Panthers Will Have to Claw Back To The Top

        The absolute unexpected has happened- a dominating, home-court advantage for Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center, which had seen only one nonconference loss prior to this season, has now witnessed two home losses this season. And the latest was against Wagner. It's the first time the Panthers have lost to a NEC opponent in 70 games.

        The astonishing transfer of freshman center Khem Birch is compounding the production the Panthers lost due to the injury to junior point guard Travon Woodall; Woodall has missed the last six games with a groin injury and will miss a few more before coming back healthy. He was third in the country with 8.3 assists per game, creating for shooters like Ashton Gibbs and slashers like Nasir Robinson. Not only does Pittsburgh miss his playmaking and ball-handling which allows Gibbs to play off the ball, but his perimeter shooting as well (45.7 percent from 3-point range), which spaced the floor for all. Without him, Gibbs is forced to initiate the offense, taking away from his scoring opportunities, specifically spotting up, something NBA scouts hoped for an improvement.

        When Woodall returns to the lineup during Big East play, the Panthers will certainly be a different team, but in the meantime, Pittsburgh will continue to rely on his talented youth. And at this point, the Panthers may be no better than the seventh or eighth best team in the Big East.

By President Corey Ruff - 12 - 31 - 11