There was a time not too long ago that the start of Pitt men’s basketball season created a buzz in the air.
Panther fans anticipated the upcoming season as the they looked ahead to Jamie Dixon led teams competing for a conference championship and earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament on a yearly basis.
From the start of his tenure in 2003 until his final season in 2016, Dixon’s team were ridiculously consistent and were winners.
Consider that in 13 seasons:
- Pitt won loss than 20 games only once (2014 season).
- Won 25+ games 8 times.
- Finished in either first or second place 5 times.
- Selected to the NCAA Tournament 11 times.
As a fan base, you enjoyed that sort of run.
Having to endure these past six years has been pure hell and has made the Ben Howland/Dixon success feel like a lifetime ago.
Over the last six seasons, the Pitt men’s basketball record is an embarrassing 75-110. The closest they’ve come to a winning record were 16-17 records in 2016 and 2019. In three of those six seasons, the team finished with 11 wins or less. Considering most teams non-conference schedules are filled with cupcakes, it’s almost impossible to be that bad, but they’ve been able to accomplish it a few times.
It doesn’t seem as though many people in Western Pennsylvania are excited for the start of the 2022-23 season in a few weeks and on the surface, I don’t blame them.
However, I believe by the end of the season, the interest level in Pitt basketball will change and it will change a lot.
Call me a fool or whatever else you’d like to throw at me (I’ve received a lot from Pitt fans lately), but I have a feeling that this season will be looked at as the start of Pitt’s basketball’s climb back into national prominence.
No, I’m not going to predict an ACC championship or a 30+ win season but I am forecasting this to be Jeff Capel’s first winning season and Pitt will qualify for a postseason tournament.
Why such optimism?
Last season was a “breakout” season for Hugley as acted as a one-man wrecking career for Pitt on offense for much of the season. In 32 games, the 6’9″ forward averaged 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in 29.6 minutes of action per game. Hugley was able to accomplish this as he received little to no help, in terms of production, from his guards. Defenses were totally content on double-teaming and collapsing on him, with little fear that anyone in the backcourt would hurt them.
The arrival of Johnson will completely change that, which should free things up for Hugley to be more productive. The addition of Johnson was the biggest news/development of the offseason for Capel. For the first time in many, many, many years, Pitt has a legitimate star at guard and one that will likely be playing basketball beyond college. One of, it not the biggest key to consistent winning in basketball, is having a guard that can dominate a game with his ability create his own shot, finish, get others involved and defend. Johnson can do all of that which Pitt fans will soon find out.
Aside from Johnson, Capel did a tremendous job of adding veteran guards with skill to the roster. Over the last six years, Pitt hasn’t had a backcourt anything like Johnson, Nelly Cummings, Greg Elliott, Nike Sibande and Jamarius Burton.
Pitt finally has a combination of players in their backcourt that give you everything you need in order to succeed. The best part is that it’s not just one of two players, it’s a handful of guards that gives Capel tremendous insurance.
I don’t want to look too far ahead but staying on the subject of guards, Pitt has added two talented ones in their Class of 2023 in 4-star Jaland Lowe and 4-star Carlton Carrington.
You win with above average guard play, and it looks as though Pitt has the chance to have that over the next few seasons.
I’m an optimistic person by nature but when it comes to the future of Pitt men’s basketball, I truly believe the optimism is real and after a long, long drought. good times are ahead at The Pete.