Midseason look at the Pitt basketball team

A look at the No. 3-ranked Panthers so far this season, including individual player evaluations

The Panthers have played a strong first half of the basketball season. They are currently ranked No. 3 in the country per ESPN/USA Today and the Associated Press polls. ESPN recently came out with its Power 16 rankings and it lists the Panthers as a probable No. 1 seed with Arizona, Duke and Florida come March.

The Panthers are 10-0 at home in the brand new Petersen Events Center and 4-1 on the road so far this season. Pitt is led in scoring by Julius Page, who averages 12.1 points per game. They have an amazing five players who average in double figures. Chevon Troutman, Donatas Zavackas, Ontario Lett, and Brandin Knight also average 10 or more points per game. Jaron Brown just misses with a 9.6 average per game.

Brandin Knight has been as good as advertised. His excellent passing and timely scoring has helped lead this team's climb to the top of the rankings. He also has a team high 30 steals on defense.

Ontario Lett has been outstanding in the paint. He is 3rd on the team in scoring with 11.2 points per game average. He also leads the team in rebounds with a 6.0 average per game. Lett has been a force down low and is almost automatic when he gets the pass deep in the paint. He has excellent moves and has proven he can score on anyone. He still struggles at times on defense, but his all around play has been excellent.

Jaron Brown doesn't get all the media attention, but he might be the best all around player on the team. He is 6th on the team in scoring, 2nd on the team in rebounds, 2nd on the team in steals, and 4th on the team in blocks. If he had one more basket a game, he would be 2nd in scoring! Jaron always seems to make the big rebound or big basket in a tight game.

Julius Page leads the team in scoring despite struggling with an ankle injury most of the season. He has toughed it out and is still our best pure scoring threat. We will need him to score 12-15 points per game to make it far into the NCAA's.

Donatas Zavackas is having a strong senior season. His has been automatic when left open for the 3 point shot. He plays excellent defense and is known for his scrappy play. He is another who always seems to bring in the needed rebound in a tight game.

Chevon Troutman has been a key player off the bench. He averages 10.1 points per game and is 3rd on the team in rebounds. That is an impressive stat for a guy who only averages 19.7 minutes per game.

Toree Morris has been very good defensively this season. He leads the team in blocks with 21 and has rebounded very well also.

Backup point guard Carl Krauser has struggled at times this season, but he is improving every game. He is 2nd on the team in assists, and he averages 18 minutes per game. He is excellent at pushing the ball up the court and creating a faster tempo to the game. He just needs to keep working on his all around game and to cut down on his turnovers.

Yuri Demetris and Mark McCarroll have averaged 8 minutes a game and their minutes should help the team have a little fresher legs later in the season.

The only negatives have been continued struggles at the free throw line and Zavackas and Page have struggled with ankle sprains for most of the season. We will need both of them 100% come Big East and NCAA tournament time.

Ben Howland has done an excellent job coaching this team. The team is in excellent shape, they play unselfish basketball, and every player is always looking to make that extra pass. He has them playing outstanding defense and that is the key to their success. If this team stays healthy, no reason they should not have an excellent chance for a Big East title and a possible NCAA Final Four appearance.

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