Q&A with Panthers beat writer Ryan Bertonaschi of Pitt News

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ No. 2 Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) faces No. 22 Pittsburgh (16-1 4-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. The Daily Orange spoke with Ryan Bertonaschi, a Pittsburgh basketball beat writer for The Pitt News, about the game.The Daily Orange: Why do you think people didn’t expect Pitt to play as well as it has so far?Ryan Bertonaschi: The main reason is because of the amount of transfers that they’ve had leave the program within the last 15, 16 months or so. Jamie Dixon came under fire for bringing in a lot of guys that weren’t “Pitt-esque.” They weren’t the typical big, physical, dive-on-the-floor, rebound-the-ball type of guys. They were kind of more finesse players and they left the program. Now he’s starting to rebuild, and he got a couple Pitt-type players in the offseason and that’s really helped so far.The D.O.: Building off of that, how do you think the Panthers have been able to rise to No. 22 in the country and play so well this season?R.B.: As cliché as it might sound, they are winning games because they’re diving on the floor and getting loose balls, because of their offensive rebound margin. Dixon is big on in-depth stats. He really stresses to win the battled possessions in games. Because they’re coming up with so many loose balls, because they’re producing so many offensive rebounds, they’re just dominating in terms of possessions.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe D.O.: How does the loss of Durand Johnson affect Pitt going forward?R.B.: If you ask 20 different guys that cover this Pitt team about how much of a loss Johnson is to this team, you’ll get 20 different answers. My personal opinion is that it’s not really that big of a deal. He is known as an outside shooter, but at the same rate, he was shooting (30) percent from downtown going into the Maryland game a couple weeks ago. Dixon has gone 10 deep this season. Over the past week or so, he’s starting to go 11 deep. They have a lot of well-rounded guys that can step in and take his spot. Josh Newkirk is a guy who we’ll expect to see a lot more playing time.The D.O.: Talib Zanna has improved considerably this year. How do you think he’s gotten to this point to become as good as he’s been?R.B.: He’s taken the route that a lot of Pitt players have taken over the course of four years. Dixon and his staff really stress on the development of players. They’re not looking for guys who can go to the NBA after one or two years. When he came into the program, he was known as a guy who didn’t really have a position. Now he’s established himself as one of the best centers in the league, and his scoring ability has really improved. He plays with his back to the basket on a lot of possessions, and that really helps that they have a bread-and-butter type guy down low that can feed off of Lamar Patterson.The D.O.: Do you think Pitt has a shot to beat Syracuse?R.B.: I think they do have a shot, but the reason that I would say Syracuse has the edge is we don’t know enough about this Pitt team. For all we know, they could be the 45th-, 50th-best team in the country. The best team that they’ve beaten has been Stanford. That’s why Pitt fans are on their toes to see this matchup. If they win, I think they’ll get a lot of national recognition from this. Comments Published on January 17, 2014 at 4:47 am Contact Trevor: [email protected] | @TrevorHasslast_img

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