When it comes to injuries, Pitt had managed to get through this season relatively unscathed. Other than missing starting forward Nasir Robinson at the beginning of this season, the Panthers have been pretty healthy. That changed on Saturday when Ashton Gibbs sustained a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for 10-14 days. Just what does this mean for Pitt?
Here are five things:
1. We're about to see a lot more of Travon Woodall. Woodall is generally the first guard off the bench, and with Gibbs out, he's the one who will likely inherit Gibbs' starting spot. Receiving the bulk of the minutes at point guard, Woodall will give Pitt fans a good look at just how much he has improved from his freshman season. Averaging about 20 minutes a game, Woodall has contributed 6.7 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game. Those numbers should go up as Woodall's minutes increase.
Pitt could also get a glimpse of next season with Woodall as the starter. Gibbs is currently the team's point guard, but with the loss of Brad Wanamaker to graduation, head coach Jamie Dixon could move Woodall into the starting lineup alongside Gibbs next season.
2. Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore should see more minutes. With Woodall moving into the starting lineup, reserves Patterson and Moore should also see more time. Patterson will now be the first guard off the bench, and Moore, who has not played in many Big East games this season, might get some more minutes as well. Patterson has looked good at times, and finding additional time for Moore could be a wise decision if Pitt needs to rely on him at all down the stretch.
3. Pitt's chances for a No. 1 seed might vanish. The Panthers are coming up on a tough stretch, and this isn't an ideal time for the team to be without its best player. Pitt has some challenging games coming up against West Virginia, Villanova and St. John's and Gibbs could miss all of those contests. To secure a No. 1 seed, Pitt may not be able to afford more than one loss in Gibbs' absence. That's because even when he returns, the team still has tough contests remaining at home against Villanova and West Virginia and on the road at Louisville. Even with Gibbs, Pitt may be hard-pressed to win all of those games.
4. Pitt's offensive style may change. Missing Gibbs and his 17 points per game means that Pitt's style of play could change slightly. Instead of the fast-paced three-point shooting team we've seen much of this year, the loss of scoring could force Pitt to play a more grind-it-out style of play, and I expect the team will score less as a result. Other players such as Gilbert Brown and Brad Wanamaker could, of course, step in and do a bit more scoring. But with a backup point guard now taking the reins, the offense may not run as smoothly.
5. Woodall needs to avoid foul trouble. Woodall is essentially the only point guard on Pitt's roster. If he gets into foul trouble, the team will be in a tight spot. The plan for Jamie Dixon has been to redshirt freshman Isaiah Epps. Epps hasn't played since the preseason and there's next to no chance Dixon would throw him into the Big East season without having played all year. Brad Wanamaker will probably serve as the team's backup point guard, a role he doesn't necessarily thrive in.
But staying out of foul trouble is a two-edged sword for Woodall. Knowing that he's the only point guard on the team, he could be forced to play a bit more passively, and that's bad news for Pitt. The team's calling card is its defense and Woodall needs to stay as aggressive as possible. And with Gibbs' scoring gone, the defense may be the key to winning these next few games.