From now until Christmas, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.
Pittsburgh was picked to finish fourth in the preseason Big East media poll. They were the first team to be upset this season, losing to Long Beach State at home. But since then, they’ve won nine in a row, despite still lacking a signature win.
Moving into the holiday, let’s take a run down Jamie Dixon’s Christmas wishlist.
What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here
Must Have: Production From Zanna and Taylor
Pitt already had questions about their presence on the block, having lost big man Gary McGhee to graduation, and those pains were worsened when freshman Khem Birch decided to transfer. Just over a month ago, it looked as though Birch may have been cracking into the regular rotation.
But his transfer leaves Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna, who combine to average just over 13 points and 12 rebounds per game. If Pitt wants to compete at the top of the Big East, especially with frontcourt-heavy teams like Syracuse and Connecticut, it will be up to Taylor and Zanna to lead the charge.
Stocking Stuffer: Travon Woodall’s Return
The Panthers lost Woodall to a groin strain and abdominal tear in the first week of December, and was expected to be out for a month.
As the calendar turns to 2012, that means Woodall will be on the track to return to the Pitt starting lineup.
In the first month of the season, he averaged 14 points and eight assists per game, all while shooting 52 percent from the field. Freshman John Johnson has held down the fort in Woodall’s absence, but the Brooklyn native’s return will be welcomed.
Planning to Re-gift: Recent History
It’s been the knock on Pitt in recent years that, though they’ll have a strong regular season, the Panthers flame out in the tournament.
Despite Jamie Dixon’s impressive 227-61 record at Pittsburgh in eight-plus seasons, the Panthers have only advanced past the Sweet Sixteen once.
Lacking size down low and relying heavily on the backcourt for scoring production, could history repeat itself in March? Could the Panthers run into a mid-major with a sparkplug guard like Casper Ware at Long Beach State who could sink their tournament hopes?
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_