Connect with us
PSN is sponsored by Beaver County Auto

Opinion

Vukovcan: Good Times Ahead For Jeff Capel and Pitt Basketball

Published

on

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?

Two big reasons: 1) By the end of the season, Pitt will have two legitimate star players in John Hugley and Dior Johnson. 2) The depth that Capel will have in the backcourt.

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.

Pitt’s 2023 Hoops Recruiting Class Rises up National Rankings

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.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
11 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
TJ
TJ
2 months ago

Sounds great … I’d like to see us win more games and make the dance again. Haven’t really checked into the other squads yet but presumably the big 3 have reloaded and some other teams have good talent coming back. How is Hughley’s injury healing ?

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
2 months ago

Stop. Hugely is a good not great ACC level player. And Johnson, well 10 high schools and two broken commitments speak volumes. Pump the brakes on the hyperbole.

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

Mike’s analysis is pretty accurate. Hughley could be a great player by the time he is done at Pitt. If you watched him last year he excelled against top level guys like Bacot from UNC and Williams from Louisville. He also fouled out all 3 BC big guys in the game at the Pete last year because he was so dominant. Even if Johnson goes AWOL the recruiting class for next year appears to be very good. The veteran guards this year are a huge upgrade to Ezieakdo and Odukale that have moved on. There is no doubt if they… Read more »

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
2 months ago
Reply to  Ed Rose

And then did nothing when BC crushed them in the ACC tourney. We’ll see

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

You are right. He stunk when they played in Boston. I think the better guards will get him more space to move. The other teams defense really collapsed on him last year due to poor perimeter shooting and the guards unable to get to the basket on their own.

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Rose

Louisville stunk and got their coach fired . Williams was a 9ppg scorer. Every year the ACC brings in a handful of bugs better than Hugely. Nice player. Not a great one. 20 minutes per game at a good program. We can agree to disagree.

Eric payne
Eric payne
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

You need to stop judging without the facts. I can’t wait to see you eat your words.

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
2 months ago
Reply to  Eric payne

Enlighten me on the facts skippy

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric payne

“Eat my words”. Doubtful. Your boy couldn’t last a month without getting into trouble. But yeah, he’s “ the best guard in the ACC”.

Eli
Eli
2 months ago

I’m not convinced Capel can actually coach these guys to play sound, disciplined, fundamental b-ball.

Mtgj
Mtgj
1 month ago
Reply to  Eli

This is my biggest worry as well, although having talent is more important than anything and mike makes a great case that the talent in Oakland is about to take a huge step forward.

Dukes

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

 
Like Pittsburgh Sports Now on Facebook!
Send this to a friend