October 13, 2007

Ten things to look for from Pitt basketball

Coming off Pitt football's disappointing loss this week, Pitt fans can still salvage their week. October 13 marks the first official day basketball teams can practice, and Friday's media day kicks off festivities for the nationally-ranked men's and women's basketball teams. Today, the Pantherlair takes a look at some of the storylines entering the season.

10. Out with the Rice, in with the Herrion

It's an unwritten rule of being a head coach. In addition to developing players the best of their abilities, you also have a duty of training assistant coaches to be head coaches someday. Barry Rohrssen (Manhattan College) and Joe Lombardi (Indiana, Pa.) departed for head coaching jobs after the 2006 season. Mike Rice took the Robert Morris job this past season. With these departures, Jamie Dixon brought in an assistant who has already been a head coach. Enter Tom Herrion, who finished a four-year tenure at the College of Charleston, where he led the school to 80 wins. Herrion is a dynamic recruiter, with many connections in the east. It's no doubt he'll add to Pitt's success in recruiting Herrion's background is in coaching an up-tempo style of play, which is something new to this era of Pitt basketball. Players like Ronald Ramon, Levance Fields and Mike Cook will benefit greatly from the addition of Herrion.

9. Who replaces Aaron Gray?

Aaron Gray, though he struggled with free throw shooting over the last couple years, was a dominant center for the Panthers during his career. It was almost a given that he would produce a double-double every time he touched the floor, and now someone must step in and fill those shoes. Freshman Gary McGhee and junior college transfer Cassin Diggs join the roster this year. Diggs has some experience, and might be ready right now. McGhee is fresh out of high school, and is being compared to Gray, a player who might take a year to adjust to the college game, and then become a dominant player. For now, the answer appears to be Tyrell Biggs. He will be given the first shot at the job.

8. What kind of lineup could we expect?

We know Jamie Dixon likes to give preference to seniors, when it comes to starting lineups Ronald Ramon and Mike Cook look to be givens. They can keep Cook at the three, while Sam Young will play at the four position. To start the season, those four with Biggs, look to be the starting five. Dixon added that he feels the 1 and 2 spots are interchangeable, adding that you could see a lot of Keith Benjamin as well, and if he picks things up quickly, Brad Wanamaker. Sure, it's a small lineup, but that's the most experienced lineup right now. Dixon indicated at media day that he would like to have a 10-man rotation like last year's team. He will be able to do that, although it will be a younger lineup.

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