Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has assembled a roster full of players who can fill various roles. Dixon must now tap into that depth and versatility as the regular season approaches because one of his starters will miss the start of the regular season.
Junior forward Nasir Robinson had surgery on his right knee Wednesday morning to repair a torn meniscus and will be out 3-6 weeks.
Robinson started all 34 games last season and averaged 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He injured the knee during practice Monday and reported some swelling Tuesday. After being examined by doctors, they decided the best option was to have the knee surgically repaired.
"We had to make a quick decision -- should he try to play through it or get it cleaned up?" Dixon said. "After they went in there, they felt the right decision was made to clean it up."
The best-case prognosis for Robinson is that he will miss the first three games of the regular season, but be ready for Pitt's Nov. 18 game against Maryland at Madison Square Garden.
Dixon was optimistic about a best-case scenario Wednesday after practice.
"It's going to be a couple of weeks," Dixon said. "I don't know how exactly long it's going to be, but guys have come back pretty quickly from this surgery. And we think that things went pretty well. We anticipate him doing some [basketball-related activities] in the not too distant future."
The player most likely to step into the starting lineup for the exhibition game Sunday against Northwood University is redshirt freshman Talib Zanna. Sophomore J.J. Richardson is another player who will have an opportunity to earn more minutes in the frontcourt.
Dixon went into the offseason wanting to tweak his system because of the versatility that he had recruited at forward and center. He had prepared for the season wanting to use Robinson, Zanna, Richardson and centers Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor as interchangeable parts in the frontcourt.
Even with Robinson down for the next few weeks, he is sticking with the plan of using a versatile frontcourt.
"All five big guys have played together," Dixon said. "From the time the season was over last year, I anticipated these five guys being more interchangeable. It could be any of the big guys playing with each other. We don't normally do it with our [power forwards and centers], but we anticipated doing it this year.
"We're adjusting our system. Going into the spring, we wanted to make them more interchangeable because they were so close as far as who was the best player. There really is not a lot of difference between the five guys. We saw that in the summer and we're seeing it now in practice. J.J. probably had the best practice today. We've adjusted the system to allow them to be more versatile. We're doing things a little bit differently with those two positions."
The only drawback is that there is some youth and inexperience in the frontcourt with Robinson out. If Dixon wants to play a more experienced lineup, he has that option as well.
Senior Gilbert Brown and redshirt freshman Lamar Patterson are also candidates to play power forward.
Brown, who is expected to be the starter at small forward, played power forward last season.
Patterson, before being redshirted last season, played power forward and has been practicing some there this preseason.
NOTE -- Dixon said Brown, who has a hamstring injury, is questionable for the exhibition game Sunday.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.