On Tuesday, Pitt men’s basketball opens its season up with a non-conference battle against The Citadel out of the Southern Conference. The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. from the Petersen Events Center.
Here are five things to know ahead of the 2021-22 season-opener.
Jamarius Burton Will Not Play
While his timetable suggested he would be close to returning at this point, Burton is still sidelined from his knee surgery recovery and will not play against The Citadel. An incoming transfer from Texas Tech, the point guard Burton has been praised for his leadership by Capel and his teammates ever since arriving at Pitt.
“I think right now it’s probably day-by-day, seeing how he does,” Capel said. “We ramped things up a little bit more today. We’ll see how he responds to that and then we’ll make the decision going forward depending on how he’s progressing.”
Pitt Lacking Depth at the 1-3 Spots
The Panthers have had a roller coaster of an offseason, with program-changing news coming in all spring, summer, and fall all the way up until this week.
Just a few weeks ago, Pitt was heading into the season with aspirations to surprise the conference and make a run behind the likes of Femi Odukale, Ithiel Horton, and Nike Sibande, three highly-skilled scorers. However, in the past two weeks, Pitt has lost two of those guys, with Sibande going down with a torn ACL and Horton being suspended indefinitely after getting arrested three days before the opener.
The Panthers are looking to Odukale to run the point and handle the scoring load for the guards. After him, walk-on Onye Ezeakudo is up next, and will come in to provide solid defense and assist his teammates. At the two and three spots, Pitt is paper thin after the losses of Horton and Sibande and is going to have to rely on young talent to provide a spark. William Jeffress and Nate Santos will both get their chances to shine in this opener, with Jeffress the likely starter. JuCo transfer Chris Payton is also looking like a solid option at the three, and should rotate in and out there throughout game one.
Meet The Citadel
The Citadel is led by seventh-year head coach Duggar Baucom, who led the team to a 13-12 (5-11 SoCon) record last season. The Bulldogs will be led by graduate student Hayden Brown, who was recently voted by SoCon coaches as the preseason conference player of the year. Last season, the 6-foot-5 forward Brown averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The program is known to play at one of the fastest paces out of all division one teams, something Capel has been preparing for leading up to the game.
“They play one of the fastest paces,” Capel said a day before the opener. “They shoot a lot of threes. Last year they were one of the top teams as far as tempo, top teams as far as three-point field goals attempted per game, so they get up and down. Their four and five, they are really good passers. Their four is a really unique player, the kid Brown who is the preseason player of the year. He is an elite-level rebounder, he’s an elite-level competitor, he scores it, he pushes it in transiton. He’s a really, really good player.”
They also return a few talented veterans, including guard Tyler Moffe, who averaged 9.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last year. According to Kenpom.com’s preseason rankings, The CItadel is currently ranked as the No. 228 team in the nation.
“We’re excited to get started,” Capel continued. “We have had 29 practices and they have been pretty good. It’s all led to the buildup. For opening night we are playing against a team that had a winning record last year, that returns some guys that are good players. They play an up-tempo style of basketball, they have the pre-season conference player of the year back, their point guard back, their starting center back, well coached, unique style, so we will have our hands full, but we will be ready.”
According to DraftKings, as of Monday night, Pitt is a 10.5 point favorite against The Citadel.
The over/under for this contest is set at 152.5 points.
The Citadel was the No. 21 team in the nation against the spread last season at 14-7, according to https://t.co/pTsvEOp23s.
Pitt (-10.5) is the current line on @DraftKings.
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) November 9, 2021
Last season, The Citadel went 14-7 against the spread which was good for 21st in the nation, according to Teamrankings.com.
Broadcast, Radio Info
Tuesday night’s contest will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACCN Extra on TV. Jeff Hathhorn and former Pitt star Julius Page will be on the call.
The game will also be live on the radio on 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt’s next game is against West Virginia in the 2021-22 edition of the Backyard Brawl. The game will tip-off at 8:30 p.m. in Morgantown.