The Pitt basketball program is in search of any kind of good news these days. Coming off a loss at Syracuse on Monday night—a game the Panthers were in for the most part—the team returns home Saturday where the national spotlight will be on them, as the school hosts College GameDay as part of this next game against Louisville.
Having the GameDay crew in town, the publicity it generates and the added excitement that type of environment adds to the fans in attendance is a well-timed shot in the arm for Pitt. They could get another shot in the arm. Jamie Dixon said Thursday that point guard Travon Woodall could be back in the lineup.
"Travon practiced (Thursday), and a little bit (Wednesday)," Dixon said. "Really, it's up to him."
Woodall, for the most part, has not had a significant impact in a game since he received a multitude of injuries in the win over Duquesne on November 30. He was averaging over 30 minutes through those first seven games, scoring in double-figures five times and finishing with at least 10 assists four times.
Even though Pitt went 5-1 in his absence over that next month, including wins at Tennessee and against Oklahoma State in Madison Square Garden, Woodall's teammates are eager to have him back in the lineup. Including his return in the Notre Dame game, the Panthers are the lone team in the Big East without a conference win.
"I've been waiting for him all year, basically," teammate Lamar Patterson said. "He's our leader, he's our captain, he moves the ball around. He's our leader out there, and we really need him."
Woodall returned for the start of Big East play at Notre Dame on December 27, but admits he wasn't anywhere close to where he needed to be. As Dixon said—the decision is up to Woodall after these next two days, if he feels ready to go. Woodall felt his decision last time to play in the Notre Dame game was a bit of a rushed one. He only played 18 minutes in that game, was 0-for-5 from the field, and had just 2 turnovers to go with his 2 assists—far below the averages he had in his first seven starts of the season.
"The Notre Dame game, that was my decision," Woodall said. "I fought (team trainer) Tony (Salesi). I came back too fast. I really wasn't ready. I should have never come back that early.
"When I do come back, I'm going to be 100 percent, or at least 90 percent."
Just like the Notre Dame game, both Dixon and Woodall said the decision for Woodall to play Saturday is up to Woodall. The only difference is that Woodall wants to assure himself that he's 100 percent. He admitted the last time around, he felt the importance of starting in that first Big East game of the year. This time around, however, he already feels more confident in where he's at.
"I'm feeling real good," Woodall said. "I went to practice (Thursday). I went through a full practice, and I feel real good. I'll go through two more days of practice, and see if I'm ready to go."