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Analysis: Freshmen Will Improve, But How Much and How Quickly?

Analysis: Freshmen Will Improve, But How Much and How Quickly?

PITTSBURGH — If the Pitt men’s basketball program is going to pull out of its current nose dive, which includes an 0-10 start to ACC play this season and 14 consecutive losses in regular season conference play, a good amount of the onus will be put on the improvement of the current players.

Yes, Pitt will should get Ryan Luther back, has a talented player in Malik Ellison waiting in the wings and another in will-be freshman Bryce Golden. But the bulk of the 2018-19 team is largely going to be consisted of the members of the 2017-18 team. And that team, to put it bluntly, is bad.

So how much better can they be expected to get? And will it happen quickly enough to save the job of Stallings, who at this point, almost certainly must show substantial progress in 2018-19?

I decided to take a look specifically at the stats of Marcus Carr in order to find out. Carr is starting as a freshman point guard, which is something the Panthers have had a surprisingly large number of over the last 30 years.

In particular, I compared Carr to Sean Miller (1988), Vonteego Cummings (1996), Brandin Knight (2000), Carl Krauser (2003), Levance Fields (2006), Travon Woodall (2009) and James Robinson (2013). That’s pretty solid company and if Carr’s numbers can compare favorably to some or all of that group, it should be a pretty good sign.

Through 23 games this season, Carr is averaging .36 points per minute and .14 assists per minute. But are those numbers good for a freshman point guard? Let’s take a look.

As you can see, Carr is dominating the rest of those players on a points-per-minute basis. His assists are slightly below the best of the best, but still come in ahead of Fields, Cummings and Robinson. You can debate which of the Carr’s .36 points plus .14 assists and Krauser’s .32 points and .16 assists per minute are more valuable, and I’d probably lean toward Krauser, but that’s still an impressive list to be near the top of.

So that looks promising. As a freshman, Carr has been a more productive offensive player than just about any freshmen point guard in recent Pitt memory. Yet, Carr is still far from being a complete player and Pitt’s offense has continually struggled despite — or maybe because of — his presence.

So what does the future hold? Will Carr improve or is what we see what we get when it comes to production? Using the careers of our other former freshmen guards, it’s pretty easy to see how the improvement has come.

The average player in the group increased in scoring after his freshman and sophomore years before settling in as an upperclassman. In the assists department, the sophomore year mirrored their freshman years, but improvements came after that. Either way, it seems like it would be fair to expect steady improvement in Carr’s game going forward.

The bad news is that it doesn’t appear that a drastic increase is in store for next season, and that’s when Stallings and the Panthers really need it to happen.

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