A disappointing championship season? That’s what Pittsburgh is looking to rebound from.

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When is a championship season a disappointing one? When the title you win is the CBI (no disrespect to the good folks who run that tournament), thoughts of the last season have more to do with missing the NCAA tournament.

That’s the situation the Pittsburgh Panthers found themselves in last season, as inexperience and the health of point guard Tray Woodall resulted in a season that didn’t pan out as many expected.

But with Woodall back, the youngsters thrust into key roles last season a year older and some talented newcomers, Pittsburgh is looking to end their stay in the Big East on a high note.

“That’s what our goal always is,” Woodall, who is 100%, said at the team’s media day in regards to winning the Big East.

“I think we’ve got the depth this year where we think we can do it.”

Depth, something the Panthers sorely lacked last season, is something they have despite of the graduation of Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson.

Obviously Woodall is the key, as he missed 11 of the Panthers’ 39 games with a groin strain and an abdominal tear and was a shell of himself when on the floor.

He’ll have a new partner in the back court in Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler, who averaged 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season.

While Zeigler isn’t the three-point shooter that Gibbs was his ability to create off the dribble gives Pitt a dimension at the two they lacked last season, and that was most obvious when Woodall wasn’t on the floor.

Cameron Wright and John Johnson, both of whom were called upon to contribute as freshmen (Wright a redshirt) last season, will factor into the rotation as well.

Jamie Dixon’s squad returns two other starters from last year’s team in Lamar Patterson and Dante Taylor, but the one front court player most want to talk about is freshman Steven Adams.

The New Zealand native cuts a physically imposing figure, standing at 7-0, 250 pounds, and while young he’ll be needed to help improve a team defense that wasn’t near the standard the Panthers had established over the decade prior.

Opponents shot 44.1% from the field last season, a mark that ranked 14th in the Big East. Defending at that level won’t get the job done in 2012-13 and the Panthers know that.

“We’ve got good size,” Dixon noted during media day. “And we’re going to have the versatility to play a couple different ways defensively and do some things that we have in the past.

“We’ve got to be the best defensive team in the conference. That’s what we’ve done when we’ve won conference championships.”

Pitt also returns contributors J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna, while sophomore Malcolm Gilbert will look to work his way into the rotation after playing just 19 games as a freshman.

And if the Panthers need a reminder of what happened last season, there is one:

The Panthers had only a CBI Tournament title to show for last season. A photo of the nearly empty Petersen Events Center at the first-round game against Wofford was hung in the locker room last March with a message to the players, reading, in effect: “This is what happens when you miss the NCAA Tournament.”

With health and depth Pittsburgh can make sure they don’t repeat what happened last season.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kris Dunn vs. Denzel Valentine; Two 6-0 teams from Ohio battle in Orlando

Kris Dunn
AP Photo
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Michigan State vs. Providence, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Two Player of the Year candidates lock horns on Sunday night as Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine battles Providence’s Kris Dunn. Both players are strong threats to record a triple-double each time they take the floor and both are key reasons why their teams are 6-0. The Friars could probably use this game a bit more than Michigan State since they enter this game unranked and could use another confidence-boosting win for a team filled with newer players. As for the Spartans, winning the Wooden Legacy would mean another great accomplishment before December even started for a team that has national title aspirations.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 23 Xavier vs. Dayton, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

These two 6-0 teams from Ohio will meet in Orlando in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational. The Musketeers have six different players averaging at least 9.7 points per game this season as they’ve received great balance on the offensive end. As for Dayton, Charles Cooke as emerged as a go-to player early this season while guard Scoochie Smith has also been outstanding. This will be the first time these two schools have played since Feb. 16, 2013.


  • One of the fun teams to watch this week has been Monmouth and their amusing end-of-bench antics. On the floor, the Hawks knocked off Notre Dame and gave Dayton a scare and they’ll face USC for the second time this season to close out the AdvoCare Invitational. The Trojans won the first one 101-90, but this is a 12:30 p.m. EST tip, so that could benefit Monmouth the second time around.
  • Wisconsin visiting No. 7 Oklahoma is an intriguing Sunday matchup. The Badgers could certainly use a true road win here as they’re off to a 4-2 start. The Sooners get more of a real test after only playing Memphis as a notable opponent their first three games.
  • Also going on in the AdvoCare Invitational is No. 20 Wichita State facing Iowa and No. 17 Notre Dame battling Alabama. The Shockers are going without senior starters Fred Van Vleet and Anton Grady as they try to escape Orlando with a win. Notre Dame is hoping to close out the event strong after its surprising upset to Monmouth.
  • Action also continues in Anaheim at the Wooden Legacy as No. 11 Arizona will take on Boise State, while Boston College plays Santa Clara and UC Irvine faces Evansville. Arizona will look to get back on the right track after the close loss to Providence in the semifinals.
  • No. 6 Duke gets an afternoon tilt with Utah State at home before they face Indiana during the week. It’ll be interesting to see if Blue Devil freshman wing Brandon Ingram keeps his strong play going from earlier in the week.
  • UCLA returns home and could badly use a win against Cal State Northridge. The Bruins went a disappointing 1-2 in the Maui Invitational and need to get back on the right track before the face No. 1 Kentucky next week.


  • Brown vs. No. 25 SMU, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)


  • Jackson State at Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
  • Rider at Rhode Island, 1:00 p.m.
  • Savannah State at South Florida, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • South Carolina State at Kansas State, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Colorado at Colorado, 2:00 p.m. (PAC12)
  • UC Santa Barbara at Arizona State, 4:00 p.m. (PAC12)

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics