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September 22, 2009
Around the Rim
Panthers Rebuild

by John Perrotto

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It seems that there has nothing but bad news for Pittsburgh ever since it blew a late lead in the East Regional finals and lost to Villanova in last season's NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore power forward DeJuan Blair, a consensus All-America and the Panthers' best player, left early for the NBA Draft. Then junior small forward Gilbert Brown was suspended for the first half of the season by the university because of academic issues.

Now, senior shooting guard Jermaine Dixon will miss up to two months after having surgery last week to repair a broken fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot.

Dixon is the only returning starter from a team that went 31-5 last winter and there is a good chance he won't be ready to play when the Panthers open their season Nov. 13 by hosting Wofford. Dixon originally broke the bone in July playing in a summer league game. Doctors prescribed rest and rehabilitation but he broke the bone again when it was stepped on in a pick-up game.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, though, is optimistic that Jermaine Dixon will return to the lineup sooner rather than later.

"He'll do a good job with the rehab, so he won't fall out of shape easily," Jamie Dixon told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Jermaine Dixon averaged 8.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 24.6 minutes last season. He was also 135th in the nation with a 3.4 steal percentage.

The Panthers should be able to withstand an absence by Dixon as they have depth in the backcourt. Junior Brad Wannamaker and sophomore Ashton Gibbs would likely see most of the playing time at shooting guard while Chase Adams, a transfer from Centenary, will likely play point guard.

Adams, who has one season of eligibility remaining, will be able to play immediately despite transferring over the summer because Centenary is dropping form Division I to Division III. He could be a key figure for the Panthers after averaging 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 34.5 minutes last season while ranking 23rd nationally with a 4.5 steal percentage and 69th with a 31.0 assist rate.

The Marathon Returns

ESPN is bringing back its College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon for a second season on Nov. 17. Starting at midnight, a game will tip off at least every two hours on one of the ESPN channels and all will also be available on ESPN360.com.

Here is the schedule (all times Eastern):

12 a.m.: Cal State Fullerton at UCLA, ESPN
2 a.m.: San Diego State at St. Mary's, ESPN
4 a.m.: Northern Colorado at Hawaii, ESPN
6 a.m.: Monmouth at St. Peter's, ESPN
8 a.m.: Drexel at Niagara, ESPN
10 a.m.: Clemson at Liberty, ESPN
12 p.m.: Northeastern at Siena, ESPN
2 p.m.: Arkansas-Little Rock at Tulsa, ESPN
4 p.m.: Temple at Georgetown, ESPN
5:30 p.m.: Binghamton at Pittsburgh, ESPN2
6 p.m.: Duke or Coastal Carolina vs. Charlotte or Elon in NIT Season TipOff at Durham, N.C., ESPN
7:30 p.m.: Arkansas vs. Louisville in Hall of Fame Showcase at St. Louis, ESPN2
8 p.m.: Gonzaga at Michigan State, ESPN
8 p.m.: Northern Illinois at Illinois, ESPN360.com
9 p.m.: Duquesne at Iowa, ESPNU
10 p.m.: Kansas vs. Memphis in Hall of Fame Showcase at St. Louis, ESPN
11:30 p.m.: Arizona State or Texas State vs. TCU or Cal State Northridge in NIT Season TipOff at Tempe, Ariz., ESPN2

Texas Tussles Slated

Houston and Texas Christian begin a four-year non-conference series this upcoming season. While it is a series that makes sense as both are Texas schools that play in two of top mid-major conferences, Houston is in Conference USA and TCU in the Mountain West, so putting together a schedule is never easy.

In fact, the task of scheduling has become increasingly difficult for mid-majors. The teams from the BCS conferences are reluctant to play the better mid-majors for fear of taking a loss and hurting their RPI. Mid-majors have been increasingly shying away from each other because they need a certain amount of victories against smaller Division I programs to pump their win totals up enough to be recognized by the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

In the case of Houston and TCU, having connections helped make the series possible. Houston coach Tom Penders was the coach at Rhode Island when TCU coach Jim Christian played for the Rams.

"Scheduling has become harder than recruiting for us," Penders told the Houston Chronicle. "It goes on and on and on. [Associate head coach] Melvin Haralson works 12 months a year on the thing. It's too frustrating for me on a day-to-day basis."

It would be understandable if teams would want to avoid Houston as the Cougars should be quite formidable with three starting guards returning from a 21-12 season: senior Aubrey Coleman (18.9 ppg/8.2 rpg/2.4 apg), senior Kelvin Lewis (18.0 ppg/3.3 rpg/1.3 apg) and sophomore Desmond Wade (4.8 ppg/1.8 rpg/3.4 apg).

Coleman was 20th in the nation with 32.1 percent of possessions, 41st with 6.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, 48th with a 4.1 steal percentage and 60th with 31.5 percent of shots. Lewis was 19th with 91.6 percent of minutes and 26th with a 10.2 turnover rate.

Cameron Still Crazy

Duke has no plans of moving out of 70-year-old Cameron Indoor Stadium anytime soon but it has given the 9,314-seat facility a bit of redesign that the university hopes will continue to give the Blue Devils one of the top home-court advantages in college basketball.

Graduate students will now be seated at the north and south ends of the arena behind each basket, which school officials hope will provide opponents with a difficult shooting background. Undergraduate students, known as the Cameron Crazies, will continue to sit in their lower courtside location behind the media table.

The 5,649 seats in the in the upper arena have been painted blue and the brass railings have been refurbished.

"We are fortunate to have the best fan base in the country, so to be able to enhance the game-day atmosphere is very exciting," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Home court was good to the Blue Devils last season as they were 16-1 at Cameron with their only loss coming against North Carolina.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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