Pitt Brings a Whole New Roster Into the Back(court)yard Brawl

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I haven't been this excited for the Pitt Basketball season since Jamie Dixon paced the court of the Petersen Events Center.  I know the season started on Monday, but tonight's game against West Virginia feels like the true start to the season.  We have suffered through year after year of being near or at the bottom of the ACC under head coaches Kevin Stallings and Jeff Capel.  Interest for the team fell faster than the second hill of the Phantom's Revenge.  

However, this Pitt roster looks completely different than years past.  After going 11-21 overall and 6-14 in the ACC last season, Pitt needed something new.  Their players looked tired by the end of the season and they didn't have anyone scoring outside of center John Hugley.

The hope is that Hugley can play in tonight's game against the West Virginia Mountaineers after being held out of Monday's game against UT Martin.  However, even if he doesn't, this team isn't as dependent on him for scoring.  Big news that came at the end of last season was that Redshirt Senior guard Nike Sibande would return to the Panthers this season.  He suffered an injury that sidelined him for all of the 2021-22 season.  That combined with the returns of Hugley, Nate Santos, and Jamarius Burton already set the Panthers up with a good start to this season.  But they needed depth.

In the offseason, Capel picked up transfer Nelly Cummings from Colgate.  Colgate made some noise in last season's NCAA tournament, led by Cummings.  He adds a legitimate 3-point shooting threat to this offense, something they greatly lacked last season.  Not only does a competent 3-point shooter obviously help the scoring ability of an offense, but it finally gives Hugley and option to kick it out to when being double-teamed.  

Last season, the easy answer for defending Pitt was simply double covering Hugley.  He couldn't depend on an outside shooter to dish it out to, and would just attempt a bad shot or have to get open underneath again after passing the ball.  Both Sibande and Cummings, among other Pitt additions, are legitimate options outside this season.

Pitt also picked up transfer center Federiko Federiko from Northern Oklahoma.  The 6-11 sophomore looks like the first legitimate center the Panthers have had since Steven Adams.  Pitt has used several undersized centers for many seasons now, but at 6-11, Federiko can hardly be called undersized.  Despite his success last season, even Hugley measures in at just 6'-9".  

Capel also recruited two 7-foot twins, Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham.  Both are pretty thin and need to bulk up, but the twins and Federiko can finally give Hugley some time off the court.  The Panthers were so dependent on Hugley last season, they really didn't have anyone who could step in and give him a rest.  Now it looks like they have three guys who can do so.

And that's my main reason for being excited about this Pitt basketball team.  On Monday night against UT Martin, eight players received 10+ minutes of playing time.  And that was with Hugley on the bench.  Pitt finally appears to have some depth under Capel.  It seemed like last year they had very few options once the starters needed a break.  Now they could be one of the deeper teams in the conference.  

Depth is very important in college basketball.  Especially once you get into conference play.  If Pitt can even be a middling ACC team, there is a chance we get an NCAA Tournament bid with some marquee wins along the way.  I'm just hoping for a team that keeps me entertained.  It's been a long time since we've had that.