted the best interior passing in the country. Ontario Lett and Chevon Troutman, although rarely playing together due to foul troubles, presented a myriad of problems for opposing teams. Donatas Zavackas may have disappeared in the NCAA tournament but did come up big in the Big East tournament. He was the grit and attitude of the Panther big men.

Troutman will need to become a starting player and it should be a smooth transition. However, don't be surprised to see Troutman continue to come off the bench should the possibility present itself.

Toree Morris lost Howland's confidence during the early parts of the season, but the big man will see ample playing time next year. He will have to learn to handle the ball with just as much efficiency as Lett and Troutman. Morris currently treats the ball as if it were a porcupine.

Brandin Knight saved his best moves and perhaps his best moments for the outrageous comeback against Marquette. While Knight's leadership and talent will be missed, his impact on Panther basketball will be felt for years to come. Julius Page was given the green light at times to become the "go-to" shooter, but too often became invisible in big games. When he's hot, he's as dangerous as any player in the country; he's also the best man-on-man defender.

Jaron Brown is being put in the "outside" column because that's where he will play most of his minutes next year. The team's defensive leader and most consistent scorer will become the marquee name of next year's squad. Brown needs more work on his outside shot, but he can be counted on to continue the new tradition of leadership that Knight began.

Carl Krauser is officially the new point guard. On the floor, Krauser is a high-octane machine. He'll need to pick his moments and stay in control. Expect the offense to continue it's efficiency, but the turnovers will rise due to Krauser's youth and inexperience.

Ben Howland's future at Pitt is up in the air, while Jamie Dixon seems as good as gone. Howland will listen to UCLA's offers, but when push comes to shove expect him to remain a Panther. Quite simply, he's invested too much into the new recruits and he's too close to a national championship in Pittsburgh. Although there is no guarantee the UCLA job will ever be offered again, he has an opportunity to create the same type of tradition in Pitt basketball that teams such as Syracuse and Connecticut currently enjoy.

Projected Starting Line-up:
C Chris Taft
PF Chevon Troutman
SF Jaron Brown
SG Julius Page
PG Carl Krauser

John Biles

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