Panthers - Duquesne Preview

Balancing newcomers and veterans is always tricky. That job can get even more dicey when the coach is in just his second year at the helm and the veterans see vacant starting openings go to others instead.<br><br>That could be an issue for the Panthers this season.

Sophomore Antonio Graves and senior Mark McCarroll both expected to start this season, but neither got the nod in the early going. While Graves is still easing his way back from an ankle injury, he came off the bench in favor of freshman guard Ronald Ramon even when ready to play. He returned to the starting lineup in the team's 65-41 victory over St. Francis (Pa.), but he and Ramon still essentially split time.

McCarroll may have more problems.

The 6-10 senior was the sixth man this season, and thought he'd have a shot at the swingman position vacated when Jaron Brown graduated this offseason. Instead, Yuri Demetris and juco transfer John DeGroat have split minutes at that position.

McCarroll has practiced at center and both forward slots but has not gotten a ton of minutes and has not produced at all when he's gotten the chance to play. Through four games, he's averaging just over two points per contest.

McCarroll was inconsistent at times last season, but often shone against tough competition. He scored 26 points against Georgia, and 15 in wins over UConn and Syracuse. Moreover, at 6-10, he provides matchup problems for nearly everyone when he gets on a role. Coach Jamie Dixon will have to pull McCarroll out of his senior slump before the cupcakes on the schedule are replaced by Big East competition.

Notes: Through four games, Chevon Troutman is having a senior season to remember. He leads the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game, and is also pulling down nearly nine rebounds per contest.

The Panthers have 19 straight victories over nonconference foes, which could be because the team's scheduling philosophy seems to be designed to give as many walkovers as possible in order to ease into the league schedule.

Lineup: Point guard Carl Krauser, shooting guard Antonio Graves, center Chris Taft, forward Yuri Demetris, forward Chevon Troutman.

Upcoming Game:  vs. Duquesne, Saturday, Dec. 4; vs. Memphis, Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Key Points: Memphis is a significant step up in class from the usual fare on Pitt's nonconference schedule. While the Tigers won't do anything the Panther vets won't have seen before, it'll be interesting to see how freshman guard Ronald Ramon and JC transfer wing DeGroat play in their first taste of big-time competition. The key, as always, is how many points the Panthers can score. One thing Memphis showed in a blowout loss to Maryland is that it gets impatient and frustrated against a good, physical defense, which is something Pittsburgh will show the Tigers as well.

Roster Update: Freshman guard Ronald Ramon is finding the nets as kind in college as he did in high school. He was shooting three-pointers at a 42.1 percent clip before going 1-of-7 from outside against St. Francis.

Chris Taft entered the St. Francis game averaging 15 points and 7.3 boards per game. However, he got most of the game off, with four points and two rebounds in just 19 minutes.

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