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2020-21 Pittsburgh men's basketball preview

Pittsburgh Panthers

2019-20 record: 16-17, 6-14 in the ACC

Head coach: Jeff Capel

Tenure at Pittsburgh: 3rd season

Career coaching record: 205-146

Home court: Petersen Events Center

Starters: G Xavier Johnson, G Ithiel Horton, F Justin Champagnie, G/F Au’Diese Toney, G/F Terrell Brown

Bench: G Femi Odukale, F Noah Collier, G/F Gerald Drumgoogle Jr., F Abdoul Karim Coulibaly, F Aidan Fisch

Overview: Every Duke fan remembers last year’s matchup against Pittsburgh, at which Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski yelled “shut up” at the Cameron Crazies when he thought they had chanted “something personal” at former Duke coach and current Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel. Capel is entering his third year as Pittsburgh’s head coach, with last year being a slight improvement from his first season. 

The Panthers struggled to score all of last season. Their leading scorer was then freshman Justin Champagnie, who averaged 12.7 points per game, while the team scored 80 points just one time in ACC play. Pittsburgh had the second-worst field goal percentage in the entire conference and was the worst three-point shooting team. Its 29.6 percent mark from beyond the arc must improve if the team wants to compete with the rest of the ACC. 

Hoping to remedy the team’s shooting woes will be sophomore transfer from Delaware, Ithiel Horton. He shot above 40 percent from three-point range in his freshman year and is undoubtedly eager to play after having to sit out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.  

The Panthers did excel in their overall defense and assist/turnover ratio. They had the second-best turnover margin in the ACC at 3.21 which made it difficult for opponents to score against them. If they can continue this success on defense and improve their shooting, the Panthers will be able to pick up a few wins in games where they are considered underdogs. 

More good news for Pittsburgh fans, is that despite finishing in the basement of the conference, the Panthers have the seventh-ranked recruiting class in the ACC, according to 247 sports, and they are going to need some freshman to step up. At the top of this list are four-star recruits John Hugley and William Jeffress, who both have bigger frames that Capel will be able to utilize when he wants to put out a traditional lineup.  

Despite the positives Pittsburgh has on its side, the ACC Preseason Polls predict that the team will finish 13th in the conference. 

Team ceiling: Pittsburgh is still a long ways away from competing for ACC championships. At best, the team is looking at a middle of the ACC finish for the regular reason. An at-large bid into the NCAA tournament is out of reach for the Panthers, so they need to rely on some big upsets in the regular season to boost their recruiting pitches.

Team floor: This season could go poorly if Pittsburgh does not get more efficient on offense. Teams cannot survive in college basketball without at least decent three-point shooting and the Panthers are not big enough to be dominant enough in the paint to make up for subpar shooting. There is a legitimate chance that Pittsburgh finishes last in the ACC. 

Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.


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