Pitt men's basketball: Three keys to the season


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1. ADJUST TO ACC

The Panthers are a physical team, generally play excellent defense and value toughness and rebounding. None of that should change, even though they are moving from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where games are officiated tighter. That said, the Panthers might have to be open to tweaking their approach if that is the case. They can still play good, hard-nosed defense and their style, but there likely are going to have to be some changes to their approach, even small ones. Jamie Dixon and his staff need to be open to making them. Pitt should be an annual contender for the ACC title, just like they were in the Big East, but there could be some growing pains in this inaugural season as they feel their way around the league and learn its nuances.

2. FORWARDS GROW UP FAST

The Panthers likely would be a preseason top-10 team if Steven Adams had not declared for the NBA draft. With a legitimate 7-footer center, senior Talib Zanna could spend more time at his natural power forward spot. Those two, combined with Lamar Patterson, would have given the Panthers one of the best frontcourts in Division I. Instead, Zanna is an undersized center and the power forward spot will be manned by one of two freshmen -- Michael Young or Jamel Artis. Both are talented. Young has been a little bit ahead of Artis in the preseason, but both have a long way to go.

3. VETERANS LEAD THE WAY

Ultimately, this team will go where returning starters Zanna, Patterson and James Robinson, and a fourth veteran, Cameron Wright, take it. Those four should see the most playing time, score the bulk of the points and grab the bulk of the rebounds. If Robinson, a sophomore, can take the next step he could become one of the top point guards in the ACC. Patterson must emerge as a clutch player because he has the most versatile offensive game. Zanna can be a nightmare for opposing centers because of his speed and ability to run the floor. The quartet has the ability to carry the Panthers to familiar places -- contending for a league title, making noise in a conference tournament and reaching the NCAA tournament, but there isn't a lot of experience behind them.


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