As the Pitt Panthers prepare to take on Eastern Washington Friday night in one of their four games as part of the Gotham Classic, Panthers’ head coach Jamie Dixon has to be all smiles.
That’s basically due to the fact that through seven games the Pitt offense has performed at a level unlike anything Dixon has seen the past few years.
“We are certainly skilled,” Dixon said. ‘We have guys up and down the roster who are skilled offensively. We just have to keep doing what we are doing and keep getting better.”
Yes the completion hasn’t been great, but through seven games, the Panthers are lighting up the scoreboard. The talent and depth on this team at least gives Pitt fans hope that this could be a very competent team as ACC play nears.
Currently Pitt ranks ninth in the country, scoring 87.4 points per game. They also rank in the Top 17 in the nation in both field goal percentage (.499) and three-point percentage (.417).
Throw out the Purdue game, the only contest in which the Panthers didn’t shoot the ball great from the floor and the numbers are even better.
In its six wins on the season, Pitt is averaging 92.1 points per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the floor and 45 percent from behind the arc.
“I like the passing,” Dixon. “The shot selection is as good as it gets and the numbers certainly show that.”
The passing has been big as Dixon alluded to.
Pitt currently ranks second in the nation averaging 22.1 assists per contest. They also lead the nation in assist to turnover ratio (2.12).
“Our guards do a great job of penetrating and finding open guys,” forward Chris Jones said. “Really all the shots we take, if you look at the film, probably are wide open shots or layups.”
Jones has been the beneficiary of some of those open looks as he is one of six Panthers player averaging over 7.3 games per contest. Jones helps anchor a very deep bench for the Panthers and has already had a pair of double-digit scoring games.
Ryan Luther, Sheldon Jeter and freshman Damon Wilson have also already scored in double figures off the bench this season for the Panthers.
Wilson is coming off a career-high 20-point effort in the Panthers last game, a blowout win over Central Arkansas.
“It’s just so easy because everybody’s so unselfish,” Wilson said. “Everybody’s looking for each other to be successful so that makes everything way easier, playing with people that are looking not only for themselves.”
Of course it’s not just the bench guys who are thriving as both Michael Young (16.6 ppg) and Jamel Artis (14.3 ppg) have the look of a dynamic duo. Senior point guard James Robinson is having more success as a scorer averaging 11.0 ppg as he looks as comfortable as ever stepping into his jumper.
One thing that has helped the guards out in terms of scoring production has been the passing of the big men.
Young is averaging over four assists per game to this point while Artis is averaging three.
The result has been wide open jumpers for guys like Robinson, Jones, Sterling Smith and others.
“Mike and the bigs do a really good job passing out of the post,” Robinson said. “When teams help out down low they have been great at finding the open guy.”
It’s early, but this Pitt team could easily be the best offensive team Robinson has had the chance to play on.
What’s been noticeable is that when the Panthers struggle rebounding and give up a lot of second-chance points, like they did in the win against Kent State, they have the ability to simply outscore teams at the offensive end.
Normally when Pitt gets outrebounded they are going to get beat by any opponent they play.
That isn’t the case with this type of talent offensively.
With the amount of shooters they have right now, and talent such as Young who can score in the post, and Artis, who can create his own shot, it is doubtful you will see this Pitt team grinding out 50-48 wins very often this season.
“I could be in the game with four other people that no matter who I pass to, is going to be able to knock down the shot from anywhere on the floor,” Young said. “That makes it a whole lot easier for you to be willing to pass.”
Again, it is early and the competition hasn’t been great, but this Pitt basketball team has the makings of one that could be a very good offensive team for the duration of the season.
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