Pittsburgh Season Preview

2011-2012 Projected Starting Lineup

PG Tray Woodall, junior
SG Ashton Gibbs, senior
SF J.J. Moore, sophomore
PF Nasir Robinson, senior
C Dante Taylor, junior

Key reserves: Lamar Patterson, sophomore; Khem Birch, freshman; Talib Zanna, sophomore

Last year’s Big East Conference regular season champion is plagued with postseason failure. A third-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Butler didn’t help the Panthers case after a couple of hiccups in the postseason.

It’s another tough season in the Big East and to me the Panthers can’t keep up with the top tier, UConn and Syracuse.

Arthur Wessel/Flickr

Yes, they have Ashton Gibbs, one of the nation’s sharpest shooters, but I feel this isn’t nearly as good as last season’s. The only other returner is Nasir Robinson. Robinson is undersized, but is a hard-nosed player at 6-foot-5. Robinson will be teamed with Dante Taylor in the frontcourt, who is replacing the graudated Gary McGhee (I’m pretty sure McGhee’s ankles are still floating around the court of Madison Square Garden).

The Panthers will be a tough interior defensive team is freshman Khem Birch, a McDonald’s All-American can contribute early. But the frontcourt provides little on the offensive end.
Gibbs is going be more aggressive this season scoring. Pitt’s second option is small forward J.J. Moore.

This season postseason failure may not be a disappointed as I don’t feel this team shouldn’t have high expectations from the previous seasons.

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Syracuse Season Preview

2011-2012 Projected Starting Lineup 

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Katchen/Flickr

PG Scoop Jardine, senior
SG Brandon Triche, junior
SF Kris Joseph, senior
PF Rakeem Christmas, freshman
C Baye Moussa Keita, sophomore

Key reserves: C.J. Fair, sophomore; Dion Waiters, sophomore; Fab Melo, sophomore; Michael Carter-Williams, freshman; James Southerland, junior

In 2010 Syracuse had 30 wins. In 2011 the Orange had 27. One thing remains: postseason failure.

Syracuse once again has a quality team to put on the floor, but NCAA Tournament collapses still hangs over its head. In 2010 the Orange lost to darling Butler Bulldogs in the Sweet Sixteen. Last season, Big East rival Marquette pulled off the upset.

The Orange look solid in the backcourt and at the small forward position. Although Jardine can get trigger happy he did average almost six assists per game. Triche will be in his third year in the starting lineup and is a consistent No. 2; he knocked down 33 percent from deep.

Joseph is one of the conference’s best finishers and Fair had a brilliant freshman campaign a season ago.

The frontline could be an issue. Melo, a McDonald’s All-American, had a disappointing freshman season after being picked as the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year. What made things worse was Melo’s off court issues. His girlfriend has accused him of being physically violent.

Moussa Keita has an edge to get the starting job, but he is very limited offensively.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Manzari/Flickr

Syracuse will have to rely Christmas to contribute early. Christmas, another Philadelphia recruit for Jim Boeheim, is a tough defender, while being a difficult matchup for his opposition. Carter-Williams is the other highly-touted freshman, who possesses a smooth stroke.

The Orange is moving to the ACC, so Boeheim will like to make the most of his last Big East season.

Syracuse may not be the best team in the Big East, but it will definitely contend for the title. But for Cuse, its focus should be on success in March.