Thank You To the 2022-23 Pitt Men's Basketball Team

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Special editorial by Gold Lot Sports' co-founder, Antonio Wolfe.

When we started this college basketball season, we were still recording our Saved By the Ball podcast.  Then, due to jobs and lives getting busier, the juice just wasn't worth the squeeze, and we ended the podcast.  However, I remember distinctly having a conversation where we discussed what would be a successful season for the 2022-23 Pitt Men's basketball team.  Brian Torchia and I both agreed that if we were even talking about Pitt when the calendar changed to 2023, we'd be happy.  We'd also be shocked.

Well they clearly far, far, far, exceeded our expectations.  Not only were we talking about Pitt well into the new year, but Pitt became appointment television.  If I could, I was planning my days and evenings around the Pitt basketball schedule.  A game didn't go by where the group chat wasn't lighting up about another terrible call by an ACC ref or another incredible 3-pointer from Blake Hinson.  

Even after disappointing Pitt fans for most of March, losing 3 of their last 4 games and nearly missing the NCAA Tournament, they shocked us again.  Pitt was able to win two tournament games by knocking off an SEC and a Big 12 opponent, advancing to the Round of 32.  It made this past weekend extremely fun.

I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that the passion we had for Pitt basketball in the early 2000's had certainly faded since the departure of Jamie Dixon.  It used to absolutely be the sport I followed the closest, with baseball a very close second.  However, the Stallings years were brutal and the early Jeff Capel years were not much better.   

Given all of these circumstances, Capel had everything stacked against him.  There were a lot of new faces coming into this season, but none that jumped off the page.  Three scholarship players, John Hugley, Dior Johnson, and William Jeffress were essentially sidelined for the whole season.  

The Panthers were picked to finish 14th in the ACC preseason rankings.  Pitt also dropped games early in the season and by big margins.  So it is all that much more impressive that this group of guys, who really hadn't played together before, put together a season like they did.  

24 total wins.  5th in the ACC.  Their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2016.  And their first NCAA Tournament win since 2014.  So much credit should go to Jeff Capel and Pitt AD Heather Lyke for sticking by him.

This team will be unforgettable.  I still remember the starting lineup of DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon, Levance Fields, and Tyrell Biggs.  That was the best Pitt basketball team I've ever watched.  But that was also the end of an era in a lot of ways.  

This new unforgettable lineup of Jamarius Burton, Nelly Cummings, Blake Hinson, Greg Elliot, Fede Federiko, and ACC 6th Man of the Year Nike Sibande, is (hopefully) the start of a whole new era.  If both Diaz-Graham twins and Fede return, that is a great foundation for another great season.  Even if a new era doesn't start, for the time being, they have put Pitt back in the national spotlight.  That's undeniable.  

This Pitt team got me back into college basketball and renewed a passion for me.  It also brought me closer to my wife who is a huge college basketball fan herself.  We're considering Pitt Basketball season tickets this fall.

So I just want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jeff Capel, Jamarius Burton, Nelly Cummings, Blake Hinson, Greg Elliot, Fede Federiko, Nike Sibande, Guillermo Diaz Graham, Jorge Diaz Graham, Nate Santos, KJ Marshall, Aidan Fisch, and everyone involved with the Pitt Panther Men's Basketball this season.  You created a truly unforgettable season for all of us Pitt fans when we had forgotten about you for so long.  

Thank You!