Last season, Pitt forward/center Ryan Luther missed several games due to a foot injury. The big man is now on the shelf yet again with a similar problem. Luther missed Pitt’s win Saturday over McNeese and we learned afterwards why:
Kevin Stallings said Pitt's Ryan Luther will be out a couple of weeks. He has a stress reaction in his right foot.— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) December 16, 2017
As Meyer later posted in a follow up, the two weeks is an ‘at least’ scenario right now. Luther could be out longer.
That’s important because, as you might remember from last season, Luther’s injury lingered on longer than expected. The two weeks is more of a best case scenario and it could be longer (possibly even significantly).
The news, of course, isn’t real good for Pitt. It was bad last season when he went down because it seriously hurt the team’s depth. But it’s an even bigger blow this year because of Luther’s standing with the team. He entered Saturday as the Panthers’ top scorer and has nearly twice as many rebounds per game (10.1) than the team’s next player, Shamiel Stevenson (5.1).
As we saw Saturday, Pitt can rebound without Luther. But the Panthers will be hard-pressed to keep up that trend as the competition gets better. McNeese is a very bad team and it’s hard to imagine Pitt holding its own on the boards against better squads.
A silver lining here could be that there are still two weeks until ACC play begins. Theoretically, Luther might be back before any conference games start. Pitt will face Delaware State on Tuesday and then finish up the non-conference schedule with a game against Towson on Friday before getting a week off. That’s not to brush past Towson (which is 10-1) but the competition will really pick up with the ACC opener against top ten Miami on December 30 after Christmas break. Three days later they’re traveling to Louisville and eight days after that is the home game against Duke with Virginia Tech in between.
In a weird, twisted sort of way, playing without Luther for at least the next two games will be a little intriguing in that we’ll get more of a glimpse of how this team will look next year when he’s gone. And to the timing, it’s better to endure now than if it had happened right in the middle of the ACC season, I suppose. Any real concern about Luther missing ACC games, though, also seems kind of pointless.
The reality is that with or without him Pitt is still going to be overmatched in most of the conference games. After all, this isn’t a team that’s going to be in the mix for the NCAA Tournament. While it would be best to be at full strength for the ACC games, ultimately I’m just not sure how much it matters in a year like this, anyway. You always want Pitt to win games and do well but we’re not talking about the difference between making the NCAAs and not making it. We’re probably talking about the difference between winning perhaps a few more games for a team expected to finish under .500.
Frankly, I’m hoping he’s able to get back on the court more for just him being able to play in his senior year than I am about any prospects for what it means for the team in terms of wins and losses. After coming back to a shell of a program following all of the departures after last season, he certainly deserves to play as much as he can.