When news came down last week that Tray Woodall was going to be out for a month (or more), the immediate thoughts went to the new gaping hole in the starting lineup.
The injury also hurts because Woodall's not expected to be back for the beginning of Big East play, which starts on December 27 against Notre Dame. And when you factor in that he'll probably need a couple of games to get back to normal, Pitt could be six or seven games into conference play by the time he's back to his old self. The Panthers are not only going to have to cope without him, but they'll to do so against some good competition along the way.
In Pitt's first game without him against Tennessee over the weekend, Jamie Dixon turned to redshirt freshman Cam Wright to fill the spot. Wright didn't have a stellar game as he played 25 minutes, but went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting from the field. That lack of production didn't hurt Pitt, but with games coming up against VMI (12th highest scoring team in college basketball) and Oklahoma State, Pitt really needs to get some kind of production if Wright is going to continue getting that many minutes.
Woodall wasn't only Pitt's second-leading scorer, he was also dishing out more than eight assists per game. That pace put him on track to threaten the school's single-season record. There's no telling if he could have continued doing that in Big East play, but there's no denying he was playing well and will be missed.
It's unknown if head coach Jamie Dixon will continue to depend on Wright to fill Woodall's shoes, but he does have other options. True freshman John Johnson has looked very good this season and had eight points and three assists in 18 minutes of action against the Volunteers this weekend. It's quite possible he could earn a start if Wright continues to struggle.
Dixon can also turn to Lamar Patterson to help fill the backcourt role. Patterson is currently starting as a forward, but played as a guard last year when Ashton Gibbs was out with an injury. Patterson could slide down to guard to allow Dixon to give J.J. Moore some starts at small forward. Moore didn't play much against Tennessee, but had averaged more than eight points in Pitt's four previous games. He has plenty of scoring punch and might be an option to give Pitt the offensive spark needed.
Whichever path Dixon chooses, Pitt could be hard pressed to find the type of production Woodall had been providing so far this season.