This past week, before Pitt's no-name basketball team made Connecticut its latest victim, UConn star Kemba Walker pointed out that it was something of an anonymous group.Not that anyone is complaining.
That's exactly the way Jamie Dixon likes it. The Panthers always seem to be playing team basketball ... and doing it quite well. They average 80 points a game, but it is on the boards and on the floor where they win their games. Through Jan. 2, they were averaging almost 15 more rebounds a game than their opponents to lead the Big East, and had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference, at nearly 2-to-1.
The Panthers have only one player -- Gary McGhee -- among top 20 rebounders in the conference. That's a team effort. The stars are not the point scorers, but rather the guys who set up Ashton Gibbs. That would be Brad Wannamaker and Travon Woodall, both in the Top 10 in assists.
--Home court advantage? Try Pitt's Petersen Events Center. Since it opened in 2002 the Panthers are 8-0 against teams ranked in the Top 5 of the AP Poll, No. 4 Connecticut being the latest victory. Pitt has beaten UConn four straight times.
--Pitt's tenacious defense held 12 of its first 14 opponents to fewer than 70 points.
--Sophomore PG Travon Woodall committed three turnovers against UConn after having committed only three in his previous five games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Pitt shows its depth by having 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes played per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He definitely brings a lot of energy. He has a big-time motor, and having him in early really helped us out. Having him in the starting lineup definitely helps us." -- G Ashton Gibbs on the return of Nasir Robinson, coming back from knee surgery, to the starting lineup for the UConn game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Providence, Jan. 4
KEY MATCHUPS: Providence is an improved team that is capable of putting points on the board but it has not really seen a defense like the one Pitt will throw at it. A year ago in Pittsburgh, the Panthers had all they could handle in winning 73-71. The key offensive threat from the Friars is Marshon Brooks, a player who has grown in skills between his junior and senior season and is among the leading scorers in the conference. A swing man, Brooks averages almost 24 points a game and nearly nine rebounds.
--vs. Marquette, Jan. 8
KEY MATCHUPS: Pitt gets Marquette at home, which changes a lot of things as the Petersen Events Center has been almost certain death for visitors. The Panthers hold a huge edge on the boards and on defense, but Marquette has three scorers in Jae Crowder, Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom who can fill it up. The trio combined for 60 of Marquette's 79 points against West Virginia, much of it coming driving to the basket.
FUTURES MARKET: Senior F Nasir Robinson started all 34 games last year but he underwent knee surgery this October and had to ease into the season, coming off the bench. But as conference play began, he found himself back in the starting lineup and delivered big time with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. "I knew I was going to start the first practice we had last week," Robinson said. "Coach pulled me aside and told that I would be back starting. It boosts my confidence. I've done a lot to get back into the starting lineup, I've been working hard in rehab and practicing hard. But, it doesn't really matter when I get into the game, as long as I can play my game."