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Pitt Basketball

Pitt Basketball 2022-23 Season Preview

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Pitt basketball season preview 2022-23

We have finally made it.

The 2022-23 college basketball season kicks off tonight, and Pitt will take part in the opening day festivities with a home matchup against UT Martin.

Now that PSN has seen Pitt live in practice, as well as in two exhibition games, let’s run it back with another season preview.

A lot has happened since my last season preview from Sept. 26:

  • Guard Dior Johnson was suspended indefinitely after being arrested
  • Transfer Blake Hinson led the team in scoring in both exhibition games
  • John Hugley injured his knee in practice and will not play in the season opener.
  • Will Jeffress did not return from his injury on time (according to the initial timetable of six weeks). Jeffress is out for game one.

So where do we stand now heading into year five of the Jeff Capel era? Let’s break it down.

KEYS

1. Veteran Guards

Even with Johnson out of the picture (suspension) and Hugley injured for opening night, the Panthers still go into game one with their four veteran guards: Nelly Cummings, Jamarius Burton, Nike Sibande, and Greg Elliott.

All four showed positive signs in Pitt’s exhibitions. Through Pitt’s two exhibition wins:

Cummings: 21 points, 7-10 FG, 1-5 3FG, 4-4 FT, 3 REB, 9 AST, 4 TO, 7 STL

Burton: 22 points, 8-17 FG, 1-2 3FG, 5-6 FT, 6 REB, 8 AST, 2 TO

Sibande: 19 points, 7-13 FG, 3-7 3FG, 2-4 FT, 7 REB, 3 AST, 4 TO

Elliott: 22 points, 8-14 FG, 3-6 3FG, 3-3 FT, 6 REB, 4 AST, 4 STL

2. Healthy Hugley

Hugley is going to pull this team together. While he was initially expected to be back for the season opener, Capel updated his status after the exhibition, saying that he would not be available for the game against UT Martin. While we don’t quite know when he will be back yet, he was seen without a knee brace recently which is a positive sign. Pitt needs Hugley. The All-ACC honorable mention was a dominant force last season in the ACC and should be even better this season once that knee is healthy. Not to mention, the bigs behind Hugley (Federiko Federiko and Guillermo Diaz-Graham) are young and will need to grow behind him.

3. Shoot Your Way Past Mistakes

Past Panther teams under Jeff Capel have shot the ball poorly from three-point range. However, shooting from beyond-the-arch seems to be one of this team’s strengths. With Cummings, Hinson, Sibande, and Elliott all capable of hitting multiple threes per game paired with occasional Burton and Santos threes, Pitt has plenty of options around the outside to bail them out of tough situations. Whether it is a slow start, an injury, foul trouble, turnover issues, or a tough defensive opponent, having solid three-point shooting will almost always help you get right back into games and keep things close against anyone.

4. Blake Hinson’s Versatility

Even though they were both exhibitions against non-D1 teams, in Pitt’s two exhibition games, Blake Hinson shined.

Hinson across both games: 49 points, 10 REB, 16-23 FG, 9-15 3FG

The 6-foot-7 wing is physical and he can shoot the lights out from downtown. His versatility is going to be exciting to witness, as he can spot up from just about anywhere beyond the arch and can also bulldoze his way through the lane with his sturdy frame.

WEAKNESSES

While we still haven’t seen this roster’s full potential with Hugley out for the two exhibitions, the one glaring weakness at the beginning of the season will be the team’s paint production and interior defense while he is out.

Federiko Federiko cleaned up the glass well in Pitt’s exhibitions, going for two double-doubles (10 points and 10 rebounds in each game), but the JuCo big has a much more limited skill set on both sides of the ball than Hugley and may run into some trouble with more skilled big men in the early portion of the schedule.

Pitt really, really needs Hugley for the early-season WVU and Michigan games especially, with star bigs coming to play for the opposition (Tre Mitchell, Hunter Dickinson, and others).

SCHEDULE NOTES

Pitt will take on four preseason top 25 teams this season: North Carolina (No. 1), Duke (No. 7), Virginia (No. 18), and Michigan (No. 22).

The ACC looks pretty top-heavy this year with the usuals (Carolina, Duke, and UVA) leading the way. Behind those three, look out for Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame to compete for tournament bids out of the ACC. All of those squads should pose a threat to Pitt.

In the non-conference, West Virginia will be a tough early-season test in the Backyard Brawl. Other than WVU and Michigan, whoever else Pitt draws in Brooklyn, between VCU and Arizona State, will be another tough opponent.

I’ve got Pitt finishing with its best record in the Capel era at 18-13 (9-11 ACC) this season. What do you think Pitt’s record will be?

Pitt and UT Martin tip off the season at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center on Monday night. The game will be televised on ACCN Extra and broadcast on 93.7 The Fan.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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