Pitt women's basketball: Three keys to the season


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1. FORGET THE RECENT PAST, IT'S A NEW ERA

March 4, 2011 is a significant date for the Panthers because they beat South Florida in a Big East Conference women's tournament first-round game. It was the most recent time they beat a conference foe -- they lost their final 35 Big East games. For those scoring, that means they were winless against Big East foes for two full seasons. Now they move into the Atlantic Coast Conference with a new coach, former Seton-LaSalle, Olympian and WNBA star Suzie McConnell-Serio, and have renewed optimism. Their roster is a long way from being able to contend for a conference title and winning a league game might not be easy, but erasing the past shouldn't be the focus of this team, it should be on creating a bright future. It is going to be a tough year, but the team has enough talent to grab a few victories and maybe pull an upset or two. McConnell-Serio brings with her passion and an optimistic approach.

2. KIESEL MUST BE THE DIESEL

The Panthers have questions at a lot of positions and are likley two or three good recruiting classes away from competing in the ACC. There is one thing the Panthers have that most teams will spend the season searching for -- a great floor general in point guard Brianna Kiesel. A 5-foot-7 junior, Kiesel has been the team's best player the past two years and this year will be one of the best players in the ACC. She was third-team All-Big East in 2012-13 after averaging 14.9 points and 3 assists per game, and the team will be built around her again. But Kiesel must be more than just a great player -- she needs to become the team leader, the go-to player at the end of the game and the player that can make the rest of the team better.

3. LIKE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, BE BORN TO RUN

Former coach Agnus Berenato built her teams around dominant post play and favored playing in the halfcourt, trying to pound teams in the post. McConnell-Serio is one of the best point guards in the history of women's basketball and her teams have always reflected this with a guard-oriented and entertaining up-tempo style of offense and defense. And with the 10-second backcourt rule being introduced to the women's game, there will be a greater opportunity for McConnell-Serio's pressure defense to get turnovers that turn into transition baskets. The Panthers don't have much size, they won't be overly physical, but they should be athletic and fast.


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