Pitt's James Robinson leads Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio and, in coach Jamie Dixon's opinion, is one of the most underrated players in the country.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After No. 12 Miami beat Georgia Tech, 75-68, Sunday, the Hurricanes have a quick turnaround to get ready tonight to play host to Pitt.
That isn’t an ideal situation, Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said, especially since the Panthers are tough to plan for with their offense. With limited time to prepare, Larranaga said Miami will try to keep it as simple as possible.
“We only have one day to prepare for an outstanding Pittsburgh team, and we have to get ready for that one in a hurry,” Larranaga said Monday on the ACC coaches teleconference. “They are 17-0 when they score 70 points and 14-0 when they outrebound their opponent. They are an outstanding passing team and one of the best teams in the country in getting assists.
“You really have to rely on your defense and rebounding to keep you in the game against them because if you don’t defend them and don’t rebound, you are just going to get beat by them.”
The Hurricanes (18-4, 7-3 ACC) and Panthers (17-5, 6-4) are battling for one of the top four seeds in the ACC tournament, a spot that comes with a better draw and a better schedule.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said the Panthers’ tough stretch — the game tonight is sandwiched between matchups against top-10 teams — is not uncommon in the ACC, and the Panthers just need to focus on playing their best basketball every night and the winning and losing will take care of itself.
“This will hit you at some point in conference play,” Dixon said. “Nobody gets to slide through without a stretch like this, we saw this before in the Big East and now we are seeing it in the ACC. But that’s part of it — you want to be in the best conference.”
Larranga said the Panthers’ attack begins and ends with senior point guard James Robinson, who he believes is one of the most underrated players in Division I. He said players such as Robinson, who make the smart plays but not necessarily the flashy ones, are not fully appreciated.
Robinson leads Division I and the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio, which makes him valuable to the Panthers, even in games when he isn’t shooting well, such as Saturday against No. 9 Virginia when he had six assists and no turnovers.
Larranaga said the focus can’t be to try to force Robinson into mistakes — because he rarely makes them. Rather, the Hurricanes need to try to contain him and make sure the guys he is passing to aren’t open and getting easy baskets.
Miami has four players who average double figures in scoring, led by senior guard Sheldon McClellan, who averages 16.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Larranaga said McClellan, like Robinson, probably deserves more recognition but doesn’t always get it because he just makes the routine plays.
“He just makes the baskets, he makes the free throw, he makes the 3-pointers — he is extremely efficient and unselfish and he is very team-oriented and he is a fun kid to be around,” Larranaga said. “I think he is an NBA first-round pick and an all-league player.”
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @paulzeise.
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