Tray Woodall

Christmas Wish List: Can Pittsburgh finally get some national recognition?

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Some national recognition
Really. This team is 11-1, with its only loss coming against the now-No. 2 Michigan by just five points. Even with that, the Panthers were kept out of both Top 25 polls. They should finally change this week, but one can only hope.

Jamie Dixon’s team has one of the best backcourt combinations in the country, with senior Tray Woodall and freshman James Robinson together averaging close to 11 assists and just 2.7 turnovers per game. Woodall has now fully stepped out of the shadow of the now-graduated Ashton Gibbs and his likely successor, Robinson, has been one of the most reliable freshmen in the country.

Talib Zanna has also developed into the more well-rounded forward that Dixon recruited him to be. He has more than doubled his scoring output since last season and slightly increased his rebounding numbers.

Stocking stuffer: Consistency from freshman Steven Adams

When Steven Adams stepped on campus at Pittsburgh, it was known that his ceiling was high, but his game was raw. There have been times when he was good (16 points, 10 rebounds vs. Bethune-Cookman) and times when he has looked like a freshman (0 points in 10 minutes vs. Michigan). If Adams can have more games like the latter and less like the former, Zanna would have more of a complement in the frontcourt. Time is the key.

Planning on re-gifting: Stretch of late January/early February

Once Pittsburgh hits conference play, the Panther will play a stretch of four ranked teams in six games from Jan. 28 to Feb. 18. Pitt meets Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame, with Seton Hall and Marquette in between. That’s typical for the Big East’s conference schedule, but if the Panthers find some momentum early in the month, they’ll have that group of games to grind through.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

PHOTO: Ohio State’s new LeBron James shoe display

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.

The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.