It’s time for Pitt Panthers’ basketball coach Jamie Dixon to get defensive.
For the Panthers to compete for another Big East championship in their final year in the conference, that’s pretty much what it comes down to- defense.
Long known as one of the country’s better defensive teams under Dixon, last year was a little bit different and something Pitt fans haven’t seen in a very long time.
Not only did the Panthers underachieve when it came to winning, missing the NCAA Tournament, they also finished last in the Big East in scoring defense, surrendering 69.2 points a game.
That likely won’t be the case this season and Dixon got off to a strong start by sending a message.
Making tough defense a point of emphasis this year, Dixon used freshman guard James Robinson next to Tray Woodall in Friday’s exhibition against IUP. Robinson got the start over Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 points, 6.7 rebounds) strictly due to being the better defender.
Dixon said that the Robinson-Woodall combo gives the Panthers their best defensive backcourt and while he did note that the decision to start the freshman isn’t final, it’s really not a bad idea and serves a couple of purposes.
First of all it sends a message to all of the other wing players that they must be better defensively to earn more minutes. When that happens, Dixon will be able to better take advantage of the depth he has offensively.
When you were bad the season before, it’s never a bad option to put your best defensive team on the floor.
Secondly, starting Robinson enables Dixon to bring instant scoring off the bench with Zeigler.
Zeigler is a 6’5” athletic guard, something Dixon has never had before. He’s a proven scorer and is a guy that can provide the punch off the bench that the Panthers didn’t have a season ago.
There are a couple of position battles taking place for starting spots on this Pitt team, but the starting 2-guard may be the most compelling.
Depth will be a strength of this Pitt team, but getting back to playing great defense could be the one thing that results in the Panthers getting back to playing winning basketball.
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