Why the Panthers lost and why they will be better

For the third straight year, the Panthers lost in the Sweet 16 and for the third straight year the same reason was the culprit. Quite simply, the Panthers will not go further until they have a better offense.

The Panthers are loaded with players that hustle and that's the extent of their offense. Basically, it's pass down low and take a high percentage shot, score off of a missed shot, or Carl Krauser scoring while penetrating. Krauser is the only player that can consistently score creatively. Krauser, to his credit, tries to carry the team on his shoulders offensively, just like Brandin Knight had to before him. But, like Knight, there is only so much one guy can do.

So where does the problem lie offensively? At the risk of blasphemy, it mainly lies at the two positions where offense is expected - small forward and shooting guard. Both Jaron Brown and Julius Page will forever be remembered for being a part of the most successful run in the history of Pitt basketball. And both play great defense. The problem again goes back to offense.

Brown is basically an extra power forward. He does not shoot great from the outside and he does not create his own shot much outside of 8 feet. Page, a decent shooter for three years, quite simply had a poor year offensively all year. He is an excellent defender, no doubt. But, the position he plays is where you need a scorer. And Page has not scored much all season. Going into the Sweet 16, Page was shooting 37.7% from the field, including 32.7% from three point range. Both averages are woeful. There is no denying it. As a senior, as a four year starter, and as somebody that plays a scoring position, Page was counted on heavily for offense this season. Sadly, he failed. The aggressiveness he showed on the defensive end too rarely showed itself on the offensive end. And when it did, Page's misery continued as often he barely hit the rim, threw up an air ball, or clanged it off the backboard. When he was needed most, Page made only 2 of 11 shots. In the second half, he shot three times, missing all three. His last attempted shot in the game came with 12:37 left in the game. Krauser shot eight times in that last 12:37. Chevon Troutman three times. Jaron Brown five times. All were forced to try to do what Page wouldn't or couldn't do. If either Page or Brown was merely a defensive specialist, it could possibly be overcome. But not both.

The great defense and rebounding can take you only so far. And very far it was. But when you play the more well-rounded teams deep into the tournament, offense is needed. And for the third straight year, it wasn't there.

So with all due respect to Brown and Page, the team makeup may actually improve next year. Keith Benjamin, Ronald Ramon, and John DeGroat are all considered to be scorers. They better be for Pitt's sake. Brown and Page's defense will be missed. So will their winning attitude. They will forever be known as the two that were most responsible for turning around the program. It's hard to act like a winner before you are winner. But both did that, and the program may never be the same because of it. Their leadership has already passed to Krauser, Troutman, and Chris Taft. But, it's time for a more balanced team. It's time for the offense to catch up with the defense.


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