It’s not going to be easy.
That seems to be the message for the Pitt men’s basketball team as they enter their first year under new head coach Kevin Stallings.
Last year, the Panthers roared out of the gate with a 14-1 start, reaching as high as #20 in the nation before stumbling down the stretch. The team finished 9th in the ACC with a 21-12 (9-9 ACC) but managed only 6 wins in their last 15 regular season games.
In the ACC Tournament, the Panthers were able to make it to the quarterfinals before losing to North Carolina. The Panthers were rewarded with a #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament but lost in the first round to #10 seed Wisconsin.
This season, the consensus seems to be that the biggest challenge for the Panthers will be the schedule. Pitt plays North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville and Syracuse twice, and Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest all on the road.
The big question is going to be how Kevin Stallings adapts to the challenge of moving from the SEC to the ACC, and if his up-tempo offense will be a better fit than Jamie Dixon’s deliberate, defense first style.
The only significant loss on the court is starting point guard James Robinson, who graduated. Pitt will look to F Michael Young, who was named to the Preseason All-ACC Second Team, to lead the offense.
PITTSBURGH SPORTS NOW PRESEASON PREDICTIONS
Alan Saunders: They’ll make the tournament.
Mike Vukovcan: 19 wins, 8th in the ACC. Jamal Artis will be the leading scorer. Chris Jones will be Pitt’s breakout player. Justice Kithcart will be their best Freshman.
Joe Steigerwald: They should get 11 or 12 wins out of conference. So can they go 9-9 in the ACC? It’ll be tough thanks to their brutal schedule. But I keep thinking Pitt will exceed expectations with virtually their entire team coming back. They’ll win 20 games and make the tournament.
ACC OPERATIONS BASKETBALL 2016-2017 PRESEASON POLL
1. Duke (85) – 1359
2. North Carolina (6) – 1239
3. Virginia – 1125
4. Louisville – 1034
5. Syracuse – 905
6. NC State – 772
7. Notre Dame – 716
8. Florida State – 705
9. Miami – 650
10. Virginia Tech – 645
11. Clemson – 623
12. Pitt – 511
13. Wake Forest – 309
14. Georgia Tech – 199
15. Boston College – 128