Where Does Pitt Basketball Go From Here?

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While a lot of college basketball teams are in the throes of the madness of March, Pitt's season ended Tuesday with a whimper.  A 66-46 loss against Boston College in the opening game of the ACC Tournament finished off what was a very turbulent season for the Panthers.  Losing their last four games all by at least 20 points, it was a true summation of a season that Pitt fans will try quickly to forget.

The Panthers finished the season with an 11-21 record, going 6-14 in ACC play.  While there are almost too many bad losses to list off, they did have one good win that they can hang their hat on - a 76-67 upset against North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  Ultimately, scoring was an issue for this team all season long and would be their demise in more games than not.  

While their defense showed sporadic signs of life over the course of the year, it wasn't nearly stifling enough to make up for their inefficiencies on the offensive end.  With all of this being said, the question now is what does this team look like next year and should we expect more of the same?

The first point I need to at least touch on is the leader of the team, head coach Jeff Capel.  Antonio Wolfe already discussed what Capel had to say about the team this year and I highly recommend checking it out.  However, I would also like to give a few thoughts on the matter.

It has become pretty clear that Capel is not the answer to lead this team back to the Pitt teams we loved so much in the early 2000s.  I'm not denying that he was given a tall task to resurrect this program from the absolute shambles that former-coach Kevin Stallings left the program in, and make it relevant again.  And I do think there's something to be said for Capel recruiting a few talented players and transfers to a program that was so low in the public's eye.  But the inability to keep those players at Pitt, for whatever reason, is surely a cause for concern and bad sign going forward.

So this leaves us with how to proceed with Capel at the helm.  While we all recognize that he probably isn't the coach we want long-term, does getting rid of another coach and starting over really sound enticing?  I view that as another setback for a team that has had enough of them in recent years.  Plus, he was just extended through the 2026-2027 season, so that would require another buy-out, which Pitt has always been reluctant to do in the past (except for the Stallings situation).  So I'm not sure what the right answer is, and to be honest, I'm not certain there really is a "right" option.  I'm interested to see which direction the team goes with Capel supporters dwindling by the day.

The next facet we need to look at is the players.  Of the 12 scholarship players currently on the roster, only one has no eligibility remaining - forward Mo Gueye.  I look at that statement as a good news, bad news scenario.  As the season progressed, I found Gueye to be one of the only bright spots on this team.  His length on the defensive end is something I haven't seen on a Pitt team in years.  He was a great complement to center John Hugley, both on the offensive and defensive end.  They worked well together in the post on offense and Gueye was a great rebounding presence.  He was also often able to take some pressure off of Hugley, mainly when he was the only guy that could be counted on for scoring in a lot of games.

So the good news is with Gueye being the only potential departure, that means the team is returning 11 players next year (hopefully).  A year of experience with all of these guys playing together can only help the unit's cohesion.  Not to mention, the team will be returning guard Nike Sibande, who was lost to an ACL injury during the preseason.  With nearly everyone returning, plus the potential addition of transfers, this team stands to progress next season.  

This is obviously under the assumption that no players enter the transfer portal, namely Hugley.  I'm going to keep my fingers crossed on that one, and I'd imagine a lot of his decision would hinder on the Capel decision, one way or another.

One downside that needs to be addressed is there are no recruits for next season.  I'm not a college basketball recruiting expert, but that seems almost unheard of in today's era.  Capel will have to effectively utilize the transfer portal or else we may be stuck seeing another season of an offense that just simply can't score.  Frankly, I'm not mentally prepared to watch another season of that so I'm hoping for the best here.

All in all, there's a lot up in the air heading into next season.  There could be some coaching and personnel changes that could greatly affect the outlook of the program next season and the seasons beyond.  Although it was a tough year, there is some hope heading into 2022-2023 that these guys will all benefit from a year of playing together.  With the possibility of some new additions, there is also hope of progression on both ends of the floor.  While it was most certainly a season to forget, I'm going to remain optimistic heading into next year and see how everything plays out in the offseason.

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