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Almost Basketball Season | October

It's so close.

Expect the local newspapers to begin warming up their coverage now that media day has come and gone - especially with "expectations" pieces.  The Beaver County Times seems to be the first one to the party:

The only thing Pitt hasn’t accomplished during Dixon’s tenure is a trip to the Final Four. And while that seems so far off now, it would seem the Panthers have at least have a shot of a shot of making it to Houston if the pundits are right.

“We’ve got our goals,” Wannaker said.

“The only goal that matters right now is winning the Big East. That’s our focus until the (regular) season is over.”

Is it too soon to begin the Final Four talk?  For the team the answer is obviously "yes."  But for the fans?  I think everyone knows that's the goal, said or unsaid.  They've come so close (warning: link may contain Scottie Reynolds), only to fall short at the end.  Maybe this is the year for Pitt and maybe it isn't, but it's clear that this team is a top ten team.  And as long as you're a top ten team with top ten talent, you have a chance for things to break your way come March.

Of course, Pitt will need players to step up.  Good to great.  Inconsistent to consistent.  More production out of the power forward position would be good.  So would more points from McGhee/Taylor underneath.  But perhaps the biggest factor in Pitt's ability to make a deep tournament run will be the insanely talented, but hot and cold, Gilbert Brown:

The only criticism of Brown's offensive game last season was his consistency, or rather his lack of it. He was a force at times and invisible in other games. He reached double figures 12 times, scoring 16 or more points on eight occasions. But he failed to score more than six points in nine other games, which was a maddening development for fans of the team.

Over the offseason, Brown attempted to remedy the problem.

"I guess you can say I've been in the gym more," Brown said. "It's all about putting it together and competing every day. It's'not necessarily that the inconsistency played in my head or I was thinking about it all the time. Last year, we had a different type of team. At times Brad would step up, and at times I would step up. I think it will be different this year, especially with me playing from the start of the season."

Dixon has been pleased with Brown's offense. It's a little known fact that Brown led the Panthers in 3-point field-goal shooting percentage last season. Brown shot 39.6 percent (21 for 53), six-tenths of a percent better than Gibbs. He also is an unselfish player who can create for others.

The whole "20 points one night, zero the next" needs to become 12-16 points every night for Pitt to be successful.  Yes, Pitt can score in a variety of ways, but no player on the roster brings the explosive ability of Brown.  When he's on, he changes the entire game with his superb shooting and athleticism.

Speaking of Brown, he'll be featured in Friday night's post-scrimmage dunk contest along with freshmen JJ Moore and Cameron Wright.  The scrimmage kicks off at 7:00 p.m. (free admission).

Gilbert Brown

JJ Moore

Cameron Wright