Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/5/11

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

Despite losing three starters, Jamie Dixon will have his Pitt Panthers competing for a Big East Championship.  That’s just the way this team operates under Dixon.  Regardless of who returns or who is gone, Pitt is going to be one of top teams in the conference.

Last Season: 1st, 15-3 in Big East, 28-6 overall
Predicted Big East Finish: 3rd

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Dante Taylor (Jr)/Khem Birch (Fr)/Malcolm Gilbert (Fr)
F: Nasir Robinson (Sr)/Talib Zanna (So)
G/F: J.J. Moore (So)/Lamar Patterson (Jr)/Durand Johnson (Fr)
G: Ashton Gibbs (Sr)/Cameron Wright (Fr)/John Johnson (Fr)
PG: Travon Woodall (Jr)/Isaiah Epps (Fr)

Gone: SG-Brad Wanamaker, SF-Gilbert Brown, C-Gary McGhee, F-J.J. Richardson (transfer-Houston)

2011-2012 Outlook:
Pitt’s chances of repeating vastly improved with Ashton Gibbs’ decision to come back for his senior year of college.  In addition to being one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the country, Gibbs will be counted on as the leader of this year’s team.  He will primarily play off the ball with Travon Woodall expected to step into the starting line-up and handle the point.  The Panthers will miss Brad Wanamaker’s versatility and toughness in the backcourt as they turn to a smaller duo of Woodall and Gibbs.

Cameron Wright and Isaiah Epps both redshirted last season but will likely step into reserve roles off the bench.  Freshmen Durand Johnson and John Johnson will also compete for minutes on the wing.  Dixon has never been afraid to redshirt a player and could elect to do so with one of the Johnson’s since there won’t be enough minutes to go around.

J.J. Moore and Lamar Patterson will replace Gilbert Brown’s minutes at the three.  Moore is similar to Brown in that he is long, athletic, but also capable of shooting it from deep.  Patterson brings a little more physicality to the wing while Durand Johnson could also see some playing time at the three.

Dixon loses a lot of size and strength in the middle with Gary McGhee graduating, but still has some big bodies inside.  Dante Taylor doesn’t possess the ideal height for a center but is a tank inside who loves his throw his body around.  The addition of freshmen Khem Birch and Malcolm Gilbert gives Pitt options behind Taylor as they perfectly the Panthers style of play.

Birch has great length and athleticism and should be an instant contributor as a shot blocker and rebounder though his offensive game is still very raw.  Gilbert is also a rim protector on the defensive end and a little more physical than Birch but also is a work in progress as a scorer.

Nasir Robinson is recovering from a torn meniscus that could sideline him for the start of the season but will start in the frontcourt once he returns.  At 6-5, he is an undersized power forward but plays incredibly hard and is not afraid to mix it up down low.  He can also play small forward if needed.

Talib Zanna offers more size up-front and will start until Robinson gets to one-hundred percent.  Zanna started 13 games last season so it will not be anything that will overwhelm him.  He mainly makes his impact felt on the glass but also has a developing mid-range game.

Pitt has a very weak non-conference schedule so we won’t find out how good this team can be until Big East play rolls around.  Their identity will once again be their toughness and hard-nosed play on the defensive end which always seems to cause problems for their opponents, but hasn’t gotten them over the hump and into the Final Four.

Player to Watch: Ashton Gibbs
There might not be a player in college basketball who comes off screens and can catch it and shoot it like Gibbs.  He shot a scorching 49% from distance last season and might have to pick up his scoring load even more this season since Pitt has some uncertainty as to who will score points this season.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/16 vs. Long Beach State
12/3 at Tennessee (Big East/SEC Challenge)
12/10 vs. Oklahoma State (at Madison Square Garden)

OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#9 Vanderbilt Commodores
#10 Memphis Tigers
#11 Florida Gators
#12 Xavier Musketeers
#13 Louisville Cardinals
#14 Arizona Wildcats
#15 Wisconsin Badgers
#16 Alabama Crimson Tide
#17 Gonzaga Bulldogs
#18 Marquette Golden Eagles
#19 Texas A&M Aggies
#20 Michigan Wolverines
#21 New Mexico Lobos
#22 Temple Owls
#23 Cincinnati Bearcats
#24 Kansas Jayhawks
#25 UNLV Rebels
#26 Washington Huskies
#27 UCLA Bruins
#28 Butler Bulldogs
#29 Missouri Tigers
#30 Texas Longhorns
#31 Villanova Wildcats
#32 Michigan State Spartans
#33 Florida State Seminoles
#34 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
#35 Harvard Crimson
#36 Illinois Fighting Illini
#37 Oregon Ducks
#38 Wichita State Shockers
#39 Cal Golden Bears
#40 Belmont Bruins
#41 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#42 Saint Mary’s Gaels
#43 Purdue Boilermakers
#44 BYU Cougars
#45 Kansas State Wildcats
#46 West Virginia Mountaineers
#47 Virginia Cavaliers
#48 George Mason Patriots
#49 Old Dominion Monarchs
#50 VCU Rams
#51 Kent State Golden Flashes
#52 Arkansas Razorbacks
#53 St. John’s Red Storm
#54 Northwestern Wildcats
#55 Georgetown Hoyas
#56 Miami Hurricanes
#57 Nevada Wolfpack
#58 Detroit Titans
#59 UCF Knights
#60 Long Beach State 49ers
#61 Virginia Tech Hokies
#62 Clemson Tigers
#63 New Mexico State Aggies
#64 Tennessee Volunteers
#65 Iona Gaels
#66 Murray State Racers
#67 N.C. State Wolfpack
#68 Fairfield Stags
#69 George Washingon Colonials
#70 Indiana State Sycamores
#71 Oklahoma State Cowboys
#72 Indiana Hoosiers
#73 UAB Blazers
#74 Iowa State Cyclones
#75 Creighton Bluejays
#76 USC Trojans
#77 Weber State Wildcats
#78 Maryland Terrapins
#79 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
#80 Minnesota Golden Gophers
#81 Western Michigan Broncos
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs
#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.


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