As Jamie Dixon’s Pitt Panthers basketball team prepares to begin its inaugural ACC season, they could be in for quite the transition.
For the Panthers to find themselves among the ACC’s best teams at seasons end, they have to get back to doing one thing – playing great defense.
On the surface, Pitt’s defense was a typically-good Panthers defense last season as they allowed only 0.94 points per possession, which was good for third in the Big East Conference.
However if you look a little deeper you will find a disturbing trend that began last season and that was that the Panthers foul rate sky rocketed.
Until last season, Dixon’s teams were known for playing tough defense and not fouling at a high rate as they were usually around or under the Big East average.
But last season that all changed.
Big East opponents shot a whopping 377 free throws against Pitt last season, as only Rutgers and Seton Hall sent opponents to the charity stripe more often.
Even with the insane amount of fouls, the Panthers still played very good team defense.
But you have to wonder if that will be the case this season? The Panthers enter this season losing five of their eight top players in terms of minutes last season.
Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor graduated, J.J. Moore transferred to Rutgers, Trey Ziegler transferred to TCU and Steven Adams left for the NBA.
That means that Dixon’s team should be inexperienced and inexperienced teams often break down on the defensive end. The result is often more bad fouls.
It will be interesting to see how this Pitt team defends when the regular season begins Nov. 8 against Savannah St. It will even be more interesting to see how Pitt defends once they get into their ACC schedule.
However one thing is clear. If the Panthers want to contend in their new conference this season, they can’t do so by sending the opposition to the free-throw line at an alarming pace.