Good News, Bad News

Pittsburgh began the season with dreams of the Final Four. But the Panthers played much of the year on autopilot, confident that it could turn on the maximum effort when the situation required.

The Panthers certainly proved they were talented, destroying Boston College in Boston, and also beating Notre Dame, Syracuse and UConn on the road. But the Panthers' nonconference schedule was laughable, and home losses to Bucknell, Georgetown and St. John's proved more costly than anyone realized at the time.

While they didn't keep Pitt out of the NCAA Tournament, they did contribute to the Panthers getting a No. 9 seed, and a first-round matchup with dangerous Pacific. Pitt trailed 45-30 at the half, and a comeback fell short en route to a 79-71 defeat.

What's more, coach Jamie Dixon may have a long and nerve-wracking offseason before he can truly say "wait 'til next year."

Senior Chevon Troutman will be sorely missed. Sophomore Chris Taft and junior Carl Krauser are both contemplating early entries into the NBA draft. Taft could be a lottery pick even after his inconsistent 2004-05 campaign, while the 24-year-old Krauser would probably be a second-rounder at best.

Should Taft and Krauser leave, the Panthers would be among the more inexperienced teams in an expanded, stronger Big East. At that point, a No. 9 seed and a first-round NCAA Tournament exit would be a huge achievement, not the relative disappointment they were this season.
  • THE GOOD NEWS: If Chris Taft and Carl Krauser return, the Panthers will have an experienced inside-outside combination that will be as good as any in the country. Freshman Ronald Ramon seemed ready to take on a larger role next season, and he, Krauser and Antonio Graves form a formidable backcourt.
  • THE BAD NEWS: Chevon Troutman, who was the team's rock through much of the season, graduates. Fellow senior Mark McCarroll won't be as big a loss, but even with his inconsistent season sophomore center Chris Taft may be an NBA lottery pick if he chooses to leave school early. Should that happen, Carl Krauser had better spend the entire offseason in the weight room, because he'll have to carry the rest of the team on his back. And if Krauser leaves as well...
  • KEY RETURNEES: Carl Krauser and Chris Taft would anchor the Panthers if both come back. If not, it'll be a whole new core for Coach Jamie Dixon to build around, with guard Ronald Ramon likely leading the way.
  • THE COACH: Jamie Dixon's second year was an up-and-down affair that never really reached its potential. He's in no danger of being fired, but next season will be especially key if Taft and Krauser leave. Dixon will get a chance to show he can win with a crew different from the one he was largely left by former coach Ben Howland.
  • ROSTER REPORT: Ronald Ramon was recruited as an outside shooter, and indeed provided sparks off the bench for much of the season. However, the freshman clearly hit the wall down the stretch, making only five of his 25 three-point attempts over the team's last seven games.

    Fellow freshman Keith Benjamin also got increased playing time down the stretch, averaging 18 minutes in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments after totaling just one minute in the last four regular-season games.

    Sophomore center Aaron Gray starred at times as a frontcourt reserve, scoring 15 points against Villanova on Feb. 20. That was the high-water mark for Gray's season, however, and he did not score in any of the team's final four games.

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