With the 2016-17 NCAA Basketball season underway, the Pitt Panthers will face their toughest test of this young season so far. They will face the Maryland Terrapins, who are leading the Big Ten with a perfect 7-0 record to start the season. Maryland is led by junior guard Melo Trimble, who is averaging just over 21 points per game through their first seven games. Trimble has been a guy to give defenses a lot of problems over the years and he looks to continue that in what could be his last season in college basketball.
To this point, the 5-1 Panthers are basically what you would expect. They have made games closer than they should be but have still managed to come away with the victories that they should have. One bright spot is that this is all being done with first year coach Kevin Stallings. Pitt has shown that the coaching change from longtime coach Jamie Dixon hasn’t been an issue to this point. And hopefully, things will only improve from where they are currently.
Over the Dixon era at Pitt, there was a huge emphasis on defense and less on scoring. But Stallings has created a culture where scoring is a top priority, with the Panthers scoring 93 and 99 points respectively in their first two games. This isn’t to say that their defense is lacking in anyway. They have still kept four of their six opponents to 75 points or under, which is a positive considering the type of offense they have transitioned to.
Michael Young (23.3 ppg) and Jamel Artis (19.3 ppg) are still the leaders of these Panthers as they enter their senior seasons. Young has shown so much improvement over his 3 seasons in Pittsburgh. He has a shooting line of 58-45-85 (FG%-3PT%-FT%). Keeping these numbers going for the majority of the season would give the Panthers a huge advantage and would keep them in contention to make some noise in this years NCAA Tournament. Add these two in with Sheldon Jeter’s defensive help and Cameron Johnson’s 3-point shooting and you have a roster that is filled with a lot of potential and little holes.
A win tonight would be a huge momentum boost for the Panthers and could be what they need to gather some more experience and practice before conference play starts one month from Thursday.