Feb 26, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon reacts to the call of an official during the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Pittsburgh 57-54. Credit: Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE
With Pitt's basketball season going down the tubes, there are lots of reasons for the team's failures. Youth, a dearth of star players, and the lack of a true inside presence have all contributed to the team's demise. But there's another reason this squad hasn't been able to reload as they have for the past decade.
Misses in recruiting.
Head coach Jamie Dixon has gotten some kudos for improving the quality of Pitt's recruits in recent years. The knock on the program had been Dixon's inability to secure top-ranked incoming talent, and that's starting to change. But while the Panthers have been able to bring in undervalued players who have suited the program well, it's the overrated ones who have hurt the program.
And when you think of overrated recruits, none sticks out more in recent years than Dante Taylor. Taylor, a top 25 recruit and McDonald's All-American, came in highly touted. The talk was that he almost assuredly would not be sticking around for four seasons, but after three lackluster years, that will indeed be the case when Taylor returns as a senior next season. He hasn't been a complete bust, and this season, has put together some quality games. But while averaging only six points and just over five rebounds in 2011-12, Taylor isn't likely to become the superstar Pitt fans thought he would.
Isaiah Epps isn't in the Dante Taylor category just yet, but he isn't off to a great start, either. Epps once talked of being a one and done player, but ended up taking a redshirt as a freshman. He has played this season, but that's more of a result of the injuries to starting point guard Tray Woodall. Epps is only in his second year with the program, so it's a bit early to label him a bust. But the fact that he wasn't able to contribute very much this season even with the lack of depth at point guard after Woodall's injury isn't encouraging.
A couple of guys no longer with the program who stick out are Dwight Miller and J.J. Richardson. Both were three-star recruits who never really fit in. Miller wasn't expected to be a star, but his brief Pitt career was an utter flop. He rarely played and eventually left the program to go to Tennessee. The Panthers don't need everyone to become a major contributor, but Miller never even became a minor one. He's now serving as a bench player for the Volunteers. Richardson was in a similar spot and is now redshirting this season at Houston. The problem for Dixon isn't that the two players didn't become superstars, it's that they never even became role players.
And for all the flashes of stardom he's showed at times, J.J. Moore has underachieved a bit for a four-star recruit. He's certainly had moments of brilliance, but he has really regressed this season and didn't take the step forward that many expected. Moore still has time to turn his career around, but so far, he hasn't lived up to expectations.
Then there was the whole Khem Birch debacle. Birch obviously can't be called a 'miss,' but he did cost the program the chance to hang onto another recruit, Jaylen Bond. Bond went to Texas after Pitt was over the scholarship limit, thanks to Birch arriving a year earlier than expected
Jamie Dixon has done a lot of good while serving as the Pitt coach, but when it comes to recruiting, he's been far from perfect.
For more on Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation's blog, Cardiac Hill.