Pitt Men's Basketball Could Have Impact Guard Returning Soon

(Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

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After a tough loss to open conference play on Tuesday night against Notre Dame, Pitt basketball fans were looking for some good news.  And it just so happens that may have come today.  As reported by Craig Meyer, the four criminal charges against guard Ithiel Horton were dismissed today during his preliminary hearing.  Hopefully this news means his return to the team is just around the corner.  Now, we aren't going to get into the legal matters, as we are from experts there, but I'd like to touch on his potential impact on this basketball team.

Last year, in his first season with the Panthers, after transferring from Delaware, Horton averaged 8.9 points, shooting 37% from three.  In his one season at Delaware, he averaged 13.2 points while shooting 41% from behind the arc.  Horton was touted as a three-point specialist upon arriving to Pittsburgh and his ability to do so helped space the floor for the Panthers last season.

His return to the lineup would be a huge addition for this team.  The majority of the Panthers scoring so far this season has come inside the paint.  Their three-point shooting has picked up slightly as the season has gone on but it still is well below average.  This is no secret and defenses have started to pick up on it.  

Opponents have begun to pack the paint, knowing that the Panthers would prefer not to shoot from the perimeter.  Adding Horton to the lineup would not only increase their three-point capabilities but also open up the paint for John Hugley and, other scorers, as opposing defenses start to respect Horton's prowess from behind the arc.

There has been no official timetable released on when Horton could return to the team but the sooner, the better.  As I discussed earlier this week, Pitt has shown improvements on both ends of the floor since the beginning of the season and Horton can only help them build upon that.  His three-point shooting will be crucial this season, especially when you consider how many close games Pitt has been in already.  Having someone on the floor during crunch time that you can rely on to make a big three goes a long way towards a team's success and their confidence in those moments.  

Pitt's next game is Saturday at Virginia Tech, so hopefully we can get some clarity in the coming days as to what Horton's availability could be for that game.  I'm looking forward to them getting his sharpshooting back for these tough ACC battles and fingers crossed that day is in the near future.